Govs want Buhari to suspend troop withdrawal
File copy: State governors, President Muhammadu Buhari at the inauguration of NEC at the Presidential Villa in June…
The military will pull out from ongoing internal security operations in various parts of the country, beginning from the first quarter of 2020.
The decision was taken during a Security Council meeting presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
Shortly after the meeting, some governors in separate interviews with The PUNCH, appealed to the Federal Government not to withdraw troops from their states.
The governors include Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Darius Ishaku of Taraba State and their counterpart in Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle.
The Federal Government’s decision on troop withdrawal is coming amid fresh threats by the Islamic State West Africa Province, now working in collaboration with Boko Haram.
Only last week, ISWAP circulated a video online where it showed 10 Christians who were beheaded on Christmas Day.
However, the Security Council clarified that the military would first conduct a “threat assessment” to determine the specific areas where the troop withdrawal would cover.
The council decided that in place of the military, the Nigeria Police Force, which has the primary responsibility of providing internal security, will assume its duties fully in such areas.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, who spoke with State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, explained that the withdrawal was to allow the military to focus on its primary duty of defending the nation against external aggression and respond adequately to “emerging threats.”
He recalled that following an upsurge in violent crimes, aside from Boko Haram insurgency, the government had launched several joint military operations to combat the situation.
Ekwe Ibas mentioned banditry, kidnapping, piracy and pipeline vandalism as some of the internal security threats that necessitated the military operations to ensure the safety of lives and property.
He stated, “You will recall that the various operations in the country in the North-East, North-West, North-Central, the South-East as well as the South-West where all members of the Armed Forces are taking part as well as the intelligence agencies, have ensured that we all enjoyed a better holiday period that has just been observed.
“We also recall that in those areas where the military has been able to achieve the desired objectives, from the first quarter of next year, the civil authorities will be preparing to take back those responsibilities as the military draws back its forces from those areas to enable it to focus its attention on other emerging threats and areas of concern.”
The CNS added that ordinarily, the military had no business with providing internal security, so long as the country was not at war with other countries.
However, he admitted that whenever it became necessary to involve the military, it was only proper that the troops should be pulled out once calm returned to the areas under security threats.
He explained further, “Basically, most of the internal security challenges that we have are supposed to be the responsibility of the civil authorities, the police in particular.
“However, so long as Nigeria is not engaged in war outside, it means whatever internal crisis that we have the responsibility rests with the police.
In the circumstances that the military has to come in to stabilise the situation, it is only proper that once one area has been dominated by the military and the situation has returned to normal, that the Nigeria Police takes over the responsibility. And in this instance, we also have the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, which is supposed to support the police in this regard.
“You will recall also that Mr President recently approved the recruitment of about 10,000 Nigerians into the Nigeria Police Force, hoping that once these Nigerians get the appropriate training, they will be in the position to fill the gaps.
“You are aware that Nigeria is such a big country that we cannot tie down the military even in those areas that the deliverables have been achieved and the objectives achieved.”
When the CNS was asked a specific question on whether the troops involved in counter-insurgency operations in the North-East would also be withdrawn, he replied that the pull-out would be done only after a thorough threat assessment was concluded.
He said, “I think I better make it very clear that an assessment of what the military will do will be based on the situation on the ground. It is not expected that the military will withdraw when it is apparent that there is still some threats in such locations.
“I am sure we are also aware that the nation is procuring equipment for the military. It is expected that before the second quarter of next year, most of the equipment shall be in place. It therefore means that all our hands are put on the ground looking at the technology-backed surveillance that will enable the military to react more efficiently and effectively.
“With that, it is also believed that the Nigeria Police will take the lead in containing security in such areas that must have been assessed to be in the right place to sustain. I don’t believe that a responsible military will want to withdraw when it is apparent that there is still risk that cannot be overcome by the police.”
On the new security threats by the Islamic State West Africa Province, in collaboration with Boko Haram, Ibas said the military was doing its best to respond accordingly, but noted that the problem had a broader African perspective.
He added, “We have had attacks in the recent past in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and other countries in West Africa. Of course, the genesis of ISWAP is well known for all of us here. While it is painful to lose people and from within, I think the military is doing all within its power to ensure that we overcome the menace and the threats posed by ISWAP.
“You will also recall that just two weeks back, we had over 27 attacks from Boko Haram and ISWAP in the North-East alone. Our gallant troops out there were able to repel those attacks and even took out some of their commanders. So, it is a thing of concern but the armed forces of Nigeria are doing all in their powers to ensure that together with other regional partners, that the menace of ISWAP is contained.”
The Buhari regime runs at least five joint military operations involving the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Police to combat kidnapping, banditry and cattle rustling largely in the northern part of the country.
Some of the operations include Operation Puff Adder, Operation Harbin Kunama 3, Exercise Egwu Eke III, Operation Diran Mikiya and Operation Sharan Daji.
