To further improve on the fight against maritime crime, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno has procured 14 gunboats for the State security agents.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla inaugurated the 14 patrol gunboats at a brief ceremony at the Nigerian Naval Ship base in Ikot Abas local government area.

Speaking, Governor Eno emphasized his determination to boost maritime security in Akwa Ibom waterways in line with his administration’s ARISE Agenda.

In his words, “this event is a milestone in our determined and focused effort to secure our waterways, protect our critical economic assets and combat some unwholesome activities along our coastline.

“With the 14 gunboats, this programme will also mitigate the activities of pirates and other criminal elements within the coastal communities.

“This, no doubt will boost our blue economy, water transportation within and with neighbouring states, while improving the livelihood of our people living within the coastal communities.”

The governor commended the existing synergy between the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies, with the state government and clarified that the waterways operation will be a joint task force led by the Nigerian Navy, with support from sister agencies and some locals with good understanding of the maritime environment, who may be profiled through the Ibom Community Watch programme and co-opted into operations.

“Let me emphasize here that these operations will carried out by the security agencies led by the Nigerian Navy but with support from people who understand the maritime environment and the coastal communities.

“These people will eventually be integrated into the Ibom Community Watch.”

He reiterated his campaign promise of exploring the blue economy potentials of the state and making a tourist haven out of the coastal communities of the states, stressing the need to curb all sorts of insecurity on the waterways and ensure a peaceful ambience for legitimate businesses to thrive in the riverine areas.

Also making reference to an earlier session, where he formalized an agreement with the Navy for the building of a passenger ferry, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to bringing back the ancient fond memories of marine transportation and other economic activities along the Akwa Ibom – Cross River State coastline.

“We promised during our campaigns that we will turn our coastline towns such as Oron, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Ikot Abasi and the rest of them into tourism havens and boost economic activities in these areas. We are determined to develop all parts of our dear state and create jobs for our teaming youths”, the governor affirmed.

He therefore expressed hope that youths will take advantage of these efforts of government to improve their living condition and see the need to relinquish all forms of criminal ventures, assuring that the new phase of state government partnership with the security forces will allow no room for criminality.

The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, in his remarks, lauded Governor Umo Eno’s venture to explore the blue economy as visionary, given the potentials in the sector to boost the economy of the Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a whole.

He described the procurement of the 14 patrol boats as an indication of state government’s seriousness in making the maritime environment safe for business and therefore assured of the commitment of the Navy ensure the state gets the best of security, as he sounded a “game over” warning to criminal elements who may still be hiding in the area, declaring the Akwa Ibom coastline a no crime zone.

The Commissioner for Internal Security and Waterways, General Koko Essien rtd., said the Akwa Ibom coastline, besides its long stretch of over 129Km, has many adjourning rivers emptying into it and providing safe areas for criminals, affirming that the launch of the 14 patrol boats portends business collapse for waterways criminals, as the government will stop at nothing in dislodging them and ensuring they face the law.

Stakeholders in the community, including the Member representing Ikot Abasi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Hon. Uduak Odudoh, Member representing Ikot Abasi, Eastern Obolo in State House of Assembly, Hon Selina Ukpatu, political leader in the area, Obong Obot Etukafia and others expressed the gratitude of the coastal communities for the respite the government intervention would bring to them from the afflictions by waterways criminals and promised their continuous support for the Governor Umo Eno led government.

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