By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State Friday linked the proliferation of small and light weapons to perpetrators of illegal bunkering and refining in the Niger Delta.
Governor Dickson who stated this when he received the new Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Yenagoa, Rear Admiral Sidi-Ali Usman in Yenagoa lamented that the activities of the oil thieves not only pose a great threat to the nation’s economy but also to national security.
Expressing concern over the impunity with which perpetrators of illegal bunkering, sea piracy and pipeline vandalism undermine constituted authority, the governor linked the proliferation of small and light weapons to such activities in the littoral states.
According to him, the criminals have been able to sustain their operations over the years through the proceeds from illegal bunkering activities.
His words, “What is going on is more of a threat to national security than even the loss of revenue that everybody is shouting about. Let me tell you that all the violence, brigandage and criminality that we experience in the Niger Delta states particularly Bayelsa where I know more, have their roots in the activities in the creeks. It is from there they have easy funds to recruit followers. It is from these activities of crude oil theft and illegal refining that people are able to sustain such large number of youths and put them into various cult groups.
”What is going on has a direct effect on the proliferation of small and light weapons because they need an army of youths to protect their territories and to be able to withstand the onslaught of legitimate security personnel.”
The governor warned those who have rebuffed the olive branch extended to cultists by the state government to have a change of heart, as his administration would not hesitate to bring them to justice.
”For those who have defied the Cultism Proscription law, in spite of the olive branch we have put forward, I am sounding a clear note of warning that this government will not succumb to blackmail or propaganda.
”This government will work with security agencies in this state to ensure that those who violate the laws of this state and country will be brought to book.”
Consequently, he called for maximum cooperation from the security operatives especially the Nigerian Navy to achieve the present administration’s policy of zero tolerance to violence and crime.
Describing the establishment of the Central Naval Command in the state as significant, the governor said considering the maritime nature of the state, the Navy has a crucial role to play in policing its waterways.
While commending the out gone Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Olutoyin Johnson for serving the state creditably, he assured the new FOC of government’s continued support.