It is no secret that the Nigerian military high command has announced planned intention to withdraw its men from troubled areas in some parts of the country. The reason for the planned withdrawal, according to the military, is hinged on what they describe as ‘a return of normalcy’ to these distressed areas. The imminent planned withdrawal of troops has caused anxiety among Nigerians, following a resurgence of violence in areas thought to have been liberated from criminal elements.
Just in the early hours of Thursday this week, gunmen believed to be herdsmen stormed Kulben village of Kombun district in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State where they unleashed a surge of terror, leaving 13 people dead, and one person injured. Earlier, on Monday this week to be precise, five village,s all in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, came under heavy attack from bandits and kidnappers riding on no fewer than 100 motorcycles. At the end of the operation, a breast-feeding mother and her six-month old baby were among no fewer than 48 persons kidnapped by the criminals. Not a word has been heard of their whereabouts as at the dusk of yesterday.
Less than twenty four hours after bandits abducted these 48 persons and killed three people, including a Pastor in Chikun LGA, a seminary school in Gonin Gora in the same LGA of the state was attacked, with four of the students declared missing at the end of a final headcount after the operation.
The military, no doubt, has proved capable in reining criminal elements that have stood against peace in some areas of the nation. From the North to the South, East and West, the Nigerian military have proved themselves worthy of their patriotic calling in staving off further destruction on some communities. In the discharge of their duties, some of them have laid down their lives so that Nigerians will survive. Unlike the police that are solely responsible for internal security, the military has been the anvil upon which resistance against foreign aggression is built. In the face of almost interminable onslaughts against some Nigerian communities, and considering the strength of the Nigeria Police Force and its capacity to withstand the power force of insurgence and banditry, the troops have always risen to the occasion in curtailing the rampage caused by these illegal arms bearers. It is through the military that cattle rustling was brought to an end in the Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State, among other criminal activities.
In Plateau State, the troops have never rested on their oars in ensuring return of peace to defenseless communities that have become mutual residents with demons of bloodshed. Except for Thursday’s invasion in Mangu by suspected herdsmen, the Plateau has relatively been peaceful. The footprints of ‘Operation Safe Haven’, with its headquarters in Jos, have not been devoid of inspirational streak.
Benue State has also benefitted tremendously from the presence of troops in bringing peace to areas prone to incessant attacks. Before the deployment of soldiers to the state, famed for being a constant prey of herdsmen’ attacks that culminated in the mass burial of about 72 victims in one single, Benue has always been a central focus of unmitigated disaster in the history of bloodletting in Nigeria. However, with the coming of the military to contain these aggressors, peace had gradually returned to affected communities as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Abagana and other IDP camps have returned to their homes and engaged in rebuilding their destroyed communities.
Little wonder that Benue State, which was once the scaring epitome of hair-rising bloodshed, cried out against planned withdrawal of troops from troubled areas. It is obvious that any planned withdrawal of the military from crisis-prone areas devoid of an alternative option is a recipe for the return of violence and bloodshed of the past.
We live in strange times, with the lives of Nigerians becoming so cheap and combustible. It is the inability of the police to checkmate the activities of these lawbreakers that informed the drafting of troops to assist in reining in these criminals. More than anything, our security has become so unpredictable that citizens are now caving in to fears and criminal demands by bandits and kidnappers. That explains why victims of these horrendous crimes are likely to cooperate with criminals and pay up ransom than assist the police resolve cases of kidnappings.
Against the wanton level of destruction unleashed on defenceless civilians and the populace, the planned withdrawal has sent jitters down the spines of people, especially in areas vulnerable to never-ending attacks from felonious elements. It is incontrovertible that withdrawing these troops without making arrangements for alternative options could lead to a spiraling level of violence that is capable of returning our crisis-prone communities to the dark years of bloodshed that could place our nation on edge.
For any planned withdrawal of troops to work, there is need to evolve a security outfit that is capable of staving off further attacks on vulnerable communities in a bid to avoid breakdown of law and order. This can be achieved through the formation of a joint military/civilian security task force, with the civilian membership comprising of personnel with full knowledge of the areas for strict monitoring. A situation where the formation of a joint task force is encouraged in one area and at the same time discouraged in some other areas does not amount to fairness. There is need to pull intelligence towards creating a level-playing ground in combatting rebellious elements working for the destruction of the Nigerian State. In a situation where defenceless citizens are exposed to the firing proficiency of criminals, the level of destruction could lead to grievous losses in lives and property.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, must be commended for providing leadership for the success attained by various military operations in some parts of the nation, especially in states susceptible to substantial killings in North-central and North-western states. Any attempting to withdraw troops and expose citizens to these coldblooded killers will render the service of our patriotic troops a gross disservice.
There had been instances where the behaviour of our troops have been described as least expected, but that does not amount to a call to withdraw them in maintaining the peace. The military is a human institution, with all its shortcomings. However, we cannot at this point in time throw the baby with the bath water.
We must never be deceived that the rage of the militants has been silenced; they still have a capacity to unleash their fangs on vulnerable communities. The military high command should not make the mistake of withdrawing these troops and thereafter rush back to redeploy them to prevent further escalation of resurging activities of these criminals.
To combat those oppose to peace, our military needs the collaboration and cooperation of all to not only checkmate the deadly activities of militants and bandits, but also obliterate the conspiratorial roles of fifth columnists. The military should not see criticism of its activities as a letdown, but a wake-up call to purge itself of enemies within that are engaged in frustrating the war against terror.
There can be no better time for the Nigerian military to rededicate itself to the task of defending the corporate existence of the country than now that Nigerians are in the season of remembering the supreme sacrifice our troops are paying in the defence of our nation’s unity.