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Operation Cat Race: Military And Recurring Threats To National Stability



The deployment of troops by the Nigerian military to tackle civil unrest, killings and other forms of violence has become a recurring decimal in the country, the latest being the operation Cat Race launched in Benue State on Thursday, but for the Armed Forces to be able to effectively cope with the arduous task of containing both external and internal security challenges entails that the force’s budgetary allocation must be hiked in proportion to the task,  GEORGE AGBA reports.

Last Wednesday’s deployment of troops by the Nigerian military to counter the incessant specter of bloodshed arising from cult-related violence, kidnapping, farmers/herders clash and other violent crimes which heightened since New Year day in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Rivers, Nasarawa, Kogi and Kaduna States marks a major government’s calculated response to palpable fears and anxiety of affected Nigerians.

Unveiling a special exercise tagged, ‘Operation Ayem Akpatuma’  in Tiv language, otherwise translated in English as ‘Operation Cat Race’, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai said that the troops were under strict instruction to stamp out acts of criminality in Benue, Kogi, Niger, Kaduna, Taraba and some parts of Adamawa.

Buratai who was represented at the press briefing in Abuja by the Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Army, Major Gen. David Ahmadu said, “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”.

Noting that the Army had to intervene in the internal security operations because the civil security agencies were overwhelmed, he noted that 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.

Ahmadu took opportunity of the press parley to extol the contributions of the Nigerian military in quelling internal civil disorder in the country.

He said, ‘‘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 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’’.

Troop deployment, as an answer to the multifaceted crises, best illustrate how significantly altered the nation’s security dynamics has become, prompting questions in some quarters about the credentials of the security agencies in the country to adequately tame hydra-headed threats to national security, stability and unity, more so that 2018 is the year preceding the 2019 general election when security challenges are expected to increase. This is even so judging by Nigeria’s electoral history.

Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) stipulates that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. The deployment of the troops represents another measure by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to prove that it takes this constitutional responsibility seriously.

“This administration has always given a special priority to the security and protection of lives and property of the Nigerian citizens and it has always taken adequate and appropriate measures to tackle existing and emerging security challenges. We hold this creed as solemn and sacred in all our dealings’’, said the Minister of Defence, Muhammadu Mansur Dan-Ali, a retired brigadier-general at a 2018 budget defence session recently at the National Assembly Complex.

Last Monday at a special Town Hall meeting in Maiduguri held under the auspices of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, many speakers had commended efforts of the federal government and the Nigerian military to end insurgency and terrorism in the area. They urged the defence forces not to relent in clearing the remnants of the terrorists from the Sambisa forest.

Govnor Shettima said the current tempo of the fight could only be sustained if the federal government doubled its support for the troops, especially now that the rainy season was over.

‘’We want the federal government to deploy more resources and sustain the current tempo before the rainy season sets in. We need to root out Boko Haram now before the dry Sambisa forest becomes an impregnable fortress for Boko Haram’’, he said.

Responding, the defence minister, Dan Ali gave assurance that the government would leave no stone unturned to rid the region of the activities of the militant group, noting that the emergence of President Buhari on May 29, 2015 had totally altered the dynamics of the anti-terror fight for good.

“Gone are the days when our soldiers dropped their rifles and started running from the war front. Our gallant troops have successfully degraded the Boko Haram insurgents. Let me make it clear that currently no single Nigerian territory is under the control of the Boko Haram terrorists.

‘’For instance, before the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari, 21 of the 27 local councils of Borno State were under the total control of the insurgents. But today, they are all liberated. Currently, no Nigerian territory is under the insurgents, while we have freed 30,000 people, mainly women and children held by Boko Haram’’, he said.

He further disclosed that the Nigerian government has paid the United States government $496 million to acquire 12 Super Tucano fighter jets to enhance the air combat capacity of the Nigerian Air Force in the ongoing military operations in the North East.

He also revealed that the government had acquired 5 units of caterpillar armoured mine-sweepers, new French patrol boats for the Nigerian Navy and two fighter jets from Pakistan.

With the decision of the government to pay the money promptly, he expressed belief that the U.S government will deliver the fighter jets as soon as possible, emphasizing that the series of positive exploits by the defence forces in the anti-terror campaign were clear signs that the days of the Boko Haram terrorists were over including the oil robbery gangs in the creeks of Niger Delta and other non-state actors.

