Former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has observed that the ongoing Military drill codenamed, “Operation Crocodile Smile” in the Niger Delta region may jeopardise the ceasefire earlier announced by militant groups in the region.
Recall that the Avengers had recently appointed Clark to lead its negotiation, following Federal Government’s declaration that it was ready to explore dialogue as a means of resolving the crises in the region.
Militants in the region had also declared ceasefire to all forms of hostilities following government’s readiness to commence negotiation.
However, the Military launched the “Operation Crocodile Smile” to train officers in amphibious operation in the region, amid the ceasefire declaration.
Responding to the exercise, Clark stressed that it was unnecessary for the government to launch military operation while the militants have declared ceasefire.
He said, “I expected that after the monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta coastal states were able to get the militants to sheathe their swords, the federal government would take advantage of it to commence genuine dialogue.
“But, that is not what we are seeing even after the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, came and heard from the people in Warri on the way forward. Suddenly, the Federal Government, which was all along looking for who to dialogue with, is foot-dragging.
“I was shocked when I saw that the Chief of Army Staff, who was in the same plane with me from Benin City to Abuja when I went to Abuja after the consultative meeting that saw militants sheathe their swords was, thereafter, launching Operation Crocodile Smile.
“There is no need to intimidate the people with Operation Crocodile Smile, as the people cannot dialogue under duress. They are creating another problem in the region. One expects that if the government is really sincere with the peace move, it should immediately commence the process for dialogue.
“We held the consultative meeting on August 19, nobody contacted the monarchs and leaders of the region to do that, they volunteered themselves from the six coastal states. I want to advise the federal to kick-start the peace process, as there is no need of the military starting an operation that cannot bring solution to the problem.
“I am appealing to President Buhari that Niger Delta people are part of the country and they should not be treated like second-class citizens. Before now, people were saying that the region could not speak with one voice. Now, their leaders have come out and they are speaking in one voice, yet, government is not seizing the opportunity.”