Anxiety in Niger Delta as military showcase might
• Operation ‘Crocodile Smile’ Takes Off Today In Port Harcourt
In what appears to be a final showdown with the militants, more military personnel, heavy weapons, gunships and vehicles are arriving in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States, to stem incessant attacks on oil installations and end the smouldering seven-month militancy.
The massive deployment of troops and heavy arms to the Niger Delta, seems to underscores the Federal Government’s resolve to secure a military victory against the militants in the region, despite calls for dialogue.
Though the military has said the massive deployment is a mere routine exercise, security sources said the exercise code named, “Exercise Crocodile Smile,” is intended to completely liquidate militants operating in the region.
Last week in Warri, Delta State, residents were shocked to see long-range military tanks and amoured personnel carriers on the major streets, especially the ever-busy Warri-Effurun Road. Others were sighted around the NPA link road and other parts of the town.
Also, residents of Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South West council say they have severally sighted drones and warplanes encircling their communities.
In fact, Chief Godspower Gbenekema, the spokesman of the kingdom said the movement of drones and planes were indication that the military was planning an attack.
On Thursday a long convoy of articulated vehicles (trailers) numbering over 32 were seen on the Warri-Port Harcourt dual carriage way carrying long range tanks, amoured personnel vehicles, assortment of weapons – allegedly headed to military formations in various parts of the Niger Delta.
The deployment have caused immense outburst as residents allege intimidation. Some wondered why weapons that are tactically useless in amphibious warfare are drafted to cities solely to intimidate the people.
Already, military sources in Port Harcourt told The Guardian that the 2nd Amphibious Brigade would today officially flag off the “Exercise Crocodile Smile” in the State.
The source revealed that proactive measures taken by the military had made it impossible for militants to attack strategic oil installations in Rivers State since the upsurge in militant activities started in February.
“The entire Rivers State is of concern to us. The exercise will take place in the entire Niger Delta states. We are hoping that at the end of the exercise the people will have cause to smile in terms of improvement in security in the Niger Delta,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) spokesperson, Victor Burubo, said the military buildup contravenes government’s professed desire for peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta conflict.
He regretted that the massive deployment of troops, which has led to impediment of movement of people, goods and service, and is already causing hardship in a lot of Ijaw communities, in both Bayelsa and Delta States. He urged the government to withdraw the troops and dialogue with the
Similarly, the Ijaw Youths Council spokesman, Eric Omare, said the Muhammadu Buhari’s government has shown through the deployment that it was never interested in dialoguing with the Niger Delta stakeholders.
The Pere of Seimbiri Kingdom, HRM Ayemi Botu, said the frenzied deployment of military hardware and troops to the region shows insensitivity on the part of the Buhari government and could throw the region into chaos.
He said: “Sequel to the acceptance of ceasefire by the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups, courtesy of monarchs and the leaders of the Niger Delta ten days ago, one would have expected President Buhari to announce his dialogue team as he did in early June 2016, when he declared two weeks ceasefire, preceding his medical trip to the United Kingdom.”
He implored President Buhari to withdraw the troops he deployed to the region and follow the path of honour, to set the machinery in motion without further delay, to commence the dialogue, so as to achieve the desired peaceful resolution.
He added, “Wise counseling suffices, but if unheeded and the military authorities go ahead to unleash their arsenal on the goose that lays the golden egg and all the strategic and volatile oil installations are affected, invariably the resultant conflagration will certainly overwhelm the entire region, nay Nigeria will be in a comatose economically. It’s like throwing the baby away with bath water or shooting oneself on the foot!”
Following the menace of militants, kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists and
others in Calabar, Akpabuyo and Bakassi, areas, the Cross River State government in conjunction with the Armed Forces, comprising the Army, Navy, Air force
and the Police have mobilised to beef up security in these areas of threat.
The security agents now embark on extensive stop and search, while checkpoints have been introduced between Bakassi and Calabar.
Meanwhile, the Bakassi Strike Force (BSF) in Bakassi has denied getting involved in any criminal activities and disturbing the peace of the people or government.