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The Military “Show of Force” in Umuahia – By Dan Elombah


“A show of force is a military operation intended to warn (such as a warning shot) or to intimidate an opponent by showcasing a capability or will to act if one is provoked. Shows of force may also be executed by police forces and other armed, non-military groups.

Shows of force have historically been undertaken mostly by a military actor unwilling to engage in all-out hostilities, but fearing to ‘lose face’ (to appear weak). By performing a carefully-calculated provocation, the opponent is to be shown that violent confrontation remains an option, and there will be no backing off on the principle that the show of force is to defend.

Shows of force may be actual military operations, but in times of official peace, they may also be limited to military exercises.”

In May 2017, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May’s unprecedented decision to deploy up to 5,000 armed troops at key strategic sites makes her the first Prime Minister to use a new plan for a show of force in the face of major terrorist threats was revealed.

It puts her at odds with her predecessor David Cameron who was reluctant to use the controversial power.

Operation Temperer – the government plan to put thousands of soldiers on the streets in response to a major terrorist threat was devised in 2015 and had been a secret until it was accidentally leaked to a newspaper.

The only other Prime Minister in recent times to deploy soldiers in mainland Britain in response to a terrorist threat was Tony Blair, who sent tanks and 450 members of the armed forces to guard airports in 2003 after warnings of a plot to bring down an airliner.

He was strongly criticised for risking undue panic, and military chiefs have since warned that once soldiers are deployed, it is difficult to justify pulling them back without also lowering the terrorist threat level.

Mrs May announced that the police had asked for military support, and the Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon approved the request, meaning Operation Temperer is now in force for the first time.

Mrs May said: “This means that armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, which will allow the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol in key locations. 

“You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events, such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe. In all circumstances, members of the armed forces who are deployed in this way will be under the command of police officers,” Theresa May Stated.

In the light of yesterday’s military/IPOB fracas in Umuahia, many Nigerians are not happy to see the “the military and their tanks in civilian spaces”.

“When did the streets of Umuahia become an Army training range? They ask.

In my own view, to ask these questions in today’s Nigeria amounts to living in denial if not “rampaging hypocrisy!

The use of the military in what should purely be a police operation has been in existence in every part of Nigeria for as long as I could remember: to fight armed robbery, kidnapping, even to quell riots.

This is an era of “Joint Task Forces”, in North East Nigeria, Niger Delta, Eastern Nigeria, and sundry Operations involving the police, army and the mobile police.

Moreover, as we have seen above with the UK example, the use of the army when the internal peace and security of the country is threatened is not limited to Nigeria.

However, let me be clear:

When one calculates the operational costs of troop’s redeployment to South east for the harassment and killing of the people, you will not blame ASUU and Resident doctors that are on strike.

Attacking Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB members with armoured tanks and guns will not quell the Biafra agitation.

Whoever is pushing President Buhari to resort to this crude force over this matter does not wish Nigeria well. 

President Buhari should not act like a dictator.

Talk to the agitators. I don’t support Kanu’s Biafra agitation but I oppose resolving it with force.

At the end, soldiers will end up killing people.

A pertinent question is: Does the present situation in South East warrant the deployment of armed soldiers?

Section 217, which clearly lays out the circumstances and conditions under which our Armed Forces can be deployed. These are: (i) for the defence of Nigeria from external aggression. (ii) for the maintenance of the territorial integrity and securing the borders of Nigeria from violation on land, sea and air, (iii) for suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President; subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

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