Four soldiers drown as crackdown on agitators begins
Army impounds speedboats
Four soldiers lost their lives yesterday when their boat capsized in Bayelsa State as the military began its Operation Crocodile Smile to crack down on agitators in the Niger Delta.
But the army in Cross River State said it impounded two speedboats allegedly belonging to agitators in Bakassi.
Brigade Public Relations Officer, Capt. Kayode Owolabi, disclosed that Operation Crocodile Smile, which had been launched in Rivers, Edo and Bayelsa states, would be commissioned by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai, in Calabar tomorrow. He said the mission would involve air, land and sea operations. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared support for the exercise.
While kicking off Operation Crocodile Smile at the Second Amphibious Brigade in Port Harcourt, Buratai said the armed forces and other security agencies were determined to checkmate any threat to oil installations and national security.
Buratai spoke at a stakeholders meeting attended by the Commander of 82 Division, Maj-Gen. Attahiru Ibrahim; the Commander, Second Brigade, Brig.Gen. Hamisu Hassan; the Commander, Operation Delta Safe (ODS), Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie; Director, Military Intelligence; Director Operations and others.
Addressing the stakeholders in a close-door session, Buratai said the meeting was called to rub minds on the security challenge in the Niger Delta, especially the creeks.
This is the second time the military would suffer a major loss, following last month’s killing of the same number of soldiers when suspected agitators attacked a security post in Nembe Local Council of Bayelsa State.
The boat mishap, which claimed the lives of the four soldiers, happened in Brass waterfront, Brass Local Council.
The Guardian learnt that service rifles and other gears belonging to the missing men were yet to be found after the incident around 10:00 a.m.
Sources said the occurrence created panic among newly deployed soldiers, and residents of neighbouring communities who feared military personnel could unleash violence.
Though there was no official statement on the mission of the four soldiers in the area, sources said it was connected with ongoing security operations against renewed militancy and sea piracy, and search for persons threatening to hoist a Niger Delta Republic flag.
A resident of the community said an attempt by youths and other soldiers to stage a recovery mission failed, as the drowned soldiers could not be found.
The Guardian learnt that as at 2:00 p.m., military authorities had sought the help of local divers and youths in the search for the missing soldiers. One of the youths said high tide impeded the search.
The state chairman of the Maritime Union, Lyyod Sese, who confirmed the incident, said the union had received a report of the boat mishap but could not disclose the number of casualties.
An official of Brass Local Government Council, who pleaded anonymity, said it was a sad development, “but we thank God, it was a natural incident.”
Efforts to get the reaction of authorities of the joint military action tagged “Operation Delta Safe (ODS)” were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, the president general of Oleh Community Development in Isoko South local government area of Delta State Chief James Obeuwou has warned criminals and all youths engaged in any form of militant activity to steer clear of Oleh community as he is ready to deal with anyone caught perpetrating evil and causing trouble in the community.
Chief Obeuwou gave the warning during the reception of thanksgiving organised for Oleh Community new executive elected to pilot affairs of the community for the next two years held at Oleh civic centre. He noted that the glory of the community will be restored as all those that contested with him and failed will be carried along, even as all factions still aggrieved due to successive administration will be resolved.