Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the umbrella body of youth in the Niger Delta, has expressed its reservation regarding the military operation the Niger Delta code-named 'Operation Crocodile Smile III'.
A statement by Pereotubo Oweilaemi, the IYC President, noted that the exercise by the Nigerian Army will not "curb the menace of illegal oil bunkering" in the Niger Delta region.
According to the group, similar exercises by the military in the past had not done much to bring peace in the region.
The statement read: “The only success stories it can boast of in the previous exercises was the human rights abuses occasioned by the criminal invasion and destruction of Ijaw communities without provocation. When it first launched the exercise in 2016, the military used the peaceful Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West LGA of Delta State as its theater of war, thereby maiming and harassing innocent citizens which culminated into the sacrilegious invasion and looting of the sacred Gbaraun Egbesu Shrine.
"It ended up in killing High Chief Thomas Osein Ekpemupolo, the father of High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, while innocent Oporoza youth numbering about twenty, were arrested and dumped in its dungeon without trial for more than a year before they were released courtesy of public outcry.
“Again, not done with the atrocities it has committed in the Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, the military went berserk by terrorising Ijaw communities in the Niger Delta. At last, Ajapa, Safarogbo and Igangbo in Ondo State were completely burnt down by the marauding Joint Task Force.
“Its second coming in 2017 was another horrible experience to Ijaw people in the Niger Delta. In the name of carrying out mop-up operations, the said trigger-happy and gun-wielding military Joint Task Force invaded and destroyed Ajakurama Community in Egbema Kingdom in Edo State, while some innocent communities were terrorised in Nembe Kingdom and environs in Bayelsa State in the name of searching for pipeline vandals. In Bennet Island in Ogbe-IIjoh Warri Kingdom, the experience was the same.
“None of these bloody exercises have curbed the menace of illegal oil bunkering, neither did they stopped the oil crisis in the region. The peace we are enjoying today in the region is because of the brain-child of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in collaboration with the leaders of the region. Military action has never addressed the Niger Delta crisis. No amount of force can stop the people from agitating for their rights.
“The military drill is not necessary at this time. If it wants to carry out social responsibility programmes in communities in the region, then the military should just concentrate its effort on that. Hiding under a primordial motive to carry out social responsibility is not acceptable. Such is a Greek gift as its mission will cause more harm than good. IYC, therefore, rejects the said Operation Crocodile Smile III and calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the military to order before it drags the region into another round of crisis.
“What Niger Delta people need now is development, backed up by community policing which should be supervised by the civil police. The region should not be unduly militarised in order to cause unnecessary tension. IYC also uses this medium to appeal to the Ijaw communities to be law abiding. We shall remain resolute, but always law-abiding at all times.”