The newly launched military operation in the Niger Delta, code-named ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ has netted Isaac Romeo, alleged to be the kingpin of a terrorist group in the area, Niger Delta Avengers.
The military also arrested an important economic saboteur, one Mr Gabriel Ogbudje, alleged to be responsible for the attack on the NPDC/Shoreline major delivery trunk line within Ogo-Oteri general area on the 26th of August.
The Nigerian Army, in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Col Sani Usman, the confirmed arrests.
The Niger Delta terrorists are responsible for series of attacks on oil facilities in the region and pipeline vandalism, which have cut the country’s oil production by over 700,000 barrels per day, this year.
According to Usman, troops of the 13 Brigade, Nigerian Army, in conjunction with Nigerian Navy, Air Force and covert operatives of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), arrested Romeo (alias G2) in a camp of terrorists.
Romeo was arrested along with two other persons, Mr Lawson Samson and an elderly man, Mr Iyang Ekpo in Calabar, Cross State, while they were driving in a vehicle with registration number, CRS 86 AO1, on Saturday, September 3, 2016.
He further disclosed that Ogbudje, an ex-militant, was believed to be the leader of the Otugas Fire Force, a militant group threatening to attack Utorogu Gas Plant.
‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ was recently launched in the Niger Delta region by the Nigerian Army to curtail the spate of crime and all forms of militancy.
Since its inception less than three weeks, security operatives have arrested many Niger Delta militants as well as oil thieves. In the last five days, troops have arrested two top leaders of two of the militant groups, including Ogbudje, and three of their accomplices.
Usman, in a statement yesterday, said Ogbudje’s arrest followed painstaking efforts and tracking of the militant who was in the state to perpetrate further criminal activities of sabotaging critical infrastructure.
He said the suspect was trailed and arrested by troops along Agbor-Abraka road, Edo State, on Tuesday, September 6, 2016.
According to him, the suspect has been on the run since he was declared wanted because of his public declaration as the leader of the militant group, Otugas Fire Force, and his subsequent declaration of the threat, code named ‘Crocodile Tears’, which was published in the newspapers, while the Brigade was engaged with the military field training exercise, ‘Operation Crocodile Smile.’
The army spokesman further revealed that the terror suspect was arrested along with his accomplice, Mr Elvis Dweller Ejus, and handed to ‘Operation Delta Safe’ for further interrogation and subsequent handover to the relevant security agency for prosecution.
LEADERHIP reports that the Nigerian Army launched ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ on August 27, 2016, with a mandate to provide adequate security for residents as well as critical national economic assets in the region.
The force was set up in the Niger Delta region to curtail the recent increase in militant activities, with a wave of attacks on oil installations.
The chief of army staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, flagged off the exercise in Sapele, Delta State.
Addressing the troops during the flag-off, Buratai urged them to respect the rights of law abiding citizens in their areas of operation who, 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.
Buratai explained that the operation was introduced to train army personnel on the techniques of operating in the Niger Delta.
The operation so far has received the support of government and different opinion leaders. Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, earlier this week, declared his support for the operation, saying that he will do everything to ensure peace and security in the Niger Delta.
Governor Wike made the declaration when he granted audience to the Army chief and other senior army officers at Government House, Port Harcourt.
Wike said, “The Rivers State government is fully in support of the ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’. I was fully briefed by the Brigade Commander and we associate ourselves with the programme because it will make the Niger Delta safer.
“One of the advantages of the programme is that hoodlums in the creeks are being uprooted for a safer Niger Delta. I support the programme in so far as it is done within the constitution.”
He added that the state government had procured six New Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) for the police and was in the process of concluding the acquisition of 10 gunboats for the Nigerian Navy.