As part of the community relations activities of the Nigerian Army in its Operation Crocodile Smile II, the 16 Brigade Nigerian Army, has rehabilitated the Oloibiri oilwell 1 in Bayelsa State.
Oloibiri, located at Otuabagi in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, is the place where oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in Nigeria in 1956.
As the OCSII is expected to end in the state on Monday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said the exercise was conducted to deepen civil-military relations as well as to combat threats.
The COAS, represented by the General Officer Commanding, 6 Division Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Enobong Udoh, said the Nigerian Army was poised to provide a professionally-responsive army capable of discharging its constitutional roles.
Buratai commended the 16 Brigade Nigerian Army for rehabitating the historical oilwell, saying the gesture would no doubt position Oloibiri to regain its status as a tourist attraction.
He, therefore, charged the brigade to ensure the Oloibiri oilfield was fully policed to prevent hoodlums from destroying the national monument.
The army chief also warned criminals in the region to desist from criminalities, saying that the army was well-positioned to deal ruthlessly with militancy, piracy, cult activities, kidnapping and other vices.
Buratai stated, ”The Nigerian Army, in consonance with my vision is to provide a professionally-responsive army in the discharge of its constitutional roles to conduct operations/training in order to position itself to be able to respond professionally to the threats we have across the country.
”You know the threats are many; we have armed robbery, kidnapping, cult activities, militancy, illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism, piracy, oil theft among others. So, the Nigerian Army will continue to have these operations.
”We have had the Operation Python Dance and we have been running Operation Crocodile Smile II. All these operations are conducted to position the Nigerian Army to be able to combat the crimes that are threatening our nation.
”We also conduct operations so that we can have a conducive environment for business activities to thrive and to guarantee the safety of law-abiding citizens in order to enable them to go about their normal business without let or hindrance.
”During such operations, the Nigerian Army goes close to the people because in the first place, we belong to the people, identify with them, carry out some community relations, medical services and conduct sanitation activities.
”As in the case of Oloibiri oil well, the 16 Brigade decided to rehabilitate this place as part of its activities so that it can be positioned to regain its status as a tourist attraction which it is.”
Commending the 16 Brigade for the initiative in rehabilitating Oloibiri oil well, the COAS urged the brigade to continue to dominate the place in terms of patrol and security so that hoodlums would not destroy the oilfield.
In his remarks, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd.), said the Army through the Oloibiri initiative had challenged the state government.
He urged Nigerians to appreciate the sacrifices of the Nigerian Army, saying that some Nigerians had not been fair in the interpretation of the roles of the military.
Jonah said, ”The military has evolved over the years. Like they say, crocodiles never used to smile, but they have smiled now; and pythons also danced. Now, they are going for Octopusgrip. We are moving on. The most important thing is that what has been the textbook teaching is now getting translated into reality in our lives.
”The military as much as it is trying, I do not think it is getting the right attention, interpretation of the roles it has been playing. It is not easy to leave one’s family in the defence of the country.
”Tourism is one area we are concerned about in the state to generate funds. And Oloibiri, given its historical significance, is one area we are interested in. For the army to have taken this initiative, it is a big challenge to us.”
The Commander, 16 Brigade Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Kevin Aligbe, said the brigade rehabilitated the Oloibiri oilwell because of its historical and economic significance to the country.
Aligbe said, ”What we are doing today, therefore, is to give a facelift to this iconic monument. I believe that whatever we are doing here today has sufficiently agitated the minds of tourism enthusiasts across the country to come to this place and explore the unique potential of this place and make it a place for global recognition.
”The brigade in the execution of this community relations activities decided to seek permission from the state Ministry of Tourism Development to renovate it in a symbolic manner being the first commercial oil well in this country.”