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The Military “Show of Force” in Umuahia – Part 2

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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.”

On 08 September 2017, the Nigeria army announced they will commence month-long military Exercises to be conducted in South east states of Nigeria.

In Press Briefing By The Chief Of Training And Operations Army Major General DD Ahmadu, of 82 Division Area, today, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, anounced the preparation for the commencement of Exercise EGWU EKE II, (PYTHON DANCE II) to be conducted in 82 Division Area of Responsibility, covering (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states) from Friday 15 September to Saturday 14 October 2017.

Major General DD Ahmadu stated that Operation EGWU EKE II will be unique with the establishment of Brigade Headquarters in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States.

“Emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force”, the Chief of Training and Operations, (L) Nigerian Army, Major General D.D Ahmadu stated.

“The Nigerian Army is constantly carrying out training activities for its personnel in line with its constitutional role in aid of civil authority. More so, Exercise EGWU EKE II has become more expedient due to the mindless assassinations (even in religious places), attack on security personnel, theft of weapons, armed banditry, kidnapping, cultism and violent agitations, as well as other security challenges that have recently become prevalent in the South Eastern part of the country.

“Operation EGWU EKE II will be unique with the establishment of Brigade Headquarters in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States. Emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force, as well as humanitarian activities such as medical outreach.”

Show of force

Now back to Sunday’s unfortunate Umuahia “show of force” and its aftermath.

On 10 September 2017, the Nigerian Army attacked unarmed civilians in the vicinity of the home of the Leader of the Idigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Afaraukwu, Umuahia, Abia State.

A video emerged showing in which a civilian is seen by carried by his neighbors as Nigerian Army Armored Tanks comb the area. Initial reports stated 3 people died in the fracass.

Yesterday however,  the 14 Brigade Nigerian Army, issued a statement deploring “fictitious news going round especially on the social media that troops have invaded the home of Nnamdi Kanu and killed 3 persons.”

According to Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, Assistant Director Army Public Relations, 14 Brigade Nigerian Army, who signed the statement, “this is far from the truth. Rather, it was a group of suspected IPOB militants that blocked the road against troops of 145 Battalion while on show of force along FMC-Word Bank Road in Umuahia town, Abia State at about 6.00-6.30pm, today. They insisted that the military vehicles would not pass and started pelting the soldiers with stones and broken bottles to the point of injuring an innocent female passerby and a soldier, Corporal Kolawole Mathew.

“The troops fired warning shots in the air and the hoodlooms dispersed. No life was lost.

“Therefore the public are kindly enjoined to disregard the rumours going round and the fictitious photographs of purported victims of attack. Both the soldier and the innocent female passerby have been evacuated to the unit’s Medical Inspection Room and are receiving treatment.”

In view of these accusations and counter accusations, many are asking: 

How can the Nigerian military issue a statement and claim that they were conducting a routine “show of force” in a civilian street?

 “The military was parading a new armoured carrier in Umuahia?”

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

Evidently many Nigerians are not happy to see the “the military and their tanks in civilian spaces”.

To such ones, “You cannot use soldiers and their tanks for routine law enforcement. Even in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is still law enforcement by police.

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 be a purely 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.

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.

FG versus Kanu

The Federal Government recently initiated moves to re-arrest the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu after he allegedly breached his bail conditions granted by an Abuja Federal High Court. 

Meanwhile, Kanu in an exclusive interview with The Sun vowed to resist the arrest, insisting that Nigeria would burn if the Federal Government moves to re-arrest him. 

Question: “Are you not afraid that you could be re-arrested as the Federal Government has begun that move?”

Nnamdi Kanu: “I don’t care! Quote me verbatim. If I’m re-arrested, this country will burn, I assure you. From where that oil money they depend on, they can no longer have access to it. I assure them that. This is not empty threat. We’re IPOB, we don’t abandon our own.”

In view of the above, it appears the IPOB and the Federal government are poised for a show down.

The FG appears determined to re-arrest Kanu while IPOB is poised to resist such arrest. If that were to happen, there is evidently a looming threat to public peace. 

THEREFORE by the Umuahia show of force, the military is only trying to warn Nnamdi Kanu not to test the federal might, its strength and determination.

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.

