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.
President Buhari Accuses Governors of Stealing LG Funds
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has once again accused state governors of stealing monthly allocation due to local government under them.
The president spoke at a parley with members of the Senior Executive Course of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja.
Speaking at the event, the president stated that it beats anyone’s imagination how some governors collected money on behalf of council areas in their states, only to remit just half of such allocation to the council chairmen, who would further deplete the remittance by filching it. Investors King learnt.
‘‘I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is a result of my personal experience. What they did, this is my personal experience, if the money from the Federation Account to the state is about N100m, N50m will be sent to the chairman, but he will sign that he received N100m. The governor will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with,” the president narrated.
‘‘This is what’s happening. This is Nigeria. It’s a terrible thing; you cannot say the person who was doing this is not educated. He was a qualified lawyer, he was experienced, yet he participated in this type of corruption.” he queried.
Furthermore, the president clarified that state governors and local government chairmen should be held responsible for the underdevelopment in the rural areas noting that most of the local governments lack basic amenities.
Similarly, the National Union of Local Government Employees on Thursday backed the position of the president on the embezzlement and mismanagement of local government funds.
Responding to Buhari’s position, the President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Hakeem Ambali, said Buhari was merely stating the obvious.
The NULGE President nevertheless admonished the president to go beyond the statement and ensure governors, especially those in APC to sign the local government autonomy bill into law.
“He should go beyond that statement. He is the leader of the party, he should ask them to sign the autonomy into law; he is the leader of the governors,’’ he said.
Ramaphosa Braces for Calls to Resign Over $580,000 Theft at Farm
The panel found the president may have violated sections of the constitution following a theft of $580,000 that was stashed in a sofa at a game farm he owns.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s allies are steeling themselves before a meeting of the governing party’s top leaders at which he’s likely to face calls for his resignation.
The African National Congress’s National Executive Committee will on Thursday discuss the findings by an advisory panel that there may be a case for Ramaphosa’s impeachment. The panel found the president may have violated sections of the constitution following a theft of $580,000 that was stashed in a sofa at a game farm he owns.
The release of the panel’s report on Wednesday night triggered a slump in the rand. The NEC meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Party officials met with the ANC’s chief whip and the speaker of parliament to discuss the report on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter. A group of NEC members sympathetic to Ramaphosa held a meeting of their own, said the people who asked not to be identified discussing private party matters.
Pule Mabe, the ANC’s spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent by text message.
The meeting of Ramaphosa’s supporters was called by Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele. Two NEC members who are close to Ramaphosa expressed concern that the president may opt to resign — a replay of what happened in June when the scandal over the game-farm theft first erupted and he took advice on whether or not he should quit.
Ibom MRO to Bring in Forex to Nigeria
Akwa Ibom State to open a cutting-edge smart terminal building at the Victor Attah International Airport
The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel, has announced that the state is close to opening a cutting-edge smart terminal building at the Victor Attah International Airport and that this will generate foreign exchange for Nigeria.
This comes on the heels of praise from his Edo State counterpart, Gov. Godwin Obaseki, who attended the Tuesday reception in Uyo for two additional A320-200 Airbus aircraft that the state’s Ibom Air fleet had leased from a European company.
Speaking at the event, the governor of Akwa Ibom said that while there were already efforts underway to persuade the government to lease the MRO, the MRO is an investment because it was built with naira, despite its current depreciation, and will therefore generate income.
The Akwa Ibom governor said “Our terminal building is world-class in Africa, our MRO is world-class. If you find one today in the entire Gulf of Guinea, tell me I’ll disassemble this one and build another.
“Look at our MRO; what you see here can accommodate two 747 aircraft as well as eight CRJ aircraft, which we are flying for servicing at the same time.”
“This is the only MRO in this part of the world today, and these facilities are not built with local currency, but we are building this MRO with naira that has no value.”
“I invest in areas where we can see a return on our money. Right now without blinking an eye, I can make over $ 30 million with this MRO if we decide to sell but we are not selling, we will make a foreign exchange from this investment.
“Airbus is on us to come and lease our MRO for all their regional flights, but we are not selling.
“We are going to open up this place ( MRO facility) from January next year for commercial activities and we are going to earn in dollars.”
He thanked Ibom Air’s Board of Directors, Management, and Staff for making him proud, emphasising that “they have done very well.”
Gov. Obaseki, who spoke at the event, stated that Akwa Ibom has become the country’s flagship state for its efforts to invest in and make significant strides in the aviation sector.
Obaseki described Akwa Ibom as the country’s flagship state for its efforts to invest in and expand the aviation sector. “Ibom Air is always completely booked.” Let me thank you on behalf of Nigerians,’’ Obaseki said.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of Ibom Airlines., Mr Mfon Udom announced plans to begin regional flights in 2023.
Udom said the new addition to the fleet of Ibom Air would expand its carrying capacity and boost employment opportunities in the state by 40 per cent.
“With this new capacity coming on board, we are delighted to inform our passengers that we have increased our offerings, providing more frequencies for their convenience.
“The Uyo-Lagos and Uyo-Abuja routes now have three frequencies each every weekday, while our Lagos-Abuja passengers will have seven frequencies to choose from both ways, every weekday,’’ he said.
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