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Akwa Ibom and Nigeria’s Military Formations (2)




By Inemesit Inah

The concluding part of a two-part feature on Akwa Ibom’s standing vis-a-vis military formations in the South-South zone of Nigeria with a suggested panacea to the criminality in Oron.

*Eno’s Strides in Security Management

During his campaign, Governor Umo Eno made it clear that security of Akwa Ibom State would be one of his priorities. In fact, Security Management is the ‘S’ in his five-point economic blueprint, ARISE Agenda.

To his credit, Eno has been able to walk the talk since his inauguration on May 29, 2023.

He started in August 2023 by creating a Ministry of Internal Security and Waterways manned by a retired one-star general of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Asuquo Asuquo (Koko) Essien. The ministry coordinates all security agencies in Akwa Ibom to keep the state safe.

Two months later, the Governor established a 5,000-strong vigilante, christened Ibom Community Watch, to assist the Police and other security agencies, especially in intelligence gathering.

To enhance maritime security, he donated 14 gunboats to the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies in the state at a colourful ceremony attended by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area (LGA) in December 2023.

Turning to land security, Eno, in May 2024, donated 20 well-equipped patrol vehicles to the Police, the largest and lead agency on internal security, and other security agencies.

That same May, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Offiong Offor, in conjunction with Essien, flagged off the Fisheries’ Protection Unit of her ministry at Ibaka in Mbo LGA in line with the Governor’s approval. Unveiling the brand new speed boats, Offor said the unit became necessary to tackle security challenges, particularly the safety of fishermen along the state’s waterways. Surprisingly, this particular government’s initiative has gone largely under-reported.

What’s more, Eno has extended assistance to other security agencies in Akwa Ibom. He even visited the State Commands of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Uyo to ascertain their challenges and intervene.

But when all is said and done, there is a limit to what a Governor can do in terms of security given the structure of Nigeria’s federation. Control of all security agencies remains exclusively in the hands of the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. A Governor can only collaborate with the President and the national security chiefs to secure his state. And that, Eno is remarkably doing.

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*Enter Martins Esin

In February 2024, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, directing the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, to establish an Army formation in Oron LGA to tackle security challenges in the area fuelled by Nigeria’s porous borders.

The resolution came as a result of a motion moved by the Member representing Oron/Udung Uko/Urue Offong Oruko/Mbo/Okobo Federal Constituency in the House, Mr. Martins Esin, on the need to beef up security in Oron and environs.

Martins Esin


The legislator lamented that the minimal presence of security agencies in Oron and environs was responsible for the rise in kidnapping, piracy, armed robbery and killing.

Laudable though the resolution might be, it was not definite. If anything, it was vague, leaving room for a lacuna. An Army formation can mean anything. In the guise of implementing the House’s resolution, the COAS and the Army high command can decide to locate a command secondary school in Oron. And literally, they would be right since the school is still an Army formation. Howbeit, it would practically serve no security purpose in the fish trade hub.

What Oron needs now is a combat formation that incorporates units of the “teeth” and logistics’ branches of the Army.

To get this, Esin need not work alone. He may have to tap on the expertise and experience of the two Army two-star generals of Oro origin, Major General Isidore Henry Edet (retd.), a former General Officer Commanding 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos, and Major General Victor Edet Emah, who is presently serving at the Army Headquarters in Abuja as the Director of Clothing and Stores in the Department of Logistics.

Edet was an infantry officer of the “teeth” branch while Emah, who belongs to the Ordnance Corps, is a logistician. Both generals are from Mbo LGA, which together with Oron are the worst-hit areas in Oro Nation by the twin security challenges of piracy and militancy.

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*Oro’s Disenchantment with the Navy

It is safe to say that the Forward Operating Base (FOB) of the Nigerian Navy at Ibaka has done its best to check insecurity in Mbo and environs. But the people are clearly not satisfied. To them, the FOB has not done enough. They decry the base’s seeming concentration on fighting rice and fuel smugglers than militants and pirates.

The FOB itself does not appear to be in a hurry to change this perception which could be right or wrong. Over the years, its successive Commanding Officers have regularly invited the media to cover display of impounded rice, fuel and boats and parade of suspected smugglers. There is hardly any parade of arrested militants and pirates.

This apparent incongruity has led not a few Oro people to urge the FOB to leave rice and fuel smuggling and fight pirates and militants. Some even declare that “the Navy has failed Oro.”

Such talk might sound extreme, disparaging, uncharitable and unpatriotic, if not caustic. But it indubitably mirrors the deep-seated indignation, frustration, exasperation and desperation of a people who have been steadily thrown into economic dire straits from their hitherto thriving maritime industry by ruthless non-state actors, ostensibly unchallenged, in the last one decade.

*Amphibious Battalion as the Silver Bullet*

In January 2017, Edet, then the Commander of the Nigerian Army Corps of Infantry, Jaji, Kaduna State, informed this writer of a plan by the Army high command to establish an amphibious battalion in Oron LGA and another battalion in Opobo LGA of neighbouring Rivers State. According to him, the two battalions, alongside the already-existing 6 Battalion (a motorised battalion then under 13 Brigade in Calabar, Cross River State) at Ibagwa in Abak, were to constitute the reshaped 2 Brigade which headquarters was about to be moved from Port Harcourt to Uyo following the location of the headquarters of the then newly-created 6 Division in the Rivers State capital.

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Edet retired from the Army, the following year, before he could push through the plan and it looks forgotten.

A brigade is supposed to consist of at least three battalions but 2 Brigade awkwardly remains a one-battalion brigade unlike its counterparts in Bayelsa and Delta States which came into place about the same time.

Since Edet’s retirement, the Honorary Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity and a prominent community leader in Mbo, Prince Chris AbasiEyo, has been a lone voice in the wilderness crying for the battalion. For instance, while reacting to Emah’s promotion in December, last year, he made a plea: “Therefore, while congratulating Major General Victor Emah on his recent elevation, I seize this opportunity to appeal to him to assist in the establishment of an amphibious battalion of the Army in Oron proposed by the Army Headquarters in Abuja but seemingly abandoned. The battalion will help check criminality in the waters around the state especially the Oro area.”

It is time Esin and the umbrella Oro body, Oron Union, make a conjoined cry and struggle for the battalion. It should be the specific Army formation Oron needs. And it may turn out to be the silver bullet needed to shoot down insecurity in Oron, in particular, and Oro Nation, in general, after a barrage of shots from the FOB, the Navy’s equivalent of an Army battalion, and the Marine Police which has stations in Oron and Mbo.

Nonetheless, the struggle for the battalion should not be an exclusive Oro affair. It should be a collective struggle of political and military leaders from Akwa Ibom in Abuja in collaboration with the Governor.

They have their work cut out.

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