By Emma Amaize, Egufe Yafugborhi and Perez Brisibe
*NDA asks Buhari to probe Operation Crocodile Smile
WARRI- FORMER Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has warned that that the apparent delay by the Federal Government to commence dialogue and the ongoing military operation exercise in the Niger Delta region, dubbed ‘Operation Crocodile Smile” at a time that militants had ceased hostilities following appeal by monarchs and leaders could jeopardize peace in the coastal states.
This came as the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to “commission a high powered panel to investigate all processes that led to the ongoing military operation and all the on ongoing cover-ups of military mishaps that have led to more than 20 deaths so far.”
Clark, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said: “I expected that after the monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta coastal states were able to get the militants to sheathe their swords, the federal government would take advantage of it to commence genuine dialogue.”
“But, that is not what we are seeing even after the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, came and heard from the people in Warri on the way forward. Suddenly, the Federal Government, which was all along looking for who to dialogue with, is foot-dragging.
“I was shocked when I saw that the Chief of Army Staff, who was in the same plane with me from Benin City to Abuja when I went to Abuja after the consultative meeting that saw militants sheathe their swords was, thereafter, launching Operation Crocodile Smile,” he said.
He asserted: “There is no need to intimidate the people with Operation Crocodile Smile, as the people cannot dialogue under duress. They are creating another problem in the region. One expects that if the government is really sincere with the peace move, it should immediately commence the process for dialogue.”
“We held the consultative meeting on August 19, nobody contacted the monarchs and leaders of the region to do that, they volunteered themselves from the six coastal states. I want to advise the federal to kick-start the peace process, as there is no need of the military starting an operation that cannot bring solution to the problem,” he added.
His words: “I am appealing to President Buhari that Niger Delta people are part of the country and they should not be treated like second-class citizens. Before now, people were saying that the region could not speak with one voice. Now, their leaders have come out and they are speaking in one voice, yet, government is not seizing the opportunity.”
NDA in a statement by its spokesperson, self-styled Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, said: “The high command of the Niger Delta Avengers (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, Commander in – Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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 (4) fine soldiers in the creeks of Bayelsa and another sixteen (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 said.
The group asserted: “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 ears. 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.”
“We have earlier advised against timing, strategy and objectives of the show of military might and the deployment of military hardware 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 was only after pecuniary monetary gains and that of a ‘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 2000 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?
“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 that 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 were under the command of Lt. Gen. Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro of blessed memory, 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,” the militant group said.
NDA stated: “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.”
“We, the Ijaw and the people of the Niger Delta occurred here times immemorial. We have resisted, any attempt of exclusions in the control of our 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 ammunition,” it said.
“Finally, 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 economy 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 profiteers and patronages designed for the stress of your administration’s scarce resources. If it has any other purpose, it is satisfy the ego of a trigger -happy army chief, who killed over 800 Shiites just to have the right of way to a meeting even though there were other routes to his meeting.
“For the records, a depth of 2-3 fathoms in the Niger Delta region is likened to the waters our kids of ages between 3-8 years bathe and swim with crocodiles, alligators and other aquatic creatures in the mangroves/freshwater swamps of Niger Delta creeks,” it added.