In a major response to the incessant killing of farmers by armed herders as well as other violent crimes, including kidnapping and cattle rustling, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, wednesday ordered the deployment of troops in Benue State and five others, stretching across the North-west, North-east and North-central regions of the country.
Code-named Operation Ayem Akpatuma, the troops, according to Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Army, Major General David Ahmadu, are under strict instructions to stamp out acts of criminality in Benue, Kogi, Niger, Kaduna, Taraba and some parts of Adamawa.
“Exercise Ayem Akpatuma has become more expedient due to the upsurge in cases of armed banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in Kaduna and Niger States as well as other sundry crimes in Kogi State and herdsmen/farmers clashes and attacks on innocent members of our communities particularly in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States by armed militias,” Ahmadu told news reporters in Abuja yesterday.
He said the Army had to intervene in the internal security operations because the civil security outfits had been overwhelmed.
“These security challenges have continued unabatedly in these states despite the efforts by sister security agencies to curb them,” he said.
Ahmadu explained that the exercise would be conducted in the 1 and 3 Divisions of the Army, including HQ CAR, Guards Brigade, and 707 SF Brigade Areas of Responsibility, covering Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states from February 15 to March 31, 2018.
According to him, the operation offers the Army to continue the training and exercising of its troops in its formations across the geographical zones of the country, saying it was in line with its constitutional role in aid of civil authority.
Ahmadu stated: “The need for troops to be exercised, refreshed and to imbibe the requisite skills to cope with these emerging security challenges within the 1 and 3Divisions including HQ CAR, Gds Bde and 707 SF Bde Areas of Responsibility in aid of civil authority calls for this exercise,” adding that it would help Buratai actualize his vision of having a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles.
He said the exercise would be conducted in conjunction with other security agencies, including the Department of State Services, the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Explaining that the operation would afford the troops an opportunity to effectively checkmate the dreadful activities of the marauding criminal militias perpetrating illicit acts in the states and its environs.
He said it would dovetail into real-time operations that would fulfil both training and operations objectives of sharpening the operational skills of personnel as well as providing an avenue to conduct operations against violent criminals when called upon.
He explained further: “Exercise Ayem Akpatuma will also be unique as the ones before it with the establishment of Step-Up Brigade Headquarters in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger States.
“Emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, roadblocks, checkpoints and show of force, as well as humanitarian activities such as medical outreach.
“It is pertinent to note that Exercise Ayem Akpatuma is set to be another remarkable exercise that would make the nation proud of the Nigerian Army’s determination at sustaining its constitutional roles of defending the territorial integrity of the nation as well as its commitment to aid the civil authority to bring about peace and security in troubled areas.
“In this regard, members of the public especially the residents of Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger States are enjoined not to panic as the security, safety and well-being of innocent and law-abiding citizens have been deliberately factored in the planning of this exercise.
“Furthermore, the troops taking part in the exercise would be guided by the Professional Code of Conduct, Rules of Engagement and the respect for human rights.
“Thus, the general public is requested to remain vigilant and be security conscious, as suspected criminals may be fleeing from military operations in these areas and finding safe haven amidst our communities.
“The public is also reminded to report any suspicious activity or movement to the nearest military formation or other security agencies for prompt action.
“In order to ensure cordial civil-military relations, we shall make contact phone numbers of all Brigade Commanders public in addition to the Nigerian Army shortcode Information and Call Centre 193.”