At least 3,000 soldiers have so far been deployed in the Niger Delta as Nigeria’s security agencies ramp up the war against militancy in the region, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, disclosed on Tuesday.
This came as Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) on Tuesday alleged an attempt by the military to cover up the death of 16 soldiers in Delta State, four days after ‘Operation Crocodile Smile.’ was launched in the region.
The army chief spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, just as the military moved to douse the tension occasioned by the massive movement of troops in the region, assuring communities in the area that the ongoing military exercise codenamed, ‘Operation Crocodile Smile,’ was designed to protect them.
Buratai’s comments yesterday were made against the backdrop of allegations that the military had embarked on harassing and brutalising innocent residents along the coastlines, an accusation that the security forces have always refuted.
The CAS, who spoke at the Government House when he visited Governor Seriake Dickson, told the communities to remain calm, stressing that troops involved in the exercise understood the rules of engagement and would strictly adhere to them.
He added that the visit was necessary as part of the operation’s confidence-building, maintaining that the current exercise was meant to equip the soldiers with required skills to ensure the safety of the maritime environment for Bayelsa and other states of the Niger Delta.
The army chief, who was accompanied by other military commanders including the Commander, Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, said the exercise was part of the amphibious training activities of the military.
“I am leading a cream of delegation of the Nigeria Army as part of our amphibious training (Operation Crocodile) activities in making sure the maritime environment is safe for Bayelsans and Nigeria at large.
“The exercise has mustered about three thousand troops and equipment,yet we want to assure you that we are people-friendly. We want to appreciate the support you have given to the Nigerian Army,” he said.
He added that the military remained committed to the protection of the country’s territorial integrity from external aggressors, stressing that the Atlantic Ocean remains part of the territory that must be secured and protected from interferences.
“The task of the army is to defend the territory from external aggression. The Atlantic Ocean is not an exemption in this regard. Training and continuous training in the region will help the men to actualise the task of defending the territory.
“These projects also come with humanitarian services like health, education and civil works. The Nigerian Army is people friendly and have always emphasised that the number one rule of engagement is to ensure that lives and properties are protected,” he said.
The army chief was said to have also approved the establishment of a brigade in Yenagoa following the request of the governor, who appreciated the military for their selflessness in discharging their duties.
Dickson, who commiserated with the army over the death of some soldiers in a boat mishap that occurred in the state, urged them to adopt dialogue as a means of fighting criminality in the region.
Meanwhile, the JTF yesterday, denied invading some communities in Southern Ijaw destroying houses, beating up residents and carting away speedboats.
Spokesman of the JTF, Lt Cmdr Thomas Otuji said that there was no iota of truth in a report that soldiers invaded Peremabiri community, noting that the outfit has remained professional in all its activities in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Meanwhile, the NDA said the incident was aside the untimely death of four fine soldiers in the creeks of Bayelsa noting that over 20 soldiers had died so far in the military exercise.
According to a statement signed by the spokesman of NDA, Mudoch Agbinibo, the deceased soldiers in Delta State were the first casualties of the exercise disclosing that they died along River Ethiope, four days after it started.
It however expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased and President Muhammadu Buhari, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces over the death of “the fine soldiers.”
“The high command of NDA and the entire membership on behalf of the good people of the Niger Delta offer our condolences to the families and Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, on the soldiers murdered in the ongoing military operation cum exercise codes named “Operation Crocodile Smiles.”
“Mr. President from available facts, the untimely deaths of these four fine soldiers in the creeks of Bayelsa and another 16 that was recorded during the first four days of the exercise along the River Ethiope, in Delta State but was earlier covered up is nothing more than act of murder.
“Their death is due to negligence, administrative greed and a corruption within the military constructed and perfected by the ascendant APC political class (conflict merchants we have mentioned times without numbers) from the Niger Delta and some Abuja paid and bought up interest,” it alleged.
The militant group alleged that the military exercise was unfortunate since it was designed by some military top brass to amass wealth under the guise of making efforts to quell militancy in the Niger Delta region.
“It declared: Mr. President, the worrisome dimensions about the ongoing reorganization and restructuring of the unending security operations in the Niger Delta is where two of your head of security apparatus are boasting to the minister of defense that, they have your hears. They assured him, it is now their turn to bloat their pockets and that they can talk you to even borrowing money to sustain the insecurity in the region, which the honourable minister of defense concurred to before the ongoing exercises.
“We have earlier advised against timing, strategy and objectives of the show of military might and the deployment of military hardwares to the Niger Delta suddenly when there is certainly cessation of hostilities for peace talks to commence. But the top hierarchy of the Nigerian military led by Lt. Gen. Buratai was only after his pecuniary monetary gains and that of some Akpakpa- Ajudaibo Champagne intelligence chief who is desperately arm-twisting the peace processes continuously.
“The advice is that all lives matters! Why are you in a hurry to train over two thousand military personnel for just 4 to 14 days on amphibious military exercise to occupy the Niger Delta region when the Niger elders and stakeholders are awaiting your response for peace talks?,” it asked.
