The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, said the Nigerian Army Council has approved the establishment of a new brigade headquarters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Buratai said this when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Seriake Dickson in Yenagoa on Thursday.
He said the new army formation would be known as the 61 Brigade, Nigerian Army.
Buratai said a commander had been appointed for the brigade, while operations at the new formation would take off as soon as possible.
The COAS said the establishment of the new brigade was in furtherance of government’s strategic plan of reinforcing security in the state and by extension, the Niger Delta region.
According to Buratai, the Niger Delta is very important to the security and economy of the nation due to its closeness to the Gulf of Guinea and its status as an oil rich territory.
On the ongoing ‘Exercise Crocodile Smile’, Buratai said that troops had been directed to conduct themselves in the most professional manner.
He assured residents of the region that the Army was out to protect their interest as well as committed to their defence against external aggressors at all times.
Buratai said: “Exercise Crocodile Smile as you are aware is an exercise aimed at training our men on amphibious warfare because of the peculiarity of the terrain that requires special training.
“This exercise is also important because of the need to build the capacity of our men which has been neglected for a very long time.
“We have also integrated civil relations activities such as the medical outreach in communities in the region to enable us win their confidence as we carry on with our training.”
Buratai said that the Army had planned to expand the scope of its civil-military relations to include educational assistance in various communities, especially by supporting teaching in primary and secondary schools.
Buratai said plans were underway to get engineers involved in road maintenance works in the various communities where the army would hold similar exercises.
The army chief disclosed that more than 3,000 personnel with the relevant equipment and logistics were involved in the “Exercise Crocodile Smile” in the Niger Delta.
Buratai said more troops and logistics would be mobilised in the 2017 amphibious field training exercise.
He also said: “We hope to expand this in next year’s exercise; we will be mobilising more than 10,000 troops comprising officers and soldiers.
“This is to reassure all Nigerians that the army was committed to securing their lives and property at all times.”
In his remarks, the governor condemned the killing of innocent people, especially service personnel in the state.
Dickson commended the efforts and sacrifices of the armed forces for keeping the nation secured and strong while calling on citizens to cooperate with them in the interest of development.
Dickson noted: “In the exercise that you are conducting in this region, we believe that it is for the good of our society and want to call on our people to co-operate and show understanding with the military.
“I want to call on our people not to panic, these officers and soldiers are not from any other country, these people who have the mandate to ensure your safety in your communities and along our waterways.
“Security cannot be conducted properly without efficient collaboration; this means you understand the role of collaboration as a cornerstone for the provision of security in any area.”
Dickson called for more dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta in order to solve the current security challenges and as a road map for the development of the region.
He said the government and people of Bayelsa were fully in support of the military and would want improved military presence in the state to guarantee safety of lives and property.
According to Dickson, there is nothing anyone can do to bring development without first fixing security.
He also affirmed: “We are ready to work with you in the establishment of a brigade headquarters here in Yenagoa and two battalions, one in Sagbama and the other in Nembe.
“The government of Bayelsa, which understands the imperative of security, will work with you to ensure the military improves its presence in the Niger Delta.
“More than security, the Army has been a partner for development; so, for us the military is an essential partner not just for security, but for development.”
Buratai visited sector headquarters and other units in Bayelsa as part of his tour of exercise areas of the “Exercise Crocodile Smile”.