Clark to Buhari: Naval base useless in Kano desert

The National Leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), Chief Edwin Clark, has written to the President of Nigeria, Muhammudu Buhari, condemning the siting of a naval base training school in Kano State.

Speaking to the press on Monday in Abuja, the elder statesman counselled the president that the decision to build a naval base in Kano was ill-conceived.

He explained that “I will like to counsel you, that decisions which one takes while serving the country or in any other position should be based on higher issues of national and human interests and rational consideration.

“That a new naval base is being built in the middle of the Sahel, which is dry land, and which the entire world knows is presently under threat of fast-spreading desertification, is totally ill-conceived and with all due respect, not in the interest of the nation; such a project will be a huge waste of public funds which are freely available to one person who has taken the pride of using it to develop one part of the country at the near-neglect of other parts.

“Unfortunately, in your usual tendencies, you have already directed the deployment of a senior naval officer to Kano State, who will now become a member of the Kano State Executive Council. Like I stated, the state governor in an exuberant mood, has freely donated 100 hectares of land for the naval base, but not a hundred hectares of water, what a child’s play!

“Your Excellency, please in the interest of Nigeria, build the naval base where it will be economically efficient and viable, and provide security for the nation’s territorial waters.”

Clark noted that “Nigeria is dying economically and politically. Yet here we are, deploying scarce resources to embark on projects on nepotic reasons, rather than on viability.

“As president of the entire country, you will save huge resources doing the right thing and improving the economy, if objectivity and national interest are your watchwords. Who knows, it may even reduce our rate of borrowings?” he stated.

The elder statesman said “some irresponsible and ethnic jingoists have mentioned the existence of two rivers in Kano State in a futile attempt to respond to the various condemnation of such a project.

“Can such persons mention the river crafts, that have ever used those rivers and from where? I know Hadeija River which used to be in Kano State, but now in Jigawa State.

“As Commissioner and Cabinet member in the defunct Midwest State Government, I have visited Hadeija Dam on a number of occasions with the Governor of my State, Col. S. O. Ogbemudia, as he then was, of blessed memory.

“And I wish to recall that it was the then Military Governor of Kano State, Police Commissioner Audu Bako, as he then was, who out of necessity to provide water for crop farming, constructed the Hadeija Dam for irrigation. Has that Dam now turned to a river and become deep enough for the sailing of naval boats?

“It is indeed nonsensical, unprofessional and parochial for anyone to compare the situation in Nigeria to that of the United States of America (USA). But even in the USA, the major Naval Bases are clearly situated at the riverine and oceanic towns of the country.

“Perhaps it will interest Nigerians to know that if it is the same Mississippi River in the USA that they are referring to, let me briefly describe it. Mississippi is a state located in the southern part of the USA, with the Mississippi River to its west, the state of Alabama to its east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south; from this description, it is shown that Mississippi is a state surrounded by water.

“Your Excellency, please permit me at this juncture to ask you a few questions about your country. If there is more need for naval bases to be built or established in the country outside Lagos, what has happened to the coastal states of Nigeria, particularly in the Niger Delta area where much of the country’s shoreline exists and needs to be protected?

“I believe you know that at present there is no serious naval base in such critical riverine areas such as Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo States.

“In Delta State, for instance, major coastal towns such as Koko, Sapele, Burutu and Forcados terminals, have a need for a naval base. But it is sad that there are no functional ones located in those places.

“There used to be a naval base in Sapele, but for reasons best known to the Federal Government, it was downgraded to a training school, and in fact, now abandoned,” he stated.

Chief Clark said “the so-called Warri Naval Base is nothing to write home about. As at today, the base is not functioning as it ought to be. Large navy warships which used to patrol the waters, providing protection, can no longer do so, due to the fact that the rivers are silted and the Federal Government has refused to dredge it.

“The structure where the base is housed was not properly designed and constructed with the intent of building a naval base. It is an old colonial building that was acquired and quickly renovated to serve as a naval base during the civil war in 1967.

“Today, the structure is a shadow of itself as a result of wear and tear. The island acquired opposite the base for expansion, which used to be the habitation of Ijaw families of Ogbe-Ijoh, but who were chased away, their property and homes destroyed, is suffering the same fate of abandonment.

“This was about 25 years ago. There are exchanges of letters between the Delta State Government and myself, as an indigene and as the lawyer of Ogbe-Ijoh. Also, a large expanse of land was acquired at Effurun Town, near Warri still in Delta State, by the Nigerian Navy to enable it put up some of its formations. But what do we have there today, some ramshackle buildings which are erected for some staff, while it is stated that the other parts of the land is being sold by the military people?

“Your Excellency, several times the people have protested to you over the seizure of their land by the Army and the Navy, and that the lands acquired are not being used for the purpose they were acquired and or seized. Nothing has been done.

“Let me remind Your Excellency, that all over the world, there is what is called needs assessment which determines what projects to be constructed and where to site them. Also, economics have what is called nearness to raw material. In a similar way, Almighty God has created Nigeria and made it possible for the development of certain areas or facilities to be in certain areas.

“Naval services are meant for the riverine and ocean lines of the country, while Air Force and part of the Army are meant for the landed areas, where they are all situated today, particularly in Kano, Kaduna and Makurdi.

“Even in the recruitment of personnel, the navy personnel were more from the riverine areas. I can vividly recall that when the Nigerian navy was established in 1956, some persons, especially of Niger Delta extraction, were transferred to the navy. Someone like Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey, was amongst such persons and he in fact rose to Vice Admiral.

“The next person I can recall was Admiral Nelson Soroh. Later on, I served in the same cabinet with them during the Government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon. Bayelsa State is entirely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the River Niger, yet there are no naval bases there to protect the shores of Nigeria and the oil companies.

“For instance, the Bonga Oil Field which is the largest oil field in Nigeria is in Bayelsa State. Two riverine communities, Agae and Amatu communities, are on the bank of the Atlantic Ocean, close to the Bonga Oil Field, where oil companies are located yet there is no Naval Base to protect them.

“The people are left to their fate. The same condition befalls Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Ondo States. The question here is, how possible will it be to navigate a navy warship through the waters of Lagos to the desert naval base in Kano which you want to build?

“Or is there a waterway to take one from Lagos to Kano? Or do you want to create an artificial ocean? Or is it because you control the government, other Nigerians can be treated shabbily, as second-class citizens, without involving them in the development of the country in their area,” he questioned.

Clark lamented that “there also exist in the Niger Delta, six ports belonging to the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), located at Forcados, Burutu, Warri, Koko, Sapele, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne and a proposed Ibom Deep Sea Ports. Of all these ports, except Port Harcourt and Onne, all the others are not functioning due to shallowness of the waterways, which the Federal Government has refused to dredge, hence the congestion of the Apapa Port in Lagos State.

“The Export Processing Zone (EPZ)/Gas Project at Ogidigben, at the Escravos River and the proposed Deep-Sea Port in Okerenkoko have been abandoned since 2016.

“These are projects that can employ over 1,000 youths, yet the resources from this very area is now used to construct projects such as the AKK (Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano) Gas Pipeline running from Akwa-Ibom State, in the Niger Delta South-South geo-political zone, without even mentioning Akwa Ibom State where the gas will be sourced from, in naming the project.”

He advised Buhari to have a re-think on this totally ill-conceived project which makes this country, “which belongs to all of us, appear as the most ridiculous country in the world; building a naval base in the Sahel,” Clark added.

 

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