*As Wike declares support for Operation Crocodile Smile
By Jimitota Onoyume & Davies Iheamnachor
PORT HARCOURT— Nigerian army has described the recent declaration of Operation Crocodile Tears by militants in the Niger Delta as a reflection of their terrorist nature.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, who fielded questions from newsmen, yesterday, shortly after flagging off Operation Crocodile Smile at the 2 Brigade Barracks, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said that since the militants came up with Operation crocodile tears, it was a clear indication of their intention to terrorise Nigerians.
Wike backs Army on OCS
Meanwhile, Rivers State governor, Mr Nyesom Wike has declared his support for the Operation Crocodile Smile of the Nigerian Army, saying that he will do everything to ensure peace and security in the Niger Delta.
Speaking when he granted audience to General Buratai and Senior Army Officers at Government House, Port Harcourt, he noted that “The Rivers State Government is fully in support of the Operation Crocodile Smile. I was fully briefed by the Brigade Commander and we associate ourselves with the programme because it will make the Niger Delta safer.
“One of the advantages of the programme is that hoodlums in the creeks are being uprooted for a safer Niger Delta. I support the programme in sofar as it is done with the constitution,” he added.
However, Gen Buratai reiterated that the army will not allow militants succeed with their terrorist intentions, stressing that the essence of the military operation, “Crocodile Smile,” was to make Nigerians smile and happy.
“That is what they are (militants) terrorists, they want people to be in tears. We (military) want people to smile. They are just terrorising us,” he said.
He advised the militants to unite if they were truly determined to go into genuine dialogue with the Federal Government, adding that they could also make good use of the opportunity created by the amnesty programme to drop their arms against the state.
“There are several factions of the militants. They need to unite, have a common front if they are serious. There is an existing peace arrangement that is ongoing which is the amnesty programme, so which dialogue do they want again?” he queried.
The army chief who said that issues of dialogue with the militants were a matter for the political class, noted that the concern of the army was to wipe out any iota of threat against the nation.
“Dialogue is an issue that can be handled at the political level. At the level of the army, we are doing our duties, we must make sure the threat to our national security is removed,” he said.
He dismissed as untrue allegations in some quarter that the military was invading communities in the region with its Operation crocodile smile, stressing that communities were happy with the exercise.
According to him, the army was also doing free medical programme in communities in the region, a thing he said the people were happy with.
“How can people grumble when we have medical outreach in their communities, there is no way they can grumble. We are having medical outreach in communities, we are supporting the communities they are happy,” he noted.
Buratai later went into a close door meeting with key stakeholders from the oil sector in the state at the 2 Brigade on how best to end challenges of oil theft and other related issues in the region.