Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The umbrella body of youths of Ijaw descent, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), wednesday rejected what its leadership termed the planned “militarisation” of the Niger Delta region scheduled to kick-off on Saturday.
Describing the operation as “unwarranted”, the youths reiterated their opposition to the military operation and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call it off in the interest of peace in the South-south.
In a statement by the spokesman of the IYC worldwide, Mr Daniel Dasimaka, the youths noted that despite President Buhari’s promise of dialogue and his conciliatory remarks concerning the region during his Independence day speech, the military was bent on breaching the fragile peace in the area.
Buhari had during the speech while applauding the leaders of the region said: ‘‘The government is keeping up the momentum of dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta to keep the peace. We intend to address genuine grievances of the communities.”
But the IYC maintained that deploying soldiers days after promising to embark on consultations, “epitomises the government’s hypocrisy towards the Niger Delta.”
The Owelaemi Pereotubo-led body said what the region needs is massive development and not military operations to intimidate innocent people.
IYC urged the federal government to heed the advice by the United States and the United Kingdom that military approach to the challenges in the region would never work but end in disaster.
“Just as the former British Foreign Secretary and current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, rightly warned last year, that “the idea that Buharis’s answer to the problems in the Niger Delta is by moving big chunks of the Nigerian army to the Delta simply doesn’t work’, so also operation crocodile smile won’t be any different,” the IYC insisted.
While calling on the federal government to have a rethink, the group noted that if indeed the federal government means well for the Niger Delta region and the army was really planning on providing ‘free medical care” to host communities, they should remain in their barracks.
The youths advised the federal government to channel the resources meant for operation crocodile smile to start developing the region by setting up fabrication plants, agro allied activities and other industrial projects that would engage Niger Delta youths.
Spokesman of 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Col. Aminu Ilyasu, had said the operation would enhance combat skills of soldiers on land and marine operations, improve their sense of civil military relations and avail troops the opportunity to sharpen their combat skills.