Furthermore, on Monday, 31st July, 2017, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai, revealed that apart from the fight against insurgency in the North-east region, the Nigeria Army was strategising to curb the rate of kidnapping, herdsmen/farmers crisis, pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft bedevilling the country.

Buratai disclosed in Yola, Adamawa State, during Combat Support Arms Training Week (COSAT) for 2017, that the army would continue to sustain efforts towards adequately equipping units and formations to enhance military capacity to eliminate contemporary challenges and threats in the country. 

“We all know that the contemporary challenges Nigeria is trapped with include insurgency, kidnapping, herdsmen crisis, pipeline vandalism which have made it imperative for all agencies to synergise and find solutions,” he stated.

The COAS pointed out that to bring to an end the destruction by terrorists in the country, the Nigerian army has held the Small Arms Combatmanship at the newly constituted Abu Ali shooting range in Sambisa forest, the proposed headquarters of the terrorists.

The Nigerian Army COMBAT support arms training in an annual event organised on rotational bases among artillery, engineers, signals and intelligence corps to review and restrategise on operations as well as demonstration on constabulary.

At the occasion, the state Governor, Muhammadu Jibrilla Bidow, assured the army that his government would give necessary supports to the military in the state and neighboring state as well.

Bindow lauded the resilience demonstrated by the COAS in fighting the terrorists, describing it as commendable and worth national and international awards.

It was also revealed that following the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks, where scores have been killed by the terrorists in the North-east, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has invited Israeli military to train Special Forces to combat terrorism in the country.

NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya, explained that the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, approved the training of 450 carefully selected Regiment personnel as NAF Special Forces to be trained in three batches.

“At the end of the nine-week course, successful participants would be deployed to defend NAF air assets and bases as well as critical national infrastructure and assets like airports and oil installations among others.”

Adesanya explained that “the Special Forces would also be required to take the battle to the adversaries whenever necessary.”

He also described the Special Forces as an invaluable adjunct to conventional forces and that they are capable of sophisticated, specialised and measured response in a complex air-ground environment covering both land and sea areas.

While flagging off the training of the first batch of 150 personnel, the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command, Air Vice Marshal Samson Akpasa, stated that a robust counter-force to respond to any contingency was vital in Nigeria’s contemporary security environment, which was characterised by insurgency, militancy, oil theft, cattle rustling, kidnapping and other vices.

Conclusion

The conditions that allows for the deployment of the army in any part of the country as provided for in Section 217 (2)(c) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution has not arisen. Therefore the Nigerian Army has no business getting involved in the traditional duties of the Nigeria Police.

Using Nigerian Army to repel what appears to be a legitimate agitation by the people of the South East region demanding a referendum is a right of any people is wrong.

Using the Nigeria Army to be engaging in the duties of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies is merely aggravating the situation.

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

Whoever is pushing President Buhari to resort this crude force over this matter does not wish Nigeria well. President Buhari should not act like a dictator.

Talk to the agitators. I oppose resolving the agitation with force.

At the end, soldiers will end up killing people. 

The internal security of the state is a function of the Nigeria Police.

We are not in a state of war are we? 

Admittedly, Nnamdi Kanu is a very tempting excuse to countenance, tolerate, justify, explain, and rationalize the continuous occupation and violation of civilian spaces by the military nearly 20 years into democracy. 

I am sorry for those who continue to find every excuse for Nnamdi Kanu and his threats of Fire and Brimstone against the country.

And we should remember the warning given before 2015 election that it portends danger returning power to the person of Muhamamdu Buhari, a man with a history of chronic abuse of human rights.

All interested pressure groups throughout the country and those in Diaspora need to stand up to this demo-military crackdowns introduced by Buhari in 2017 to wage war against the Biafra agitators.

Nigerian security operatives are killer agents designed to suppress, intimidate, harass, coerce, maim not only the violent criminals, but political agitators! 

There is this suspicion that Buhari is not invading South east to maintain security otherwise he would have cracked down in the Fulani militia and herdsmen wrecking havoc across the country.

The Arewa agenda appears to be in operation and he will use the Army at any given opportunity to achieve his goal. 

Let wisdom prevail on both sides.

The unity of Nigeria is NEGOTIABLE.

elsdaniel@yahoo.com

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