THE deployment of arms and military operational machinery in the Niger Delta is a clear pointer to the imminent take-off of “Operation Crocodile Smile” aimed at securing the nation’s economic interests in the oil-rich region.
This is coming on the heels of conflicting signals by some militant groups, especially the Niger Delta Avengers, where, in spite of their assurances that they would stop sabotaging our oil infrastructure, such acts continued to be reported.
We consider it in the overall national interest that the Federal Government takes decisive action to protect our vital economic assets, not just in the region but also anywhere in the country whenever they are threatened by disgruntled groups with violence or in any form. This imperative is much more so at this moment of economic recession and mass suffering across Nigeria, as a result of the dwindling oil fortunes, which has been exacerbated by sabotage of our oil infrastructure.
However, we strongly advise that some vital lessons of the fight against the Boko Haram Islamist terrorists in the North East must be fully brought to bear in this mission. Worthy of particular mention is the synergy the military forged with the civilian population, whereby the voluntarily-formed “Civilian Joint Task Force” (Civilian JTF), made up of young men from those localities, offered themselves as partners to the military.
They helped the military to navigate the difficult and strange terrains and identify the criminals killing innocent Nigerians and running them out of their communities in vainglorious attempts to establish an “Islamic caliphate”. With their help, the military reversed the course of the campaign from retreat to steady advance, which puts the nation at the doorsteps of imminent victory over Boko Haram.
We call on Niger Deltans who are savvy in the creek terrains to also offer their assistance to the military and preclude the perception of collaboration with the militants.With partnership and cooperation, the Grand National objective of the campaign – to secure the assets of the oil industry – can be achieved with minimal collateral damage to lives and property of our citizens in the zone.
The military must maintain rules of engagement, with maximum regard to the human rights, freedom and dignity of innocent civilians, rather than the usual treatment of every indigene as a member or supporter of the militants.
There must be no ethnic, political or prejudicial hidden agenda, or the mission may backfire.
Meanwhile, efforts at negotiations with credible stakeholders towards permanent solutions to the problems of the Niger Delta must continue to be given prominent treatment, and all issues agreed must be implemented to the letter.