21st September, 2021
Chief Edwin Clark, an elder statesman, has written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari explaining why his government should stop the proposed naval base project in Kano.
Clark said the plan was ill-conceived and one of the most unjust and oppressive actions of the Buhari government.
In a statement issued on Monday, he argued that Kano is in the middle of the Sahel and has no water for the navigation of naval warships.
The Ijaw leader said 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.
He asked if President Buhari wants to create an artificial ocean in Kano.
“The question here is, how possible will it be to navigate a navy warship through the waters of Lagos to the desert Naval Base in Kano which you want to build? Or is there a waterway to take one from Lagos to Kano? Or do you want to create an artificial ocean?”
Please read the full letter below:
Your Excellency Mr. President,
ESTABLISHMENT OF A NAVAL BASE IN KANO IN THE HEART OF THE SAHEL?
I hope this letter, which is going to add to the series of letters I have written to you, both as open and close letters, but which you have not bothered to respond, attend to or treat, should not come to you as a surprise.
Your Excellency, even though you do not attach any importance to my letters, they will keep coming so that posterity will bear me witness.
I repeat, I respectfully wish to assure you that these Letters will continue until you change your hostile and unfortunate attitude towards the people and environment of the Niger Delta, who and which have been subjugated, constantly milked dry and exploited by your government as if it is a colony handed over to you by the British Government in 1960 until it pleases God to call me home. 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.
BUILDING OF A NAVAL BASE IN KANO
Mr. 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 colonized and dehumanized 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, marginalization, and the dehumanization 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 IN KANO, IN THE HEART OF THE SAHEL.
Your Excellency Mr. President, I am writing this Open Letter to you specifically to raise a fundamental issue of national concern. This pertains to your proposal to set up a major Naval base in Kano State as recently announced by your Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Zubairu Gambo, an indigene of Kano State, which as God would have it, is at the very heart of the Sahel region.
Since this your plan came to public knowledge, especially following the donation of 100 hectares of land at Dawakin Tofa Community for the purpose, by the Governor of Kano State, His Excellency, Dr Umar Ganduje, many in the Nigerian public, have been taken aback especially as it is an utmost example of putting square peg in a round hole.
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 a 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 watchwords. 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?
It is indeed 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.
Your Excellency, please permit me at this juncture to ask you a few questions about your country. 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. Today, the structure is a shadow of itself as a result of wear and tear. The island acquired opposite the Base for expansion, which used to be the habitation of Ijaw families of Ogbe-Ijoh, but who were chased away, their property and homes destroyed, is suffering the same fate of abandonment. This was about 25 years ago. There are exchanges of letters between the Delta State Government and myself, as an indigene and as the Lawyer of Ogbe-Ijoh.
Also, large expanse of land was acquired at Effurun Town, near Warri still in Delta State, by the Nigerian Navy to enable it put up some of its formations. But what do we have there today, some ramshackle buildings which are erected for some staff, while it is stated that the other parts of the land is being sold by the military people. Your Excellency, several times the people have protested to you over the seizure of their land by the Army and the Navy, and that the lands acquired are not being used for the purpose they were acquired and or seized. Nothing has been done.
Let me remind Your Excellency, that all over the world, there is what is called needs assessment which determines what projects to be constructed and where to site them. Also, Economics have what is called nearness to raw material. In similar way, Almighty God has created Nigeria and made it possible for the development of certain areas or facilities to be in certain areas. Naval services are meant for the riverine and ocean lines of the country, while Air Force and part of the Army are meant for the landed areas, where they are all situated today, particularly in Kano, Kaduna and Makurdi. Even in the recruitment of personnel, the Navy personnel were more from the riverine areas. I can vividly recall that when the Nigerian Navy was established in 1956, some persons, especially of Niger Delta extraction, were transferred to the Navy. Someone like Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey, was amongst such persons and he infact rose to Vice Admiral. The next person I can recall, was Admiral Nelson Soroh. Later on, I served in the same cabinet with them during the Government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
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.
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. There also exist in the Niger Delta, six ports belonging to the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), located at Forcados, Burutu, Warri, Koko, Sapele, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne and a proposed Ibom Deep Sea Ports. Of all these ports, except Port Harcourt and Onne, all the others are not functioning due to shallowness of the water ways, which the Federal Government has refused to dredge, hence the congestion of the Apapa Port in Lagos State.
The Export Processing Zone (EPZ)/Gas Project at Ogidigben, at the Escravos River and the proposed Deep-Sea Port in Okerenkoko have been abandoned since 2016. These are projects that can employ over 1,000 youths, yet the resources from this very area is now used to construct projects such as the AKK (Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano) Gas Pipeline running from Akwa-Ibom State, in the Niger Delta South-South geo-political zone, without even mentioning Akwa Ibom State where the gas will be sourced from, in naming the project.
