Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
For three days, the 16 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, as part of for the Operation Crocodile Smile IV visited Otuokpoti in Ogbia Local Government for a medical mission. The brigade also visited Opolo in Yenagoa Local Government, Otuasega in Ogbia Local Government and Kiama in Kolokuma/ Opokuma Local Government, where it flagged off its education support programme for secondary schools.
At Otuokpoti, the serenity of the community was punctured by the movement of the soldiers. But rather being armed with guns and bazookas, the soldiers were with stethoscopes, syringes, drugs and blood pressure meter. Captain Suleiman the Commanding Officer, Medicals, assured the people of Otuokpoti that diseases such as malaria, typhoid, HBP, diabetes are within the scope of treatment the Army would give free. He also disclosed that those who need follow up treatment would be attended to at the brigade’s medical facility.
The Brigade Commander, Brig-Gen Valentine Okoro, explained: “What we are conducting in Otuopkoti community today is the flag-off of activities that we have lined up to commence the Operation Crocodile Smile IV in Bayelsa State. This is of course is from a directive of the Chief of Army Staff to render humanitarian to communities in Bayelsa State.
“The Operation Crocodile Smile comprises of series of activities meant to curb violence in Bayelsa State. After the series of medical outreaches, the operations would dovetail into kinetic operations to curb criminality and other vices. The aim of the Crocodile Smile is to boost confidence of Bayelsans in Nigeria military.”
Chairman of Ogbia LG, Mr Ebinyu Turner, said: “We are very overwhelmed with this gesture from the Nigerian Army. I want to commend the military though they are known for their security works but it is so surprising to our parents and children to see them giving out free medical outreach services. It is s good thing that they are doing this and I want to encourage them to do more. This is a good example for every other security agency to emulate and support what the Nigerian Army is doing to for the benefit of our people.”
Secretary of the Community Development Community (CDC), Mr Isaac Charles, said: “This is a welcome development. This is the first time Otuopkoti is experiencing a magnitude of free medical test from the Nigerian Army. This medical outreach would go a long to tackle the health challenges faced by our people. We have a health centre in Otuopkoti but personnel and medical care are not adequate so it cannot meet the medical needs of the people. We look forward to more interventions like this from other people.”
The paramount ruler of the community, Wongo Okpoti IV, Obenema of Otuokpoti, was excited: “This is the first of its kind in Otuokpoti and I am very happy that the Nigerian Army is coming to do this for our people. I commend the Commander of the 16 Brigade for recognizing and bringing this laudable initiative to Otuopkoti community. Today all of us in Otuopkoti are happy.”
Mrs Cecilia Wanemi, a beneficiary, said: “We would not forget the Nigerian Army for this free treatment they have brought to our community. We are poor and unable to afford drugs in government hospital. I want to thank them for the drugs for my child. Now I have a better impression about the Nigerian Army.”
“This is good news for us in Otuokpoti. We have cried severally to government to help us in healthcare delivery because most of us are farmers and we do not have the money. Now the Nigerian Army has helped us and we want more people to help us,” said Madam Esther Igodo, another beneficiary.
At Central Epie Secondary School, Opolo, Okoro, Brig-Gen Valentine Okoro, said: “This is a very important day for us in 16 Brigade. I want to say education continues to be the bedrock of any society. It is in realisation of this fact that we are all gathered here to kick-start the Nigerian Army Educational support initiative to schools in Bayelsa State. This initiative is in pursuant of the Chief of Army Staff vision premised on having a professional responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional role.
“Let me use this opportunity to urge all students and pupils of this school to serious with their studies shun all criminal activities, stay away from violence and continue to promote and build good citizenry in the society.”
At the Community Secondary School, Otuasega, Okoro reiterated: “This is an actualisation and demonstration of the zeal and commitment of the Nigerian Army towards the development of the minds of the youth. We are opening up different lines of operation towards achieving our aim of enthroning a secured and stable environment in our areas of operation.
“When we carry out kinetic operations in forms of raids, cordon off and search and clearance operations to stabilise the area, we also identified the fact that long tern projects like investing in the development of the youths would be a long term dividend in stabilizing our environment.”
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr Tony Tombre, said: “Education is one of the key cardinal programmes of this administration. And what they have done here is to key into that sector. If we can have other organisations contributing to this sector as the Nigerian Army has done, I know that educational standards would grow.”