Prominent Ijaw leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark has urged the federal government to have a rethink about its plans to site a Naval base in Kano State.
Clark in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari viewed the plan as a wrong investment of scarce resources and called on the government to have a rethink.
In his argument, the elder statesman said a naval base in a desert seems like ‘mission impossible’ and misplaced priority.
Though the Nigerian Navy has tried to explain that the project is a Nigerian naval logistic college and so the base can be sited in Kano and not necessarily in riverine areas, the plan has continued to generate heated controversies among stakeholders and observers.
The Ijaw leader in his letter also called out the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu, saying the plan to establish a naval base in Kano State is part of the nepotistic and parochial tendencies of the Buhari government.
The letter titled, ‘A Naval Base In Kano In The Heart Of The Sahel?’ reads, “That a new Naval Base is being built in the middle of the Sahel which the entire world knows is presently under threat of fast-spreading desertification is totally ill-conceived and with all due respect, parochial.”
Clark argued that coastal areas in the country have no functional naval bases and the idea of a naval base in the desert-dominated area of Kano is simply ill-conceived.
He added, “If more Naval Bases are to be set up in the country, what has happened to the coastal states of Nigeria, particularly in the Niger Delta area where much of Nigeria’s shoreline exists and needs to be protected?
“I believe you know that at present there is no serious Naval Base in such serious places such as Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo States. In Delta State in particular, major coastal towns such as Sapele, where there is need for a naval base, it is sad that there is no functional one. There used to be a naval base there, but for reasons best known to the Federal Government, it was downgraded to a training school, and in fact, almost abandoned.
“The so-called Warri Naval Base is nothing to write home about as 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 place has stilted and the Federal Government has refused to dredge it.
“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 at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, where oil companies are located yet there is no naval base to protect them. The people are left to their fate. The same can be said of Akwa Ibom and Ondo States.
“The question thence is, for instance, 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 you want to commit huge scarce resources to create artificial ocean and rivers in a country that is so indebted? You think because you control the government other Nigerians can be treated with impunity as second class citizens?”
Clark submitted further that the northern areas are already saturated with military and security training facilities suited to the area and warned the federal government against treating other regions as second-class citizens in their own countries.
He said, “The citing of a naval base world over, is mainly for the provision of security along the waterways of the coasts in order to provide security of a nation’s internal waters and its territorial integrity. And this is done where there is water and not in the heart of dry land.
“It is even difficult to decipher and more curious why you intend to crowd the north which is already saturated with heavy military infrastructure, especially in places like Kaduna and Kano States. (There must be limit to nepotism and parochialism).”