Kano Naval Base: Where Critics got it wrong

By Ali   M. Ali
I watched with growing consternation the opposition to the establishment of a Naval base  in Kano. The decision  followed approval by the Navy council to establish three such bases in Lekki, Oguta and Kano.

The one in  Kano appears to be the one causing bellyache. It has raised a lot of dust. Some of the hullabaloo is, decidedly, from expected quarters. Pa Edwin Clark, foremost Ijaw leader for instance has kicked.   A consortium of critics, all of them ill-informed (yes-ill-informed) especially in Television Morning Shows have hitched onto the “misnomer” bandwagon that a Naval base in Kano is a wasteful venture and also an “ego trip”.

But the one that piqued my interest the most is from an unexpected quarters – Dare Babarinsa .A veteran and super brilliant journalist. A veteran who stood as sentry, alongwith  other patriots, against military dictators himself and co travellers, all of them journalism icons,  started  Tell Magazine in 1991.The Magazine earned global accolades.

Babarinsa’s  prose had a compelling flavour. His prefaces to  every cover were captivatingly flawless. Throughout the 90s,his pieces along with the inimitable Nosa Igiebor, Onome Osifo-Whiskey  and others kept the military regimes of that era  on their toes. Each time he wrote, he   “finished” the juntas of that time with well informed commentaries. His   facts  and figures were often unassailable.

The years have not tempered with his pungent commentaries against the “absurdities”  of locating  a naval base in Kano. This time around ,he got it mixed up and I dare say, wrong.

Writing in the Guardian of September 9th, 2021,his aghast was apparent. The telling title “Our Navy’s NNS Absurdity” leaves no one in doubt as to his position on the matter.
He is not flippant. He is not frivolous. This bears stressing. His treatise asked  questions  about the “absurdity’  of locating  a naval base in Kano. He is at sea why a naval base should be established in ”Sahel –savannah region…..The reason for this naval base is not clear”  he said. I will get to that shortly.

       His argument, in the main, is that “There is no rational argument that can sustain the need for a naval base in Kano. While fishermen have traversed the two big rivers of Kano State; Hadejia and Jama’are, for centuries, it is inconceivable that someone would think of putting a fishing trawler or a speedboat on any of these rivers. To accommodate a true passenger boat, each of the rivers would require expensive dredging. Even then, that may not justify the need for a naval presence. It would only mean that the merchant marine might have an interest.”

       He concluded thus “The decision to establish a naval base in Kano is truly absurd. It is an indication that decisions  at the highest level of the military are still taken with reckless disregard to logic. Gambo’s gift to Kano is an absurd ego trip taken at our expense. Pity.”

       He is not alone. A  few elements have joined the campaign especially in the media. The latest entrant into the campaign orchestra against the base is Pa Edwin Clark. He penned an open epistle  to the President and rhetorically asked “A Naval Base In Kano In The Heart Of The Sahel?’’

He insinuated nepotism and parochialism.   There were others. All of them seem to think that locating   a naval base “in the heart of Sahel” is incongruous. They seem to think that a naval base must necessarily be located where rivers run deep with mighty frigates docking.

Nothing could be farther from reality. The idea that because Kano is in the Sahel  is undeserving of a naval base, is misleading. It is like saying that the current military campaign against insurgent elements in the North East often led by the Navy’s Special Forces (SBS) is unsuitable because there is no sea  in that troubled zone.
Except for my senior colleague, Babarinsa, all of them were passionate not reasonable.

I don’t blame the passionate.  Humanly speaking, the less knowledge you have on a subject matter, the more passionate you tend to be. The image that comes to mind at the mention of a Naval base is that of a  securely  held seaport used as a centre of operation by the Navy. But then,  a base could be  for operations, training, logistics or administration. The is precisely the case of the base in Kano. It is a Logistics College.But nay,critics wont hear of this.

It is not altogether, out of place to describe all naval institutions, bases.In naval lingo,where there is a heavy personnel presence with hostel accommodation, schools and hospitals, it is technically ,a base.
This is in  the public domain. There are 3 operational Commands of the Navy: Western with Headquarters in Lagos, Eastern with Headquarters in Calabar and with the Headquarters in Yenagoa.  

           Still, there are two more Commands namely Naval Training with headquarters in Lagos and  and Logistics with headquarters in Oghara.   Naval Training Command has professional schools under it located in various parts of the country.

           In Lagos area alone, there is the  Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) QUORRA, Nigerian Navy Centre for Education and Training Technology (NNCETT)  and Joint Maritime Security Training Centre, amongst others.

           There are many others  located outside Lagos. They  include Nigerian Navy School of Armament Technology in Kachia, Kaduna State, Nigerian Navy College of Health Sciences, Offa, Kwara State, Nigerian Navy Finance and Logistics College, Owerrinta, Abia State as well as Nigerian Navy Hydrographic School, Port Harcourt
           It is pertinent to state that these schools are also referred to as naval bases. and in the naval parlance as stone frigates since they are all naval establishments and units. Military formations are called bases or barracks all over the world.

           The Naval Base in Kano is meant for the newly created Nigerian Navy Logistics College while the Nigerian Navy Finance College would be retained in Owerrinta. The Base is also meant to house Nigerian Navy primary and secondary schools.

Where   naval personnel are serving, it is common practice  to have hostel accommodation for  staff and students, hospitals or medical centres, primary and secondary schools for the wards of the personnel and people of the host community. Additionally, naval units such as naval police and intelligence are housed  in such a base. It could also be used as a training ground for the NN Special Forces in the immediate future.

The Navy also proposed another base or school in Ile-Ife, Osun state. The   Command Naval Drafting was relocated to Lokoja, Kogi State in January 2019, while the Nigerian Navy School of Music has been in Ota, Ogun State since July 1991. In the same vein, the Nigerian Navy provost and Regulating School is located in Makurdi, Benue State. There is  Naval Base Lake Chad is in Baga, Borno State. The Navy is nationwide.
Is the charge by Clark and co. of   the navy locating a base in the Sahel valid?Certainy not. There are countries across the globes that have their Navy on land because they are Landlocked.    

  A landlocked Navy is a naval  force  in a  country that does not have a coastline. Such a country  is  unable to develop a sea-going blue-water Navy. It can deploy its  armed forces on major lakes or rivers.
Among landlocked countries that have Navies  include Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Central African Republic, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Laos, Paraguay, Rwanda, Uganda amongst several  others.

 In the USA, the Naval Construction Battalion Centre is located in Mississippi, the Naval Air Station Fallon is in Nevada, the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic Detachment Lamoure is in North Dakota while the Navy Information Operations Command – Sugar Grove is in West Virginia. All these states in the USA are landlocked.

In the United Kingdom, Her Majesty Ship (HMS) DRYAD and COLLINGWOOD are located on land not on the coast. In Germany, the Logistikschule der Bundeswehr (The Logistics School of the German Armed Forces) is located in Garlstedt, a landlocked city.

The insurgency in the northeast, the banditry in the northwest and militancy in the Niger Delta area have necessitated  the involvement of the Navy in internal security. Its Special Forces is currently giving a good account of itself in some North central states of Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue states. All these and more  justify a base being established in Kano.