Abimbola Akosile and Chinedu Eze
The Nigerian Army yesterday said no fewer than 399 suspects were arrested for various offences during the Exercise Crocodile Smile 2 in Lagos and Ogun States.
The 35 Artillery Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. Bassey Adonkie, disclosed this while giving an appraisal of the exercise during the closing ceremony of the Crocodile Smile 2 at 192 Battalion, Ajilete, Ogun State.
He said the Crocodile Smile 2 was aimed at flushing out pipeline vandals, kidnapers and miscreants.
â€œThe exercise led to the arrest of suspects including armed robbers, kidnappers and recovery of ammunition. So far, a total of 399 suspects were arrested for different offences across as the South-West region and handed over to various security agencies concerned.
â€œIn addition, 20 assorted arms were recovered, while illicit drugs were also recovered and handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),â€ he said.
The commander, who said over 1,000 officers participated in the exercise, added that criminal activities had reduced following the crackdown which denied the hoodlums freedom of action.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who was represented by the Chief of Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. David Ahmadu, said the exercise leveraged on the gains of the Crocodile Smile 1.
â€œExperience drawn from the exercise conducted in 2016 revealed that criminals and miscreants do flee from areas of ongoing operations to seek safe haven and cause security menace in areas hitherto regarded as peaceful.
â€œIt was in line with this development, that I deemed it necessary to extend the areas of coverage for this yearâ€™s exercise crocodile smile, to cover the South-West and South-South regions of the country,â€ he said.
He said the closing ceremony should not be regarded as the end of the exercise and urged the men to sustain the tempo of the operation.
â€œThe army places premium on training and thus Exercise Crocodile Smile is one of the training activities embarked on to sharpen the skills of personnel in the conduct of operation,â€ he said.
He said the exercise was a joint operation conducted with other sister agencies, adding that it improved comradeship, inter-agency cooperation and synergy.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division, Maj.-Gen. Peter Dauke, in his opening remark, said the exercise was flagged off by the chief of army staff on Oct.7.
â€œThe exercise was designed to develop and enhance professionalism among units, foster relationship and synergy among participating services, security agencies. It was also designed to improve the overall planning and conduct of internal security operations in combating prevalent security challenges.
â€œIt is gladdening to note that the exercise was able to mitigate prevalent security challenges such as reduction in pipeline vandalism, militancy, ritual killings, smuggling, kidnapping and drug related offences amongst others,â€ he said.
The GOC said troops were exposed to the rudiments of administration in the field, operational staff work and battle map marking during the operation.
â€œIt is pertinent to note that all these activities were done in collaboration with other sister services with each playing its statutory roles in internal security duties,â€ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a medical outreach was rendered to the Ajilete community by the army to commemorate the closing ceremony of the Crocodile Smile 2.
Also, free eye test, health talks and other medical services were rendered to over 100 residents in the area. Present at the closing ceremony were senior military, para-military officers.
Meanwhile, the NDLEA has destroyed 14.13 metric tonnes of prohibited drugs in Ibadan, Oyo State, South-West Nigeria.
The drugs, which were destroyed in the full glare of the general public, were intercepted by Oyo State Command of the Agency over a two-year period.
According to the Oyo State Commander of the agency, Omolade Faboyede, the drugs consisted of 14,127.7 kilogrammes of cannabis sativa, 40.601 kilogrammes of psychotropic substances, 56.05 grammes of cocaine, and 0.8 grams of heroin.
She noted that the public destruction coming two years after a similar exercise took place in the State was an indication that the illicit drug trade is not about to stop in the State and that more efforts was required by all stakeholder to counter the trend. She recalled that in 2014, the Agency destroyed 20,784.5 kilogrammes of the illicit substances in Oyo State.
Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd.) noted at the event that the exercise was to ensure public safety because confiscated drugs still remained a threat even in custody.
According to him, â€œaside from sending strong signals to criminal drug entrepreneurs that their deadly commodities are only worth the ashes, the public destruction of the exhibits is to increase public confidence in NDLEAâ€™s work.â€
â€œIt is indeed good to be transparent and accountable to the public by showing that the drugs seized and exhibited in court and subsequently ordered for destruction are the real drugs and not substituted with any other substanceâ€, the Chairman maintained.
He decried the indiscriminate cultivation of cannabis within the South-west in spite of its numerous socio-economic and security consequences.
â€œAs a result of cannabis cultivation, it has become increasingly difficult to find virgin forests. We are now faced with deforestation and soil degradation because of the operations of cannabis farmers, felling invaluable pristine trees in sight to pave room for the cultivation of the illicit crops. Worse still, they engage the under-aged who ordinarily should be in school to tend their illicit cannabis farms, thereby robbing them opportunity to develop as good citizensâ€, the Chairman added.
Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who received the NDLEA Chairman in audience in Government House before the public burning exercise, noted that the state government is more determined to ensure that its anti-cannabis cultivation policy is enforced to the letter.
According to the Governor, â€œIt is the policy of Oyo State Government to confiscate any cannabis farmland and hand over the land to international investors to transform it into an economically generative venture. All the labourers on the seized cannabis farm land will be recruited by the legitimate investors.â€
The governor urged all the Local Government Chairmen and traditional rulers to be mindful of the activities in the forests under their jurisdiction as they would be made to answer questions upon discovery of any illegal farms within their domain.
â€ŽSpokesman of the agency, Jonah Achemma, said the public destruction exercise in Ibadan brings to 34 metric tonnes the total quantity of drugs publicly destroyed by NDLEA this year. In July 2017, the agency destroyed 20 metric tonnes of drugs in Abuja, FCT.