The Nigerian Army has formally launched a new military exercise in the Niger Delta code named “Exercise Crocodile Smile”.
It has a mandate to provide adequate security for residents as well as critical national economic assets in the region.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, flagged-off the exercise on Saturday in Sapele, Delta State.
Addressing the troops, he urged them to respect the rights of law abiding citizens in their areas of operation whom he said were critical to the success of the exercise.
“We are in Warri to flag-off this exercise in order to get our troops prepared for any eventuality .
“We need to keep our country safe. We need to get our economy going without any interruption,” he said.
The Chief of Army Staff and his entourage had earlier in separate courtesy visits to the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and the Olu of Warri, Godfrey Ikenwoli Emiko, briefed them on the exercise.
After the meeting with the Governor, Lieutenant General Buratai expressed hopes that at the end of the exercise that security would be achieved in the south-south region.
“We hope that the economy will come up again and the facilities and the infrastructures in terms of the oil and gas will be protected and the people around will go about their normal businesses without fear of any attack.
“We hope that this will other investors to come around and that those companies that have already declared force majeure,” he told reporters.
The decision to set up the force in the Niger Delta region is not unconnected with recent increase in militant activities, with a wave of attacks on oil installations.
A group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers has claimed responsibility for most of the recent attacks that has forced some oil companies to declare force majeure.
The group has, however, said it has agreed to a ceasefire and was open for negotiation with the Federal Government.
It is the second operation in the region after the Operation Delta Safe was set up to also quell the resurgence of militancy.