•   Operation Python Dance: Release report on South-east, army urged

Sylvester Idowu in Warri and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka

The Nigerian Army says it has deployed troops for the commencement of ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in the six Niger Delta states.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Maj.-Gen. Enobong Udoh, said this on Saturday while addressing troops to signal commencement of the exercise.
Udoh said the operation was confidence building patrol rather than a show of force as widely reported.

“Operation Crocodile Smile is not a show of force but a confidence-building patrol that seeks to reassure the people of Rivers state and the Niger Delta that the army is ready to work.
“We are ready to work in close synergy and collaboration with other security services and agencies of government to ensure that there is peace and security for the people.

“Our operation aims to reassure the public that we are ready to fight crimes like cultism, militancy, and kidnapping so that people can go about their business without fear,” he said.
Udoh said troops would carry out collaborative patrols with the Nigerian Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigerian Immigration Service and the Department of State Security (DSS). Others are Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, Nigerian Customs Service and personnel of the Nigerian Prison Service.

He said the division would carry out the exercise in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states while another formation would cover other states in the Niger Delta.
“Army, police and other security services was established to ensure peace; enforce law and order and create the enabling environment for economic activities to thrive. This is our ultimate mandate, and, as such, we urge Nigerians to give us the necessary support to enable us to succeed,” he said.

Meanwhile, against opposition by different groups and civil society organisations, the Joint Task Force code named Operation Delta Safe yesterday kick started Operation Crocodile Smile 11 with display of heavy weaponry on major roads of Warri and neighbouring towns in Delta State.
The creeks and waterways were not left out as the Navy components of JTF patrolled with Navy ships apparently to show off its capability to ward off any threat and combat criminal activities in that area.

THISDAY observed that the commencement of the exercise was devoid of any opposition and confrontation, instead residents trooped out to admire the soldiers as well as the heavy and deadly equipment on display by the military.

Officers and men of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Police and elements of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps drove round Warri, Sapele and Ughelli towns in a convoy of trucks, Hilux vans and armour with residents hailing them.

Prior to the commencement of the exercise, Sector One Commander of JTF, Colonel Alhassan Grema and Commander of 3rd Battalion, Nigerian Army, Effirun, Major Ahmed Abdulkadir had drilled the participating personnel and briefing on rules of engagement concerning the exercise.

Assistant Public Relations Officer, 2 Brigade, Benin, Captain Mohammed Maidawa said the commencement of Operation Crocodile Smiles 11 was successful devoid of any hitch.
Meanwhile, former aviation minister, Chief Osita Chidoka has called on the Nigerian Army to make public the report of its investigation on the activities of military men in the South east while carrying out the military exercise; Operation Python Dance 11.

Chidoka, who is the United Progressives Party, PPA governorship candidate for the Anambra governorship election said this was necessary as Igbos commence the 50th remembrance of the horrific massacre of the innocent in Asaba during the civil war.

He called on the federal government to use the occasion to heal the wounds caused by the civil war on the Igbo by issuing an official regret. He noted that the fact that Igbos still hold unto the memories of the ugly incident of 50 years shows that there is dire need for genuine healing.
A press statement signed by Viola Ifeyinwa Okolie, Director Media, Osita Chidoka Campaign organisation quoted Chidoka as saying, “We urge the military high command to release the report of its investigation on alleged abuses and violation of the rights of citizens by security officials involved in the widely-criticised Operation Python Dance in the southeast.

“Recall that the military had acknowledged that it was investigating reports of alleged rights violations including a video showing the dehumanisation of civilians by some soldiers along Port Harcourt – Enugu Expressway.

“We therefore urge the military to accelerate its inquest, make its findings public and apply appropriate punishments on errant officers, while mechanisms are put in place to end such violations.”

The UPP candidate commended well-meaning Nigerians from other parts of the country who identified with the anniversary, including Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Father Matthew Hassan Kukah.

He also urged the continued spirit of brotherliness among Nigerians while assuring of his commitment towards the pursuit of the interest of ndi-Igbo through institutionalised legal and legitimate means.