The militant group known as Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has accused the Nigerian military of cover-up in the death of soldiers it claimed were murdered during the ongoing military operation exercise code named “Operation Crocodile Smile” in the Niger Delta.
The military had earlier this week confirmed that four soldiers drowned on Monday in what it said was a “tragic incident”, following a boat mishap along the Brass waterfront in Brass local government area of Bayelsa State.
While the bodies of three of the soldiers have been recovered by local divers and military personnel, the body of the fourth soldier and their rifles, are yet to be recovered.
The Avengers, however, claimed in a statement on its website Thursday that aside the four soldiers officially declared as dead, 16 others also died in the first four days of the operation.
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Spokesperson for the group, “Brigadier General” Mudoch Agbinibo, blamed negligence, administrative greed and corruption within the military for the soldiers’ death.
Agbinibo, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order a probe into ongoing military operation in the Niger Delta, which it claimed was a conduit pipe to siphon public funds.
“Mr. President from available facts, the untimely deaths of these four (4) fine soldiers in the creeks of Bayelsa and another sixteen (16) that was recorded during the first four days of the exercise along the River Ethiope, in Delta state but was earlier covered up is nothing more than act of murder. Their death is due to negligence, administrative greed and a corruption within the military”, the statement said.
It would be recalled that Chairman of the National Maritime Union in the state, Lloyd Sese, blamed the incident on poor logistics and use of low-powered engine boats to convey military personnel partaking in “Operation Crocodile Smile”.
The statement further queried the wisdom behind the deployment of military hardware to the Niger Delta suddenly when there was cessation of hostilities for peace talks to commence.
The NDA, which has accepted responsibility for a series of attacks on oil and gas facilities in the last few months, about two weeks ago said it was ready for a ceasefire and talks with the federal government.
“Finally, Mr. President, we want you to commission a high powered panel to investigate all processes that led to the ongoing military operation and exercise in the Niger Delta tagged ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ and all the ongoing cover-ups of military mishaps that have led to more than twenty (20) deaths so far”, it said.
“The mission ongoing in the Niger Delta is a brainchild of orchestrated military corruption at your face Mr. President. Operation Crocodile Smile is nothing but a conduit pipe for military contracts, political profiteerism and patronages designed for the stress of your administration’s scarce resources”, the group claimed.