NDA recalled the amphibious exploits of the Ijaws during the civil war, though fought without military training, to win the war for Nigeria.
It asked further: “Have you forgotten the exploits of our great fathers during the infamous Nigerian Civil War in amphibious warfare without any military training? Is it because they were volunteers as such the success was credited to Late Lt. Col. Benjamin Adekunle and Lt. Col Olusegun Obasanjo instead of them?
“Mr. President, as a veteran of that fateful war, you know that after all failures, the amphibious warfare and successes was under the command of Lt. Gen. Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro of blessed memories, the pride and face of the 3rd Marine Commandos (3MCDOS) constituted of able-bodied Ijaw warriors voluntarily.
“They were not given any formal military training prior to that great contribution to the unity of Nigeria, but they succeeded because they were amphibious by nature.
“Mr. President, the truth be told, we are the “Great White Sharks” of the Atlantic when it come to marine warfare! “Operation Crocodile Smiles” is ironically, a simulative military operation cum exercise for waters less than 2 fathoms in depth orchestrated by the top hierarchy of the military to undermine any genuine disposition from your government towards restoration of tranquility in the Niger Delta and to exhaust your security budget for the year, except you are thinking otherwise towards peace in the Niger Delta too”, it added.
It reiterated that the Ijaws and the people of the Niger Delta had been in that region times immemorial stressing that they had resisted any attempt of exclusions in the control of their God given resources, from the Portuguese and British colonial trades and periods to date.
“We are ever ready to continue that resistance even without guns and ammunitions,” it maintained.
NDA therefore urged President Buhari to set up a commission a high powered panel to investigate all processes that led to the ongoing military operation and exercise in the Niger Delta tagged “Operation Crocodile Smiles” and all the ongoing cover-ups of military mishaps that have led to more than 20 deaths so far.
“Mr. President, in practical terms crocodiles do not have any capacity to swim close to the water depth, small tiger sharks swim and play around not to talk of the depths of the great whites, the heart of the nation’s economic where we have overmastered. The mission ongoing in the Niger Delta is a brainchild of orchestrated military corruption at your face Mr. President.
“Operation Crocodile Smiles is nothing but a conduit pipe for military contracts, political profiteerism and patronages designed for the stress of your administration’s scarce resources,” it concluded.
Envoy Considers Establishment Of Chinese Banks In Nigeria To Boost Economy
Mr Cui Jianchun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, says he is in talks with Chinese owned Banks to establish operations in Nigeria.
This, the envoy said, is to boost Nigeria’s economy and expand trade relations between the two nations.
Cui made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing Journalists during the commemoration of the 2021 Chinese Moon Festival and China-Nigeria Cultural week.
According to Cui, the establishment of Chinese Banks in Nigeria will also be one of the key areas of discussion during the China-Nigeria Binational Committee meeting, which he is also pushing for the establishment.
He said that an efficient financial institution was a key driver to achieving a strong economy, one Nigeria can learn from China’s experience.
“Before my departure from Beijing to Abuja, I talked to several banks in China. When you list the World’s 10 big banks, six are in China.
“The Banking sector is very important, because, without money, we cannot build our industries.
“What I am thinking here is best to talk to the governor of Central Bank and how we can allow the Chinese Banks to run office here and now, they are doing the feasibility studies on that.
“I am working hard that in the Bi-national meeting, I hope we can make a big decision and give a big push to let the banking industry and insurance industry because financial integration and institutions are key.
“If you go to China, you will find our banking industry is very powerful, not only for business but the change in the way of life.
“Because of the COVID-19, the Banking Industry is a little hesitant, but I told them Nigeria has a lot of human resources and as long as we work together, we can do big things.
“And that is why it is important to invest in the banking industry, to solve this problem,” Cui said.
Extolling the extant China-Nigeria trade relations, Cui noted that the volume of trade between China and Nigeria is nearly 20 billion US Dollars, with an increase from 2020’s 19.2 billion dollars.
Cui said the Chinese economy is restoring to the normal post-COVID-19 pandemic and both governments are working hard on how to expand imports and exports.
Speaking on the event, Cui said the China’s moon festival is a very important and significant one for China as it symbolises family reunion, national peace and social harmony.
The envoy said the 2021 celebration is also a special one as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of China-Nigeria’s bilateral relations.
He said that both countries also share Oct. 1 as their National Days.
He said it is also on that note that the Chinese Embassy is honouring 50 Nigerian employees of Chinese Companies in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contribution to strengthening diplomatic ties.
Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, also lauded the Nigeria-China relations.
She said the relations had recorded great successes over the past five decades.
“The five decades of co-operation had since witnessed several cultural activities and exchanges in the spheres of arts, music, dance, exhibition, cultural administration, training and capacity building of cultural officers.
“And recently, the development of Cultural Industries centres in Nigeria, among others.
“I must add that China, through the youth-oriented programmes such as the photos competition and similar activities in the past is surely a dependable ally.
