The Nigerian military has appointed Apochi Suleiman as the new commander for Operation Delta Safe.
Operation Delta Safe is a codename for the military operation in the country’s volatile oil-rich Niger Delta region.
Before his latest appointment which takes immediate effect, Mr. Suleiman, a rear admiral, was Director of Development at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja. He had also served as the flag officer commanding, Central Naval Command.
Mr. Suleiman takes over from Joseph Okojie, also a rear admiral, who has been reassigned to another post, the military said in a statement issued on Thursday.
The change became necessary in order to inject new capability to contain the prevailing security threats and provide much needed stability in the region, said the statement signed by Kingsley Umoh, a colonel, on behalf of the Acting Director, Defence Information.
Mr. Okojie was the first naval personnel to command the military operation in the Niger Delta. The appointment of Mr. Suleiman, another naval personnel, to head the operation underscores the importance of the navy in the battle to keep the region safe.
Operation Delta Safe was set up in June to replace previous military operations – Operation Pulo Shield (OPS), and the Joint Task Force (JTF) – in the Niger Delta. It was saddled with the task of checkmating renewed insurgency in the region, especially the destructions of oil pipelines and related facilities by the Niger Delta Avengers.
The operation, with headquarters in Igbogene, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, have led to the destruction of several illegal oil refineries and barges laden with stolen petroleum products. Many suspected militants have been arrested or killed.
But deadly attacks on oil facilities by militants have continued, leading to the loss of huge revenue to the country which is already facing an unprecedented economic recession.
Three soldiers attached to the Operation Delta Safe were shot dead in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa state, by some armed bandits in August.
The Nigerian authorities have been exploring dialogue and other non-military options, for the crisis in the Niger Delta. President Muhammadu Buhari recently held talks with select leaders from the region.