The Nigerian Navy has assured of effective policing of the waterways in the Niger Delta before and after the general elections.
New Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Henry Babalola said this, yesterday, in Port Harcourt. According to him, the deployment of troops on the waterways was in compliance with the request of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He also said that it was part of the move to guard against ballot box snatching and issues of electoral violence.
He promised the continued assistance of the Navy to INEC, to help it to deliver credible elections to Nigerians.
“The dictates of standard operating procedures guarding military operations. We will standby to assist INEC to provide security to transport electoral materials to riverine areas, when we are called upon.
“We will standby to create an enabling environment that will allow voters to lawfully and legally come out to cast their votes.
“Subverting electoral process starts from when thugs import arms and ammunition to cause problems, and so we are deploying one helicopter to join the naval flying unit here, and patrol boats to ward-off ships bearing arms to the militants.
“It is a trying moment for our nation, and so the idea is that at the end of the day, we will be on top of the game to create a conducive atmosphere for the elections to take place.”
Speaking further, Babalola said his men were free to vote for candidates of their choice, but should do so in mufti and should not hang around polling booths after casting their votes. They are however not allowed to engage in open campaign for any political parties.
To improve the capacity of the force and enhance its security operations, Babalola said the navy would soon take delivery of three warships.
“Very shortly, the Commander in Chief (of the armed forces) and the Chief of the Naval Staff will be commissioning three additions to the Nigerian navy fleet – and they are very big ships.
“We have the offshore patrol Centenary vessel from China assigned to the (nation’s) eastern fleet; the NNS Opabana – an ex-United States Coast Guard ship, and another training ship, NNS Prosperity.
“Again, on the smaller scale, we are purchasing new boats; and we have just been assigned two-new K-13 (gun) boats with a view to adding more bite to our war on crude oil theft and other illegalities in our maritime environment,” he said.