Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers said on Monday that the Army exercise, Crocodile Smile II conducted in the Niger Delta has recorded huge success in spite of misgivings by detractors.
Wike made the remark in a message to the closing ceremony of the exercise held at Iguruta, Etche Local Government Area of the state.
“The Nigerian Army has done a wonderful job, detractors have failed,” Wike, who was represented by Mr Kenneth Kobani, Secretary to the Rivers Government, said.
According to him, the exercise has succeeded in flushing out criminals from the state and other parts of the region.
The governor, therefore, pledged that states in the region would continue to support the Federal Government and military to lasting peace in the area.
Also, Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson, represented by his deputy, John Jonah, said the exercise had helped to arrest a lot of cultists in the state.
He advised the army authority to involve the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in future exercises, in view of the fact that “drugs fuel cultism.”
Dickson also commended the army for organising a medical outreach programme which had impacted positively on the health of the people.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai described as unfortunate the rumour circulated in the course of the exercise that the army had injected children with monkey pox.
“The army is the Nigerian Army, it will continue to defend and protect the people and will not do anything to harm them,” Buratai said.
He said the exercise had achieved its objectives, including training to sharpen troops’ skills on operations in amphibious environment and addressing crimes such as pipeline vandalism, piracy, oil theft and bunkering.
The army chief said though it had come to an end, the skills acquired would be used to address security challenges in the area.
Earlier, the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Maj.-Gen. Eniobong Udoh, said 4, 539 people benefited from the medical outreach conducted during the exercise in the region, while 8, 000 school children received free educational materials.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Crocodile Smile II began on Oct. 7 in the South South, South West and parts of the South East to tackle security issues including pipeline vandalism, oil theft and other crimes.
It was also to step up training and operations in amphibious environment following increasing crimes in coastal areas of the country.