Prospects of a confrontation between Niger Delta militants and the military heightened yesterday as the Nigerian Army announced that its Special Forces had started exercises in preparation for combat in the restive oil rich region.
The Army in a statement by its Director of Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, said it had started conducting exercises for its Special Forces on maritime warfare. “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,” he said.
But Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson wednesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja and said force was not the solution to the problem that had massively constrained the country’s crude oil production output.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, had warned last week that if the militants failed to accept the federal government’s offer of dialogue over their grievances, the military would have to step in to protect the nation’s oil and gas assets that had been the target of a militant group, Niger Delta Avengers’ (NDA) consistent acts of sabotage.
The federal government’s strategy for dialogue would appear to be experiencing some hiccups as the main militant group, the Avengers, has consistently expressed reservations about the sincerity of the process even as some other stakeholders query the government’s option of using proxy for the proposed talks.
Obviously not wanting to be caught unawares, the Nigerian Army has started preparing for a possible confrontation with the militants, conducting exercises for its Special Forces on maritime warfare.