- Stay away from Rivers, militant leader tells Avengers
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt with agency report
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared his support for military operation in the Niger Delta, codenamed the Operation Crocodile Smile, saying it would bring peace in the region.
This came as the Amanyanabo of Ancient Grand Bonny Kingdom, King Edward Dappa Pepple, Perekule XI; and other stakeholders in Bonny called on security agencies to provide security for boats operating in the area to check incessant attacks by sea pirates.
Wike also said he would do everything necessary to ensure peace and security in the Niger Delta.
This is as the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, explained that the operation was introduced to train army personnel on the techniques of operating in the Niger Delta.
Wike spoke monday when he granted audience to Buratai, and some senior army officers at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor said: “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 insofar as it is done with the constitution.”
The governor also said the state government would sustain its support for security agencies to create the right atmosphere for democratic governance.
He disclosed that the state government had procured six new armoured personnel carriers (APC) for the police and in the process of concluding the acquisition of 10 gunboats for the Nigerian Navy.
Earlier, Buratai said the Operation Crocodile Smile would ensure that the security challenges in the Niger Delta are addressed and peace enhanced. “The Operation Crocodile Smile is an exercise to train our troops on amphibious operations,” he said.
He said the exercise seeks to provide the civil authorities with the right environment to carry out governance, adding that the exercise would ensure that the troops are professional with the required training to conduct operations within the law.
“Our waters are generally porous. The Nigerian Army has amphibious capabilities in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy to carry out limited operations within the creeks,” he said.
Buratai added that another aspect of the Operation Crocodile Smile would witness the army intervening in critical areas of need for the communities. The army, he said, has already embarked on medical outreach in Bille (Rivers State) and Nembe (Bayelsa State).
Meanwhile, following persistent attacks by pirates along the Bonny-Port Harcourt sea route and the consequent effect on indigenes and visitors to the island, the Amanyanabo of Ancient Grand Bonny Kingdom, King Edward Dappa Pepple, and other stakeholders met in the island on the security situation there.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting yesterday, they called boat owners/operators in Bonny to take responsibility of ensuring that their boats movement are scheduled and that the boats move in large convoys.
The communique said: “The boat owners and operators must take responsibility of ensuring that no boat that is not in perfect mechanical condition is set to sea, and that every boat must have a walkie-talkie with which to communicate with their administration on land and the security agencies.
“The JTF, Navy, Civil Defence, DSS and police should organise themselves to provide escort for these convoys of boats in both directions.” They also called on the federal and state governments to provide adequate logistics support to the security agencies.
“The federal government, the state government, the local government and the multinational companies operating in Bonny should in a matter of necessity procure at least four gunboats with adequate logistics support for the Bonny-Port Harcourt route;
“The IOCs in Bonny agreed to support the kingdom in enhancing sustained security both on land and water,” they said.
They also said: “The Bonny-Bodo Road project is of neccessity to the Bonny Kingdom, and the federal government should make haste to complete the Bonny-Bodo Road for which the Nigeria NLNG has committed 50 per cent of the funding;
“Should the federal government continue to delay, the Rivers State Government should show enough concern for the plight of Bonny people and provide the fund to match that of the NLNG so that this vital road would be completed in 2017.”
The communique was signed by representatives of Bonny Local Government Council, security agencies, Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited, Nigeria LNG Limited, and chiefs of the kingdom, while the monarch endorsed the document.
Meanwhile, the leader, of a militant group in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, the Aggrieved Youth Movement (AYM), Don Waney, has warned the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and other militant groups to stay away from the state.
Waney, who gave the warning in his country-home, Aligu, while addressing journalists after officially accepting amnesty gesture from the state government, vowed that they would resist any militant group that attempts to cause crisis in the state.
He advised NDA and other militant groups to embrace amnesty as he has done to move the Niger Delta region forward, or they should carry out their nefarious activities elsewhere.
Speaking further, the militant leader stressed that the AYM was not a violent group, pointing out that their agitation was traceable to youth unemployment, lack of technical training for manpower development, scholarships for those in tertiary institutions, widespread poverty, lack of basic social infrastructure and others.
He said: “On a strong note, we are non-violent and we shall remain so in our collective agitation for a better ONELGA, Orashi and Rivers State. In the light of this, we call on the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group to leave ONELGA and Orashi region out of their targets.
“We are against the bombing and destruction of vital oil and gas installations in our communities. We shall not allow them or any of their type to enter our land. We want peace and development and that is what we have signed with our father and governor, Nyesom Wike. Rivers State is peaceful and we do not want outsiders to cause crisis and general insecurity in our state again.”
Waney commended Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike for his efforts to ensure there was restoration of peace in the state, and urged other aggrieved groups to toe the path of peace for the Niger Delta region to develop.
The militant leader said: “We have accordingly accepted amnesty gesture the government has granted us. We salute the governor for his love for the sanctity of lives of some young people, who may have been deceived in the past. We believe that the amnesty will go a long way to transform for good, the lives of these youngsters.
“We hereby call on other armed groups to embrace the amnesty programme and give up militancy, so that together, we can benefit from the development efforts of the Rivers State government.
“We also urge the Federal Government to look in our direction and ensure that the post-amnesty programme covers all oil and gas producing communities in the Niger Delta, since we, too, are major stakeholders.”