“In redirecting the energy and mind of our youth to creative ventures, thereby furthering the Nigerian government’s policy of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”, Anyanwukatu said. (NAN)
Lagos Prohibits Open Cattle Grazing, Sanwo-Olu Signs Bill Into Law
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, assented to the bill prohibiting Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land, signing the legislation into law 11 days after it was unanimously passed by the State House of Assembly and transmitted to the Executive arm for authorisation.
By implication, it is now criminal in Lagos for cattle rearers to occupy unapproved public areas and private land with their livestock for grazing. The law also prohibits the act of moving cattle round public places by herders.
The signing of the anti-open grazing law by the Governor followed the decision of Southern Governors’ Forum last August, setting the September deadline to pass the law across member States.
There have been crises witnessed in some States, resulting from alleged open grazing.
Although farmer-herder crisis is not pronounced in Lagos, the anti-open grazing law is expected to prevent the spillover of the menace into the State.
Sanwo-Olu, who assented to the bill during the State’s Executive Council meeting in Alausa, directed the security agencies to swing immediately into action and enforce provisions of the law.
He said: “By the powers vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I am signing the bill on Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land into law to prohibit issues associated with open grazing of livestock.”
The Governor also signed legislation transforming the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) into a full-blown agency.
The development coincided with the commemorative month dedicated to raising awareness on gender-based violence in the State. The Governor and members of the State’s cabinet wore attire with purple shades to support the campaign against sexual violence.
The DSVRT legislation provides for the establishment of Sexual Offenders’ Register that would help the State efficiently tackle violations in the communities.
After signing the law, Sanwo-Olu said: “Raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence is an important piece of working to end the cycle of violence. It is important to reiterate the State Government’s zero tolerance to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. We will not rest on our oars until the menace is reduced to the barest minimum in Lagos.”
The Governor appointed Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi as the Executive Secretary of the new agency.
Vivour-Adeniyi was the coordinator of the response team before the legislation was signed into law.
ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Guinea Junta Over Coups
West African leaders have decided to impose travel bans and freeze the financial assets of members of Guinea’s ruling junta and their families after a coup more than a week ago.
The decisions were announced Thursday after an Extraordinary Summit on Guinea in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Mediators with the regional group had traveled to Guinea to meet with junta leaders and check on the condition of deposed President Alpha Conde.
ECOWAS president Jean Claude Brou said the West African leaders have also insisted that there should be no “need for very long transition for the country to return to democratic order.”
The targeted sanctions come after Guinea’s coup leaders set a number of conditions for releasing Conde, according to the foreign minister of Ghana.
ECOWAS had already warned it will impose penalties on the junta in Guinea unless it immediately releases Conde, who has been held at an undisclosed location since being detained during the Sept. 5 coup in Conakry.
“We are coming to address a burning issue in the region,” said Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current chair of the regional bloc, ahead of the summit. He was joined by presidents or high-ranking officials from eight of the other 15 ECOWAS countries.
Members of the ECOWAS delegation that visited Conakry after the coup presented their reports at Thursday’s meeting, said Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway. The junta has set a number of conditions for complying with the demands of regional mediators, she said but declined to disclose what they are.
The delegation has spoken with Conde’s doctor “who ascertained that indeed physically, he’s very well,” she said. However, she said, the ex-president is still coming to terms with the fact that his government has been toppled after more than a decade in power.
“For anybody who has gone through such a traumatic experience like he did, mentally, it’s not the best, not to say that mentally we found anything wrong, but he was quite shocked; he’s still in a state of shock,” she added.
Meanwhile, in Conakry, junta leaders were also set to meet with mining company representatives on the third day of a special summit to chart Guinea’s political future. Junta leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya has sought to reassure the country’s most vital economic sector that the political changes will not impact existing mining projects in the country, which has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite.
Guinea’s coup leaders have yet to make public their proposed timeframe for handing over power to a civilian transitional government, nor have they outlined how quickly new elections can be organized.
Conde had sparked violent street demonstrations last year after he pushed for a constitutional referendum that he used to justify running for a third term, saying term limits no longer applied to him. He ultimately won another five years in office last October, only to be toppled by the coup 10 months later.
At the time he came to power in 2010, he was Guinea’s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.
The regional bloc also planned to tackle concerns over whether a second member state, Mali, is making enough progress toward a return to democracy more than a year after a military takeover there.
In Mali, the ruling junta led by Col. Assimi Goita has committed to holding new elections by February 2022, though mediators who recently visited have expressed concern about whether that deadline now can be met.
Goita overthrew Mali’s president in August 2020 and then agreed to a civilian transitional government and an 18-month timeframe for holding a vote. However, only nine months after the first coup he effectively staged a second one, firing the civilian interim leaders and ultimately naming himself as president of the transition.
ECOWAS has not reinstated Mali’s membership in the bloc, marking the first time since 2012 that two of the 15 member states are suspended concurrently.
ECOWAS President Brou said there was the need to revisit the organization’s 2001 protocol on good governance “because a lot of things have changed or improved.”
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