In the southern part of the country, there had also been operations such as Operation Python Dance I &II and Operation Crocodile Smile to respond to security threats posed by Indigenous Peoples of Biafra in the South-East and the resurgence of militancy in the South-South respectively.
Those who attended the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadique; Chief of Defence Intelligence, AVM Mohammed Usman; the Director-General, Department for State Services, Yusuf Bichi; the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.); the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and the Nigerian Army Chief of Policy and Plans; Lt.-Gen. L.O. Adeosun. Adeosun represented the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
Don’t withdraw troops now, Ortom begs FG
Commenting on the Federal Government’s decision, the Benue State Governor, Ortom on Monday appealed to Buhari not to withdraw troops code-named Operation Whirl Stroke deployed in the state.
Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke were deployed in the state in 2018 in the wake of the herdsmen attacks.
Ortom, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, appealed for an extension of the presence of the troops to allow the displaced persons return to their ancestral homes.
The governor said, “Our position is an appeal to Mr President. He had done Benue well by deploying Operation Whirl Stroke to help tame the menace of herdsmen at the time Benue needed intervention.
“We appeal to the President to extend the life-span of the troops at least by a year to enable our people at the IDPs camps to resettle in their ancestral homes.
The governor said that he had already communicated to the President not to withdraw the troops from the state for now.
Recall that the pan socio cultural groups of the state had last Thursday made a similar appeal to the president to have a rethink on the planned withdrawal of troops.
Troop withdrawal, a welcome development, says Plateau govt
But the Plateau State Government described the Federal Government plan as a welcome development.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Dan Manjang, told one of our correspondents in Jos that the decision would rekindle the confidence of the citizens that peace had returned to Plateau State, nearly 10 years after troops under Operation Safe Haven, were deployed in the state.
He added that the state Governor, Simon Lalong’s peace efforts had yielded positive results.
He said, “I think the decision of the Federal Government to begin the military pullout from volatile spots is a welcome development because I believe that they must have done some assessments of the situation in those areas to warrant such decision.
“For us in Plateau, it is our desire that troops from Operation Safe Haven go back to the barracks because no state will desire that soldiers will be guiding it all the time. As it is, we are doing well as a state.”
We still need troops in Zamfara – Gov
Also, the Zamfara State Government opposed the plan by the Federal Government to withdraw its troops from some areas in 2020.
The state Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs, Alhaji Abubakar Dauran, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the police alone could not address insecurity in the country.
The commissioner, who spoke on behalf of the state Governor, Bello Matawalle, said the insecurity situation in the country needed collective efforts of not only the security personnel but other Nigerians.
He stated, “Although we are able to reduce banditry in our state through dialogue and reconciliation, we still want the military to be in our midst in case of any unforeseen circumstance”.
Dauran said the military’s Operation ‘Hadarin Daji’ had contributed to the restoration of peace in many parts of the state.
Fintri seeks troops reinforcement in N’East
But the Adamawa State Government said it supported the latest decision of the Federal Government to withdrawal troops in less volatile areas to the epicentre of the insurgency.
The state Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, through Director General Media and Communication State Government House, Solomon Kumangar, said it had long frowned upon the troops deployment in several states, where internal security ordinarily could have been handled by police.
Kumangar stated, “The latest decision by the government will help assist the military to take the fight to the insurgents. Our immediate thinking would have been that the decision would have been well-thought-out before it is implemented.
“If the whole idea is to shore up the military in the North-East which is the real theatre of war, it will be welcome. The states in the North- East covering Adamawa, Borno and Yobe should see troops reinforcement rather than withdrawal because of the volatility of the region.”
Withdrawal premature – Ishaku
The Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, in his reaction to the withdrawal of troops, urged the Federal Government to reconsider the decision.
The spokesperson for the governor, Dan Abu, in an interview with one of our correspondents, stated that the efforts of the troops in restoring peace in the state could be thwarted if the soldiers were withdrawn.
Abu said, “First of all, we are grateful for the good job they have done recently, especially since they intervened in the crisis in Southern Taraba and some other places in the state.
“Their presence has been very helpful. It has calmed down the crisis and we have been able to achieve relative peace as a result of their presence. For that reason, we are very grateful.
“But we believe that the withdrawal is premature because although there is relative peace now, there is a need for that peace to be sustained and their presence will go a long way in helping the sustenance of peace that has been achieved so far.”
Ishaku’s spokesman appealed to the Federal Government, saying the security in the state should not be left to the police alone.
According to him, the preference of the state government is a joint effort involving all the security agencies.
He added, “They (police) can do a lot, but they may not be able to do as much unless they combine their efforts with those of the military. We would plead that the government tarry a while for peace to actually reign and become sustainable before we can talk about withdrawal.
“The police are doing their best too but we know that the military has the upper hand in terms of being able to curtail crises of the magnitude that we suffered in that place, especially those involving herdsmen attacks and killings.”