Port Harcourt- The Nigerian Navy has said that it was ready to provide security for the election materials meant for use in the riverine areas.
Rear Adm. Henry Babalola, the new Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command, made this known to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Rivers.
He, however, said that the deployment of troops would be at the request of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“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 the electoral process starts from when thugs import arms and ammunitions to cause problems.
“And we are deploying one helicopter to join the naval flying unit here and patrol boats to ward-off ships bearing arms to come and arm the militants.
“It is a trying moment for our nation, and 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 election to take place.“
Babalola said the navy was willing to provide security for INEC officials, election materials and voters in line with the dictates of standard procedures guarding military operations.
He told officers and ratings that they were free to vote for candidates of their choice in their civilian clothes and were expected to leave the polling stations immediately after voting.
He said the navy remained non-partisan and would severely punish any of its personnel, who participated in campaigns.
Babalola said the navy would soon take delivery of three warships to strengthen its fight against oil theft and piracy on the nation’s territorial waters.
He said: “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 a 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“
The FOC said that statistics from multinational oil companies showed a sharp decline in crude oil theft in the Niger Delta.
He attributed the decline to the efforts of NNS Pathfinder in carrying out raids on illegal refineries and the 24-hour patrol of waterways and creeks.