Aside his remarkable outing at the town hall meeting, the minister had made a good case for his budget to be expeditiously passed at the Senate session and during his earlier impressive appearance on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at a joint session of the Hon. Muktar Aliyu Betara-led House of Representatives Committee on Defence and the Hon. Wole Oke-led House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement.

The ministry’s 2018 Budget proposal showed N51, 803, 513,126.99 as the

Overhead estimate while N144, 999, 999,931 is the Capital estimate. In its 2017 Budget proposal, N25,836,230,505.00 was appropriated as total for its Personnel, Overhead and Capital Expenditure. In the breakdown, N15,123,142,913.00 was for Personnel, N1,611,511,518.00  for Overhead while N9,101,576,073.00  went into Capital.

At the budget defence sessions which were characterized by frankness and transparency, the general consensus was that the highly-focused and result-driven minister left none in doubt about his zeal and commitment to duty, patriotism and love for country. There were over 30 lawmakers, defence sector stakeholders, local and international humanitarian organizations, development partners, journalists, human rights organizations and civil advocacy groups in attendance.

His appearance was made no less brisk and business-like with the presence of the ministry’s highly-experienced, seasoned and hard-working Permanent Secretary, Mrs Nuratu Batagarawa accompanied by directors, military and civilian aides from the Nigerian army, navy and the air force as well as heads of the agencies under the ministry.

As he did at the Maiduguri town hall meeting, the minister seized the opportunity to market the laudable achievements of the Buhari-led government in the defence sector and its commitment to the security, stability, unity and peace of the country particularly actualized by the effective and proactive efforts of the gallant, courageous and selfless personnel of the Nigerian military led by the synergy-driven Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Abayomi Olonisakin.

Dan-Ali thanked the lawmakers for what he described as their continual understanding, cooperation and the harmonious and cordial relationship with his ministry without which, he said, it would have been difficult for the ministry to achieve much within the last two and half years that has been marked largely by the just-ended economic recession.

The Defence minister remarked that the willingness of the lawmakers to cooperate whenever he brought defence and security matters before them was a major motivating force behind his ability of the ministry to provide security and safety for all Nigerian citizens irrespective of race, region, religion or political leanings, stressing that his ministry has lived up to expectation in the provision of the basic platforms needed for military operations across the country.

Expectedly, the minister’s outing at the National Assembly generated positive public commentary. For instance, a civil advocacy group known as Concerned Professionals Congress (CPC) lauded plans by the ministry to launch the nation’s defence sector into an era of enviable efficiency and effective combat readiness.

In a statement jointly issued in Abuja by the group’s Chief Media Strategist, Mr. Emeka Nwankpa and the North East Regional Rapporteur, Malam Baba Al-Kasim, the group praised the minister for his zeal, commitment and patriotic fervour in repositioning the defence sector for efficiency and effectiveness in meeting national security objectives.

Nwankpa urged the National Assembly committees to give expeditious and positive consideration to the ministry’s budget proposal to ensure effective national security and stability.

Continuing, the group’s spokesman praised the minister for carrying out fundamental and citizen-oriented projects in the 2017 Capital budget such as barracks rehabilitation in five geo-political zones, rehabilitation of Kaduna and Lagos military cemeteries, rehabilitation of the Registry Section in the ministry, provision of gymnastic equipment for the ministry’s Gymnastic Hall, procurement of medical equipment and the renovation of the ministry’s Civilian Personnel Units (CPUs) Buildings at 82 Division, Enugu, 1 Division, Kaduna, 3 Division, Jos, 2 Division, Ibadan and the Military Hospital, Benin.

The group also urged the lawmakers to address the minister’s claims that the implementation of last year’s budget was hampered by delay in getting Certificate of No Objection and inadequate Overhead Appropriation, expressing hope that the situation will be different this year.

It endorsed the overall vision and objective of the ministry’s 2018 budget geared towards improving the present state of security and safety of the Nigerian citizenry, reiterating the need for the Armed Forces to be equipped with the necessary platforms for the adequate enhancement and efficiency of the military’s operational capability.

