Training of special forces of the Nigerian army was concluded in one of the Bayelsa Creeks with the team of the Operation Crocodile Smile well armed.
The Minister of Defense, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (rtd), while speaking at the closing ceremony, said the exercise code named “Operation Crocodile Smile” was aimed at enhancing operational effectiveness in the creeks.
Ali, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Danjuma Sheni, said the military exercise was also to defend the territory and secure the area.
He said that the idea was to stimulate the troops in a drill to see how effective they can be in carrying out their operations.
“We have the capacity, the expertise and the manpower to defend this area, the people and the oil facilities.
“It’s not to harass, intimidate or threaten the community but also to protect them from the so call miscreant and oil thieves “the Minister said.
According to him, the exercise was preceded after consultations with the community leaders in the area and sensitisation of the people on the importance of the exercise.
“We made the people to understand that the troops are here for them, so we built trust and confidence of the residents and allayed their fears.
ALSO READ: Group condemns attack on military personnel
“We cannot allow some criminal elements to continue to operate along the water ways killing innocent people, who are busy going about their legitimate businesses, we want to make the water way safe,” he said.
He said the launch of crocodile smile is to checkmate the activities of militant groups, pipeline vandals, illegal bunkers, among other maritime crimes.
In his remark, the Chief of Army staff, Lt.- Gen. Tukur Burutai, said the exercise has achieved a tremendous results and improved the combat readiness of the troops.
The Army Chief said that several arms and ammunition have been recovered from criminals, while destruction of illegal refineries carried out during the operation would still continues.
He observed that the challenges were enormous but assured the troops that with the support of the military high command, success was imminent.
“We are not working alone, all the security agencies are with us and we are partnering to fight these criminals.
“They have turned our water ways to criminal haven and made it unsafe for innocent people that pass through to go about their legal businesses,” the Army Chief said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some 10,000 army personnel have been trained in the exercise, which the Chief of Army Staff said would continue at regular intervals.
Also speaking, Hon. Sony Goli, Member Representing Brass Constituency I in the Bayelsa House of Assembly, said the exercise was a welcomed development and long overdue.
Goli noted that those calling for withdrawal of military in the areas, were criminals, and assured that the people would partner with the military to make sure criminals were flushed out.
Highlight of the occasion included donation of educational materials to Community Primary Schools 1, 2 and Saint Barnabas School Brass near the operational base of the Army in Brass.
The troops also provided free medical treatment to the people of Brass during the operation.
Also two promoted officers, Major Bala Ikandu and Captain Abraham Ali Baba in charge of gun boat fleet in Operation Delta Safe were decorated with their new ranks.