When Buratai’s Crocodile smiled in Atijere

Code names, cryptonyms, acronyms, bacronyms among others are defining characteristics of military operations and tradition.

The Nigerian Army, like others, is famous for code-naming of operations, exercises, simulations, and  war gaming.

Since Lt. Gen. TY Buratai assumed office as Chief of Army Staff, code-naming operations or exercises in line with the mood of the moment, urgency of the situation and demand of the time has been one of his unique leadership styles.

In July 19th, 2015, still less than one week as Chief of Army Staff, he renamed the counter- insurgency operation in the North-east from Op Zaman Lafiya to Op Lafiya Dole.

From 2015 to date there have been very creatively coded, unusual, fearful, aggressive, intimidating code names for operations and exercises such as Op SHARAN DAJI, Op  AWATSE, Op DELTA SAFE and exercises such as  Ex HARBIN KUNAMA, Ex PYTHON DANCE and Ex CROCODILE SMILE.

In line with this tradition and the continued effort at maintaining peace and security in the country, Nigerian Army, in October  2019, announced the commencement of  exercises to consolidate on the efforts at curtailing insecurity across the country.

While briefing journalists on the exercise, the Chief of Army Staff said the exercises include CROCODILE SMILE 4, EGWU EKE 4 and AYEM AKPATUMA 2.

Represented at the briefing by the Chief of Training and Operations, Major General Enogbong Udo, Gen. Buratai disclosed that while Exercise Ayem Akatuma 2 would be carried out in Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba, Benue, Kaduna and Niger; Exercise EGWU EKE 4 would be carried out in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. Exercise CROCODILE SMILE 4 would be carried out in Akwa Ibom, Delta, Oyo, Ogun, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo and Lagos.

“The exercises are to be conducted concurrently in the South South and South West, South East as well as North Central zones respectively from the 1st of November to the 23rd December 2019.”

“The operation will be directed at curtailing the movement of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers and other criminals.”

Since the commencement of the exercises various Divisions and Brigades have been upbeat in implementing the directive in their Areas of Responsibility to curb insecurity.

While, the Chief of Logistics, Nigerian Army, Major General JI Unuigbe represented the Chief of Army Staff at the flag off of the exercise in Makurdi, the General Officer Commanding I Division, Kaduna, Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya flagged off the exercise in Minna.

In the same vein, the General Officer Commanding 2 Division, Ibadan, Major General Bamidele Omozoje,  flagged  off  Exercise CROCODILE SMILE IV at Super Camp in Okitipupa. The GOC who was represented by Brig. Gen. Thomas Ogusugba, said: “this year’s exercise is premised on ensuring peace in the country, especially duting the yelitude season.

“In order to consolidate on the successes achieved by these operations, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai in his wisdom, directed army formations in the South South and South West of the country to conduct Exercise CROCODILE SMILE IV.”

“The Exercise will include the conduct of actual civil-military cooperation activities in order to sustain the excellent civil-military relationship in the state. The activities will include medical outreach, books, computers, generator donation and environmental sanitation. It is in the light of this that Exercise CROCODILE SMILE IV is flagged-off today in Okitipupa/Igbokodo southern parts of Ondo.“

“I wish to emphasis that the exercise is designed to be inter-agency and inter service driven and hereby urge the participants which include NPF, DSS, Civil Defence, Customs Immigration, NDLEA and Correctional  Services”.

In his remark, the Brigade Commander, 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure, Brig. Gen. ZL Abubakar,  reechoed the statement of the GOC that the exercise was a  combination of kinetic and non-kinetic activities. He said the exercise was designed to check security challenges such as militancy, vandalism of oil and gas infrastructure, piracy, kidnapping  as well as stockpiling of arms and ammunitions by criminal gangs.The commander said: “I wish to inform you that the Brigade will continue to work with other security agencies and remain one of the shining lights of the Division to achieve the vision of COAS – “To have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional role”.

In his speech, Ondo State Governor, represented by the Secretary to the Government, Hon Sunday Alegunde, commended the Brigade for the excellent relationship with the state. The governor promised to support any effort that is geared towards securing the state and Nigeria at large. All the stakeholders – traditional rulers commended the effort of Nigerian Army and the proactive leadership of Chief of Army Staff.

After the flag off at Okitipupa, the Brigade team led by representative of GOC and Brigade Commander moved to the Nigerian Navy Forward Base, Igbokoda, where they were received by the Commander, Navy Commodore DM Ndanusa.

From the naval base, officers and men of the brigade, the base, other security agencies and journalists – all proceeded in gunboats – to the next destination for the second phase of the flag off of Exercise CROCODILE SMILE IV.

After about two hours on Igbokoda river, the team arrived  Atijere, Ilaje local government  area and was warmly received by the community leaders, youth, women and children. From the bank, the team moved to the palace of the Molokun of Atijere, Oba Adeoye Edama. Oba Edama thanked the chief of army, and the chief of navy and other security agencies for their effort in ensuring peace and security in Nigeria.

He expressed delight for the choice of his community for civil military activities. From the Oba’s palace, the team moved to Ilaje Grammar School, Atijere where students, some parents and other community leaders were waiting eagerly to receive them for donation of books, computer and generator to the school.

As we departed Atijere and embarked on our journey in Igbokoda waters, I remembered what the representative of GOC, 2 DIV said at the flag off of EXERCISE CROCODILE SMILE: “I know that some of you came here out of curiosity, because you believe that crocodiles don’t smile. If you have a clear mind, crocodile will not harm you. So, I say to you…you have nothing to fear.”

The populace needed this kind of  assurance because the code names suggest that the excercises are focused mainly on the use of force (with the associated collateral damage) to confront criminal elements in the country. But the brigade commander’s reposte above indicates that there is more to the execution of the exercises than the show of force.

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