MINISTER OF Defence, retired Brigadier General Mansur Dan-Ali, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olorunsakin, and Rear Admiral Joseph O. Okojie, held a closed door meeting, yesterday, with Governor Seriake Dickson in Government House, Yenagoa, in what observers said may not be unconnected with the Federal Government’s decision to adopt a new military approach against the Niger Delta Avengers. Nigerian Pilot Saturday recalls that the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, had warned last week that the federal government was considering setting up a Special Force to confront militants in the Niger Delta if its offer of dialogue with the aggrieved militants did not yield dividends. Already, our correspondent learnt that the military had started some special training preparatory for the expected failed negotiation especially as members of the Niger Delta Avengers had repeatedly
claimed that the FG’s team was discussing with fake Niger Delta leadership even as the elders of the region have urged the federal government to negotiate with NDA not members of MEND. In yesterday’s meeting, the Defence Minister we learnt told Governor Dickson that the military plan to ‘engage communities in its security architecture’ by conducting exercises for its Special Forces on maritime warfare. This was later confirmed in a statement by its Director of Public Relations, DAPR, Col. Sani Usman, who started that: “The Nigerian Army will from this weekend commence another training exercise code named ‘Exercise Crocodile Smile’ in 82 Division and part of 2 Division areas of responsibility traversing the South- south geo-political region. “The aim of the exercise is to practise our Special Forces and other units of the Nigerian Army in Amphibious and Internal Security Operations in riverine environment and also check criminal activities like kidnapping, militancy and piracy and other forms of criminal activities in support of the civil authority. The Spokesman urged the general public, “not to panic on the sight of unusual movement of large number of troops, heavy military weapons and equipment in these areas”. Also, on Wednesday, Governor Dickson met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja to apparently attempt to dissuade the president from resorting to military options against the militants. Dickson, like many foreign diplomats, does not think military option the solution to the problem stressing that it would further worsen the already bleak prospects of generating more revenue from oil. In yesterday’s secret meeting, Brigadier General Dan-Ali said efforts are on to incorporate beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s Amnesty programme in the fight against pipeline vandalism and other criminal activities threatening national security and stability. He reiterated the objective of the special squad noting that it was intended to curb criminal acts and contributing to the overall peace and stability of the Niger Delta and not necessarily to further dampen chances of prospecting for oil and generating more revenue therefrom. This agrees with the comments of the new Commander of the outfit covering Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, parts of Ondo and Akwa Ibom States, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, who described the crisis in the region as a fifth generation security threat, but warned that it was high timed sternwas taken to curb the problem. “The ODS will not shirk its responsibility of securing the Niger Delta. We will ensure that there is sanctity of our territorial integrity, but we have to make sure that collateral damage is minimised. We are on top of the security manifestations and at the appropriate time, if necessary, action will be taken to ensure there is peace. “If there is need to up the tempo, we will do it, but for now (our operations) are driven by the political imperatives of our leaders. The political leadership has come out with clear instructions while we also carry out our core duty,” he said.

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