- Says 23 militants, 5 soldiers die during ‘Crocodile Smile’ operation
Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Chiemelie Ezeobi
The Nigerian Army on Saturday in Enugu vowed to checkmate all forms of criminality such as militancy, kidnapping, economic sabotage, secessionism and piracy in the Niger Delta and South-east region of the country, declaring that its recently concluded military exercise tagged ‘Crocodile Smile’ had restored peace and security in the region.
Briefing newsmen at the headquarters of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army on the exercise Crocodile Smile, the General Officer Commanding the Division, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru said the exercise, apart from checkmating various forms of criminality, also sharpened the individual and collective skills of “our troops in conducting operations in the riverine environment.”
In the course of the exercise in which over 3,000 soldiers were deployed along two axis on land, creeks and general littoral area of the Niger Delta region, about 55 assorted weapons were recovered from suspected criminals/militants, while 23 militants were killed in operation, with several others escaping with varying degrees of gunshot wounds.
He said four solders also got drowned in the general area of Brass in Bayelsa state due to a boat mishap, while another one was killed in action elsewhere around Obiozumini near Obite in Onelga, Rivers state in a fire-fight with the militants.
The GOC also noted that in all, 38 militant camps, 91 illegal refineries and bunkering sites were destroyed during the operation, while underground tunnels used by militants were discovered and destroyed.
Gen. Attahiru said the exercise ended not just as a training exercise but also as a way of demonstrating the capacity and efficacy of the Nigerian Army to secure lives and property in the Niger Delta and South-east region.
The intended outcome, he said was to put an effective halt to the myriad of security threats cum economic sabotage in the area and ‘this was by way of denying the criminals freedom of action, winning the hearts and minds of the local populace and traditional institutions and rendering of corporate social responsibilities especially through medical outreaches and sundry support for educational institutions across the space.”
He acknowledged the support and collaboration of other sister security agencies including the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Police, Department of State Services (DSS) and the Civil Defence which made the exercise to yield huge successes in the final analysis.
He said the 82 Division would continue without hesitation to defeat any attempt at brazen attacks on national critical infrastructure, oil and gas resources and overall strangulation of the socio-economy of the law-abiding citizenry by any group of militants or criminals.
“Accordingly, 82 Division will continue to maintain operational tempo and consolidate on the gains achieved during the exercise. Most importantly, the Division is ever committed to the strategic direction of the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Defence Staff and the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces of the nation,” he said. Meanwhile, the 81 Division Headquarters of the Nigerian Army in Lagos has said the army remains committed to securing and defending the nation’s territorial integrity from internal and external forces.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General Isidore Edet, said this at the closing ceremony of the competition for warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers in 9 Brigade, Ikeja, Lagos.
Edet, represented by the Division’s Garrison Commander, Colonel Sunday Igbinomwanhia, congratulated the officers for participating in the competition.
He said, “I wish to congratulate all of you for taking part in this competition. There is no substitute to training especially in the armed forces. It is in respect to this that the Nigerian Army deemed it fit to programme this particular competition for this period. You know we are responsible for securing the territorial integrity of this country and we can only do that if we train well and work hard.”
He said what had been witnessed today proved that the army was up to the task at securing the territorial integrity of the country, just as he urged the participants to keep up the good work.
The 9 Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Sanni Mohammed, said he was satisfied with the drilling, stressing that training and retraining was paramount.
The competition was aimed at testing the proficiency of officers on weapon handling and map reading for effective military operations, as well as to test the warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers on obstacles crossing, drill and combat swimming.
The army also said the competition is also aimed at achieving physically fit officers and enhanced leadership qualities. The units who partook in the competition included 9 Brigade, 35 Artillery Brigade, 45 Division Engineers and 81 Division Garrison.
At the end of the competition, 9 Brigade came first; 35 Artillery, second; 81 Division came third and 45 Division had fourth position.