South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark has taken a swipe at the FederalGovernment on the proposed establishment of a Naval base in Kano state, describing it as totally ill-conceived and parochial, saying that a base of such cannot be in a state that is in the middle of the Sahel. Clark who described the move as the most unjust and oppressive action on the people of Niger Delta, said that a Naval base is provided where there is and not in the heart of a dry Land, just as he said that it is nepotistic to build Naval Base in Kano when Bayelsa, others have none. In a letter he personally wrote to President Buhari titled; ‘Establishment of a naval base in Kano in the heart of the Sahel’ and read to Journalists at his Asokoro residence in Abuja, the Ijaw leader who asked the government to as a matter of urgency jettison such an idea, said that it was ridiculous for the Federal government to build a naval base in Kano, which he argued is in the middle of the Sahel and has no water for the navigation of naval war ships.
The federal government had recently proposed the building of a naval base in Kano. Sequel to this, the state governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, had reportedly donated 100 hectares of land at Dawakin Tofa community for that purpose. Clark said that the Sahel is under threat of total desertification, adding that if additional naval bases were to be built in the country, the states in the Niger Delta region should be considered, adding that decisions should be based on higher issues of National and human interests as well as rational consideration. The Elderstateman who marked his 94 years birthday Anniversary in May this year vowed that he will not stop writing to President Buhari on the marginalisation of the Niger Delta, said that even when he dies, other people will continue from where he stopped. The letter was read by Barrister Dickson Sofyyegha, with Chief Clark flanked by former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah and others.
The letter read in part, “President, I would have ignored your pronouncement of building a Naval base in Kano State, as a gimmick, because it is an impossible task by any government, but this is a different matter as it is one of the most unjust and oppressive actions of your government on us, the people of the Niger Delta, whom you have colonised and dehumanised for the past six years, thus agitating our minds.
“I challenge anybody to a public debate anywhere in Nigeria on the deliberate neglect, injustice, oppression, marginalisation and the dehumanisation of the Niger Delta people who for the past fifty-five years have been sustaining this country economically yet there is no iota of appreciation and or reward from “our overlord” the Federal Government. Rather, some Legislatures in the National Assembly (NASS), had as far back as 2009, carelessly and callously, made statements muting the unfortunate idea that the people of the Niger Delta should be forcefully removed and resettled in another part of the country to enable the International Oil Companies (IOCs) have unfettered and unhindered access to carry out their oil explorations. I will, however, not dwell on that issue because today’s subject matter is different, it is the issue of A NAVAL BASE.
“Your Excellency, please, permit me at this juncture to ask you a few questions about your country. The question here is, how possible will it be to navigate a navy war ship through the waters of Lagos to the desert Naval Base in Kano which you want to build? Or is there waterway to take one from Lagos to Kano? Or you want to create 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. 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 shore line exist, 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 need for 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. 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 war ships 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 which was acquired and quickly renovated to serve as a Naval Base during the civil war in 1967. 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. 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 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. 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 watch words. Who knows, it may even reduce our rate of borrowings.
“Some irresponsible and ethnic jingoist 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? Even after that, I am confident that patriotic and true Niger Deltans will continue the fight until the unwarranted exploitation, impoverishment and injustice on the Niger Delta is stopped, and the people freed. Today, there is no part of the world, no matter how small or impoverished, that has not been freed from the shackles of enslavement, or gained its freedom from colonialism.”