In response to renewed hostilities and sabotage in the Niger Delta region, the federal government is set to confront fighters of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and other militant groups in the oil and gas-rich region.
This comes after the assumption of office of Major General Kasimu Abdukarim, the pioneer General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the newly-created 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt.
The new GOC, with Masters in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan (UI), until his redeployment, was the GOC of 2 Division, Ibadan, Oyo State.
He insisted that the Nigerian Army remained apolitical.
Addressing reporters at the weekend, Abdukarim said the 6 division consists of Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers States while the division comprised 2, 16 and 63 Brigades with support elements.
He said: “This arrangement (having 6 Division in core Niger Delta states with base in Port Harcourt) will help to curtail the activities of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), banditry, inter-communal clashes, illegal bunkering, kidnapping, robberies, Niger Delta Avengers and pipeline vandalism prevalent in the area.
“Insecurity in the area (Niger Delta) negatively impacts on our national economy, resulting from sabotage by criminal entities within the region.
“In view of this, everything must be done to guard, protect and defend our fledgling democracy, nourish it and prevent insecurity in our areas of responsibility.
“We must be concerned with laying solid foundation, envious of the generations.
He went on: “We have our contingency plans (to put an end to the bombing of oil facilities and other installations of oil companies by Niger Delta militants) and we are also strategising on how we are going to protect our critical infrastructure.
“As an institution, it will not be fair for us to sit down and see our critical assets destroyed. That is where we earn our salaries. We must guard and protect them.”
Abdukarim also stated that his mission as the pioneer GOC is to structure, nurture and enhance 6 division’s combat readiness across all spectrums of military operations through development of a professionally-responsive force.
The GOC pointed out attainment of his mission at the 6 division established on November 7 would be based on review of existing intelligence architecture, accountability, inclusiveness, rule of law, troops’ discipline and respect for human rights. On the December 10rerun, Abdukarim promised soldiers will be professional in the discharge of their duties.
He said: “The role of military is very clear. We are to ensure that we provide a very conducive atmosphere for people to go about their businesses.
“In terms of elections, we are not the first respondent. The police are supposed to maintain law and order.
“In case they fail, our responsibility as military practitioners is to enforce the law.”
He dispelled the notion creation of the division is tactical militarization of the Niger Delta.
According to the GOC: “Bringing the military does not mean that we are militarising the area.
“We are also bringing development to the area because it is envisaged that we are going to have barracks.
“We will have our own infrastructure that will be brought to the people and in that process we will help them because we will also engage in community development.
“So, it does not mean that when you have soldiers within your domain, it is only for combat, no.
“We have other benefits that are derivable from the association. Nigerian Army operates within the confines of the law and we have respect for rule of law.”