The minister had proposed an aggressive Barracks Rehabilitation drive this year to provide decent and suitable accommodation for officers was part of plans to provide adequate care and welfare to the men of the Armed Forces to boost their morale.

He disclosed that the three Services, the Army, Navy and the Air Force have also made provisions in their respective Budget Proposals for the procurement of armaments and ammunition in 2018 to enable them prepare for their operations while the ministry’s agencies such as Nigerian Defence Academy, Nigerian Defence College, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, etc, will concentrate on their mandate of providing the required manpower, training and retraining for Armed Forces Personnel.

He told the lawmakers that apart from the barracks rehabilitation initiative, due priority would be accorded key capital projects such as purchase of security equipment, the military industrial complex, the signing of bilateral agreements with foreign countries, the construction of two zonal educational inspectorate offices in Enugu and Kaduna.

According to him, the provision of accommodation for the military personnel remained a top priority for the present Administration having been neglected for such a long time that it had brought about the current state of dilapidation of barracks across the country.

Recalling his experience in some of his many command positions which he held in the Nigerian Army, especially as Commander of the 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure between 2012 and 2013 before he voluntarily retired on August 30, 2013, the Zamfara State-born Minister of Defence believes that while preparing a soldier for war or operation, adequate care must be made to provide him or her with the basic needs of life such as a decent accommodation, good nutrition and healthcare for his family.

This principle, he explained, formed the character of the Muhammadu Buhari legacy in the defence sector and which is why, according to him, troop morale across the country is presently at an all-time high.

There are also plans to pursue the on-going military industrial complex as well as purchase security equipment in line with current realities. To this,  the minister stated that plans had reached advanced stage by the federal government to enter into Bilateral Defence Agreements with some foreign countries for joint military cooperation where the Armed Forces of Nigeria stand to benefit in the priority areas of training, joint exercises, equipment supporting assistance, to facilitate the processes and other requirements for consummating the arrangements.

He indicated that the training and retraining of all cadre of staff will be pursued this year as a capacity building initiative to enhance performance hence the plan by the ministry to construct two zonal educational inspectorate offices in Kaduna and Enugu as a viable arrangement to be adequately complemented by a yearly mandatory training of all cadres of staff in the Ministry currently estimated at about 13,000.

Continuing, he said money has been budgeted to buy project-monitoring vehicles to complement the existing ones for effective monitoring of the ministry’s on-going projects nationwide. There is another provision for the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaties (ATT) in 2018 which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as an instrument to regulate the transfer of conventional arms, including Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) on 2nd April, 2013.

Concluding, he said, ‘’The Nigerian military has remained steadfast in the execution of their duties spread across the various flashpoints across the nation, fighting insurgency, militancy, communal clashes and cattle rustling, etc, to ensure national security, stability and unity. The President’s support has been tremendous and amazing in this regard. I know this to be true because as a marksman with sufficient knowledge of our military, the military has never had it so good with the support of Nigerians especially our critical stakeholders in the National Assembly’’.

The CPC praised the armed forces under the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Abayomi Olonisakin, the service chiefs and the gallant troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole for collaborating effectively with other security forces in the country to defeat Boko Haram terrorists thereby rekindling hope and confidence in the sovereignty of the nation

It commended the minister for working tirelessly like the CDS to strengthen and reposition the Nigerian military in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of a re-energized and re-calibrated armed forces that ranks as a leading professional fighting force in Africa and around the world.

‘’The Olonishakin-led Nigerian military started gaining the upper hand in the operations as a result of its fresh focus, vigour, professionalism, and commitment anchored on discipline, probity, fresh tactical and strategic approach. This is what has produced the string of successes we have recorded. And when Mansur Dan-Ali became the Minister of Defence, it was like putting the icing on the cake’’, Nwankpa said.

In the same vein a scholar, Dr. Emmanuel Onoja whose doctoral thesis on the ‘Imperative of Military Operations in Combating Civil Disorder in Nigeria’, dwelt on the legacies of the current military leadership to praise the minister for working assiduously to reposition the sector. He observed that the Nigerian military has effectively quelled civil disorder and other forms of armed conflicts in the country due to the proactive and credible credentials of the minister’s leadership of the Ministry of Defence.




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