Residents Panic Over Heavy Military Presence in Warri
LAGOS AUGUST 30TH (URHOBOTODAY)-There was a widespread apprehension among residents of Warri and its environs in Delta State on Monday, following the deployment of troops and equipment in the ongoing military training in the Niger Delta, codenamed: ‘Exercise Crocodile Smile.’
The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, who had earlier opened the special military drill in Sapele, said the exercise would focus on training for military personnel, adding that it was not aimed at witch-hunting or victimising anyone.
Our correspondent, who accompanied the military during its ‘Show of Force’, observed that despite the anxiety among residents, the exercise was generally peaceful.
The exercise which began at about 9am saw the troops traversing different communities of Udu, Uwvie and Warri South council areas of the state with sophisticated military equipment. Some others were deployed in the troubled creeks of Warri South West.
Addressing newsmen at the end of the exercise, the Commander, “Exercise Crocodile Smile’, Brig.-Gen. Benbella Raji, of 4 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Benin, Edo State, said there was no need to fear as it was meant to enhance military operation.
While allaying fears of possible attack on residents, Gen. Raji added that rather than fear, the exercise would improve the security situation in region.
He said, “This exercise was launched by the Chief of Army Staff few days ago. Today, we move round the streets to give assurance to the good citizens of Delta State, especially in Warri, that the army is there for their security.
“It is natural for people to fear when they see troops and military equipment moving en masse but there is nothing to really fear. This is how the military showcases their preparedness to security situation and it is also meant to assure them that the safety of the populace is paramount to us.
“There are rules of engagement that guide an exercise of this nature, which is also meant to build civil-military relations. As we speak, there is a free medical outreach by the Nigerian Army around the Olu of Warri’s palace. They should be assured that their safety during the period of the exercise is guaranteed.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army in Warri has commenced a two-day free medical outreach for residents of the city.
The free medical outreach, which started on Monday, was said to be part of the military’s support for the people to enhance cordial relationship between the civilian community and the uniformed men, according to the Commander of the 2 Division of the Nigerian Army Medical Services and Hospital, Lt. Col Samuel Adama.
Adama stated that aside the treatment for various types of illness, the medical team was embarking on health talks, especially on Lassa fever, which led to the death of a doctor in the state.
Also, the people of Kokodiagbene community in Gbaramatu kingdom of Warri South West Council Area of the state have cried out over heavy presence of military personnel in the riverside communities.
The community, in a statement issued by its chairman, Mr. Sheriff Mulade, said although the deployment of the military personnel in the Niger Delta was a welcome development to help protect oil installations/ facilities, he nevertheless warned against any attack on the people.
Mulade appealed to the military authority to apply professionalism and diplomacy, adding that the deployment of military personnel and equipment had raised unnecessary tension among the residents of riverine communities in the state.