A large-scale military exercise, “Operation Crocodile Smile II,” is underway in the states of Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers. Unconfirmed reports indicate that exercises could also take place in and around the city of Lagos as well as in the state of Cross Rivers. According to a spokesperson from the Nigerian Army, the exercise is expected to last until October 28 but could escalate into a military operation to deal with security threats such as kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines, and insurgencies.
Authorities have told residents to expect search raids, checkpoints, roadblocks, military drills, and amphibious operations, and advised individuals not to panic. Given rising tensions in the southeastern region, clashes between security forces and armed groups are likely in the coming weeks.
Operation Crocodile Smile II follows Operation Crocodile Smile I, which took place in the Niger Delta region in November and December 2016. The current exercise includes at least three military divisions as well as components form other security forces, including police, Civil Defense Corps, Customs Service, and Drug Law Enforcement Agency. The operation is expected to complement Operation Python Dance, which began on September 15 and is currently underway in the southeast.
A significant number of militant groups are active in the Delta region, frequently attacking oil and gas facilities. The groups in primarily demand the redistribution of wealth generated by oil assets in the Niger Delta, as well as environmental protection initiatives to combat the damage caused by oil extraction activities over the past few decades. In 2016, attacks on oil facilities brought Nigeria's oil production to a 30-year low. Nigeria has historically depended on the oil sector for 70 percent of its government revenue and 90 percent of its foreign exchange.
Individuals present in the Niger Delta region are advised to anticipate a heavier than usual security presence as well as possible transportation disruptions surrounding the exercise site. Remain vigilant and if possible avoid nonessential travel to affected regions.
The security environment in Nigeria is complex and is particularly concerning in the northeast and extreme south of the country due to the presence of armed groups, high crime rates, and the risk of kidnapping. Some Western governments consequently advise against travel to certain areas of the northeast (e.g. states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, and Jigawa as well as parts of Kano and Adamawa states) and the southern Niger Delta region (e.g. states of Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers). Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel to these areas.