Elder statesman and leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has criticised the building of a naval base in Kano State by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, adding that citing the base in a Sahel region is a huge waste of public funds.
Clark, a former federal minister, stated this in an open letter which he gave to newsmen in Abuja and also said it is an unjust and oppressive action on the Niger Delta people.
The proposal to set up a major Naval base in Kano State was recently announced by Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Zubairu Gambo.
But the PANDEF leader questioned the logic behind locating the project in an area that is presently under threat of fast spreading desertification.
He added that the siting of Naval Base world over, is mainly for provision of security along the waterways of a country in order to provide security for the nation’s internal waters and its territorial integrity.
Clark said, “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.”
He added, “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.”
He said it is nonsensical, unprofessional and parochial for anyone to compare the situation in Nigeria to that of the United States of America (USA).
“But even in the U.S.A., the major Naval Bases are clearly situated at the riverine and oceanic towns of the country. Perhaps it will interest Nigerians to know that if it is the same Mississippi River in the U.S.A that they are referring to, let me briefly describe it. Mississippi is a State located in the southern part of the U.S. A, with the Mississippi River to its west, the State of Alabama to its east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south; from this description, it is shown that Mississippi is a State surrounded by water.”
He tasked the president to explain why if there is more need for Naval Bases to be built or established in the country outside Lagos, it is not being sited in 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.