I became incensed and infuriated when I saw the irresponsible comments made by various military, naval and interested Nigerians and religious and ethnic jingoists, at page 18 of the Punch newspaper on Monday, 13th September, giving reasons for the establishment of the project which they say is a Nigerian naval logistic college. They stated thus ” Depending on their responsibilities, Naval bases could be for operations, training, logistics or administration. The base in Kano is intended to be home of the newly created Nigerian Navy Logistics College. The Nigerian Navy took a strategic decision to decongest its presence in the Lagos area by expanding to other locations other than Lagos, Calabar, Warri and Port-Harcourt. This decision led to the establishment of the Nigerian Navy Finance and Logistics College in Owerrinta, Abia State, Nigerian Navy School of Armament Technology in Kachia, Kaduna as well as the School of Health Sciences in Offa, Kwara State. Also, in line with this decision, the Command Naval Drafting has been relocated to Lokoja, Kogi State while the School of Music is now located in Ota, Ogun State. Efforts are currently ongoing to relocate the School of Communication and Information Technology, NNCET and PT School from Lagos to Ife Osun State.” These are all part of the game plan. The Navy should give Nigerians reasons why these facilities that are being decongested from Lagos are not been relocated to other naval bases like Warri, Sapele, and Calabar where there are stunted and undeveloped naval bases as described above by me.
In the Niger Delta area, that is from Delta State to Rivers State and to Cross River State, there are at least five seaports, but like I said because the Federal Government has refused to dredge the seaports, vessels cannot berth, making the Apapa area of Lagos State and by extension, the whole of Lagos State, to be so congested, yet Mr. President is thinking that he has the resources to dredge Lagos Naval base to Kano, perhaps they want to use the Lagos to Ibadan railway line to create an artificial ocean. Please stop insulting and oppressing Nigerians.
A securely held seaport used as a center of operations by the Navy, while the branch of the armed services of a state which conducts military operations, except in Nigeria where might, religion and ethnicity take priority over national interest. Thus, it is only in this our beloved country Nigeria, that such an ignoble and indefensible action can take place; a country where people get away with murder. In an attempt of the Federal Government to replicate and duplicate facilities that are naturally not suitable in an area, billions of naira have been wasted while attempting to establish such facilities in areas where God did not provide the resources. Kano State is endowed with its own natural resources. Rightfully, therefore, what would should have been done was to establish facilities and projects that will effectively use such natural resources there, rather than this arrogant wild goose chase.
The siting of Naval Base the world over is mainly for the provision of security along the waterways of a country in order to provide security for the nation’s internal waters and its territorial integrity; this is done where there is water and not in the heart of a dry land. It is even difficult to decipher and more curious why you intend to crowd the north which is already saturated with heavy military infrastructure, especially in places like Kaduna and Kano States. There must be a limit to nepotism and parochialism.
When 30% of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)’s profit was allocated to frontier basin exploration in the recently passed and assented Petroleum Industry Act, some of us had anticipated such “smart” moves, and are, therefore, not surprised.
But what I would have thought is that you would have given priority to such projects by asking the NNPC, the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and their Nigerian counterparts to move their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta. An order which is yet to be carried out despite promises upon promises. The implementation of this relocation order made by Mr. President through Mr. Vice President, when he acted as President, has remained adamant like a stillborn. However, what is quickly organized is the building of a Naval Base in a part of the country where there is no water. Who knows, maybe sea vessels that can cruise on sand have been built.
Baro Port in Niger State remains desolate two years after its commissioning and after spending about 6 billion Naira on it.
The Inland Waterways used to be in Lagos, later Forcados, then it was relocated to Warri with shipyard and staff quarters built to take in all inland water vessels. I used these facilities in Warri back in 1961 before I left for the United Kingdom to study law. Today, the whole marine yard has been abandoned.
I wish you well in your work and urge you to have a re-think on this totally ill-conceived project which makes this country, which belongs to all of us, appear as the most ridiculous country in the world; building a Naval base in the Sahel.
Remember, accountability comes after service.
Recently, at your Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, you also approved the building of 60 billion Naira worth roads in Kano State; while your Minister of Niger- Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, is struggling to raise 20 billion Naira, to complete the East-West Road, even going to the extent of using funds of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to execute the project. Part of the East-West Road, between Benin and Warri, has totally collapsed, and is impassable. Commuters wade through bushes, and rural communities to travel. A journey that should ordinarily last for 45 minutes, now last for about 3 hours. The former wonder Governor of Lagos State and presently the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola is busy with the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, as if that is the only road that is a legacy project.
The emergence of a brand-new Army University in Biu, Borno State:
It would be remembered that a few years ago, the former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai, made a pronouncement, that he was going to build an Army University in his hometown, Biu, in Borno State. We thought it was a joke. But here we are. How did he get the funds? Where is the budgetary approval and provision for such a project? Was it ever budgeted for by the NASS or was it part of the money allocated to the army to purchase arms to fight insurgency, that was been used to build the University? Mr. President, the question I am asking is who is fooling who in this country of ours? Because the announcement came at a time when the country needed money to fight Boko Haram. Today, there is an Army University functioning in Biu.
Mr. President, are we really in one country called Federal Republic of Nigeria where every individual ought to be equal, should know and participate in what is going on in the Country? Some of us have been branded unpatriotic Nigerians, wanting to break-up Nigeria because we are asking that the country be restructured. People in Government pretend to ask what type of restructuring do people want for Nigeria? They refuse to return to the 1963 Republican Constitution drawn up by Nigerians without foreign Interference, or let us have a new or amended Constitution, acceptable to Nigerians.
Mr. President, once again, I sincerely and humbly wish to plead and remind you that you are the President of Nigeria, and behave as such, because many may not be able to pass through this tortuous, harrowing, and traumatic road you are leading us through.
Enough is Enough.
I am aware that this Open Letter is coming about a month after the pronouncement of establishing a Naval Base in Kano was made. This is because I was away in the United Kingdom. It is better late than never; posterity will not say I did not speak when things were going wrong.
Chief (Dr) E. K. Clark, OFR, CON