Op­er­a­tion Ayem Ak­pa­tuma Must Not Fail

Sunday Trust - - PAGE 3 COMMENT -

The de­ci­sion of the mil­i­tary high com­mand to de­ploy troops to six states plagued by farm­ers-herders sav­age in­ternecine war­fare is spot on and brings a mea­sure of re­lief to Nige­ri­ans. The Chief of Army Staff, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tukur Yusuf Bu­ratai, de­clared last Wed­nes­day that troops will be de­ployed in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger States to curb the glut of vi­o­lence and crim­i­nal­ity in these states. Apart from the un­con­trol­lable farm­er­sh­erders con­flict, some of these states are in­fested with kid­nap­ping, armed rob­bery, cattle rustling and thug­gery.

With the code-name “Ex­er­cise Ayem Ak­pa­tuma” (cat race), this spe­cial op­er­a­tion, if suc­cess­fully car­ried out, could give vic­tims of the men­ace in the af­fected ar­eas a sense of be­long­ing in Nige­ria. Since the last two years when the crises be­came highly pro­nounced, peas­ants have felt aban­doned to their fate, and have re­sorted to self-help in or­der to de­fend them­selves and their lands. These des­per­ate mea­sures have led to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of arms and the rise of eth­nic mili­tia who as­sume a sense of pa­tri­o­tism when they take the laws into their hands. In this way, death tolls from farm­ers-herders con­flicts have con­tin­ued to mount to an em­bar­rass­ing height, while thou­sands of peas­ants have had to re­lo­cate to In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDP) Camps in or­der to save their skins.

The Army has car­ried out many op­er­a­tions across the coun­try in their quest to tackle wan­ton de­struc­tion of lives and prop­erty, so ‘Op­er­a­tion Ayem Ak­pa­tuma’ is a fa­mil­iar ex­er­cise. How­ever, it will be too sim­plis­tic of them to as­sume that the ex­er­cise that led to the dec­i­ma­tion of Boko Haram in the North East can be repli­cated in North-Cen­tral States. The first step that could lead to suc­cess in this new op­er­a­tion, there­fore, will be for the troops to es­tab­lish a rap­port with the law abid­ing and of­ten vic­tims of the con­flicts.

The Army would need the sup­port of the peo­ple in or­der to gather nec­es­sary in­tel­li­gence to deal with crim­i­nal el­e­ments in the North-Cen­tral states. It will be dif­fi­cult for troops to en­ter into ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and iden­tify the hide­outs of kid­nap­pers, armed rob­bers and dan­ger­ous gangs without tip-off from the peo­ple. There­fore, the troops should dis­coun­te­nance prej­u­dices and (wrong) per­cep­tions about the peas­ants in the com­mu­ni­ties. Rather, they should aim to win the hearts of the peo­ple who would fa­cil­i­tate their work in these states.

Fur­ther­more, the troops should not dis­miss in­tel­li­gence re­ports. In­stead, they should use them as hy­pothe­ses which should be val­i­dated or dis­carded af­ter be­ing tested. From their past op­er­a­tions, there have been com­plaints that troops had ig­nored in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the peas­ants and failed to pro­tect the peo­ple when their as­sailants in­vaded their com­mu­ni­ties and killed them in their num­bers. If troops han­dle their as­sign­ments with sim­i­lar care­less­ness, they will lose the con­fi­dence of the peo­ple.

We call on gov­ern­ment to fund this op­er­a­tion so that the troops are not aban­doned without food, nec­es­sary kits and their de­served al­lowances. As the troops show com­mit­ment to the pro­tec­tion of lives and prop­erty in the states where they will carry out ‘Ex­er­cise Ayem Ak­pa­tuma,’ the gov­ern­ments and peo­ple in these states should co­op­er­ate with the mil­i­tary as they carry out this as­sign­ment. Un­less the peo­ple work to­gether with the army, this op­er­a­tion will end in dis­as­ter and fur­ther frus­tra­tion.

The troops should not dis­miss in­tel­li­gence re­ports. In­stead, they should use them as hy­pothe­ses which should be val­i­dated or dis­carded af­ter be­ing tested

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