While Nigerians are losing count of task forces to protect their lives, attacks are refusing to go down
As Nigerians were struggling to grapple with the news of the recent carnage in Plateau State, the Nigeria Police announced the dispatch of a special intervention force to the scene, in a move that has now become the standard practice for the Nigerian security forces. Every time there is a major security concern arising from gunmen attacks, farmer/herder clashes, kidnappings, among others, the security agencies are quick to set up an intervention mechanism through a task force.
At the last count, the military and police have formed over 20 task forces across the country. In some states, Daily Trust check shows, more than one such outfit compete for space.
Zamfara, which is fast becoming the largest killing field outside Boko Haram-ravaged areas, added a new outfit to its array of task forces when the military announced the establishment of Operation Whirl Stroke II, in the wake of attack by suspected bandits that claimed many lives.
Before its launch, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 launched Operation Harbin Kunama I in the state, with a charge to the outfit to flush out bandits and cattle rustlers terrorizing the people. Before then, residents of the state had been under attacks by bandits. In April 2014, more than 100 persons were reportedly killed by the bandits in a village not too far from Dansadau town.
When the attacks continued, the military created Harbin Kunama II, in the state just a year after the first one. The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said the military joint patrol, was aimed at “completely wiping out terrorists in the area”. These task forces are in addition to existing 1 BAD and elements of the 223 Lt Bn, Kebbi, operating in the state.
Also, Buhari ordered the establishment of a brigade in the state.
With all the intervention, the state was thrown into panic when 23 unidentified bodies were discovered in the forest in Zurmi Local Government. The fear was heightened by the discovery of more bodies, days after, by the police, bringing the number of the unidentified victims to 41.
This year alone, over 300 people have been killed by armed bandits, a situation which caused the governor, Abdulaziz Yari, to relinquish his position as Chief Security Officer of the state.
Before the recent deployment in Plateau, the state was already a beehive of task forces and traditional security outfits.
The recent police team sent to Plateau State is expected to work alongside Operation Safe Haven, which though covers Bauchi, Kaduna and Plateau, has its headquarters in Jos. Operation Safe Haven was created at the height of crises on the Plateau and it has been in existence for about 10 years. Apart from the special operations, Plateau is home to 3 Div. of the Nigerian Army, a police command and an Air Force Base and operatives of these units also perform their statutory security functions.
Kaduna is another state which comes under frequent attacks and is at the same time bursting at the seams with various security outfits. Aside communal clashes, there are attacks by criminals, especially around the Birnin-Gwari area, and the Kaduna-Zaria road. Lately, the state has witnessed more cases of kidnapping than any other part of the country, with the Rijana forest providing hideout for the criminals. In 2015, the governors of Zamfara, Kano, Niger, Kaduna, Kebbi and Sokoto, states bordering Kuyambana, Falgore and Kamuku forests, came together and sponsored a special security joint force, Operation Sharan Daji, comprising operatives of the Army, police, SSS, NSCDC and the Air Force.
The team was to clear the surrounding forests of criminals, thereby securing lives of residents of the states and people who pass through them. Though the exercise made remarkable progress, it lasted for only six months. Following the end of the operation, the attacks in that area resumed with renewed vigour. In May 2017, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, launched the Operation Harbin Kunama II, to again, tackle insurgency, cattle rustling and kidnapping along the Falgore forest. Also in January, 2018, the 1 Divison of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, launched Operation Karamin Goro. The operation is expected to cover Kaduna and Niger states. Apart from these special task forces, Kaduna State is host to the 1 Division, and other military formations and institutions, like the Depot Nigeria Army, Zaria, Nigerian Military School, Zaria, Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna, Air Tactical Command, Nigeria Air Force and a host of others.
But the attacks have continued in the state, with kidnappings and demands for ransom still on going. The most recent was the attack on May 31, where about 25 persons were kidnapped along the Birnin Gwari – Funtua road.
Benue State has for some time been a hotbed for farmer/herder clashes with several casualties during every incident. Following killings of over 70 people in the state in February this year, the Army launched Operation Ayem Akpatuma. The exercise covered Benue, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger and Taraba and Nasarawa states. Following the end of the Operation Ayem Akpatuma, Operation Whirl Stroke was launched in May, to address farmer/herder clashes and militia groups. Like Zamfara, Benue is home to military units like 72 Battalion, 707 Special Forces Brigade and the Nigerian School of Military Engineering. There is also a police command, an Air Force Base, Naval command and Civil Defence Corps in the state. Residents of Benue who spoke to our reporter noted that though the attacks have reduced, a lot still needs to be done to ensure safety of lives and property.
Taraba State is a beneficiary of the Ayem Akpatuma and Whirl Stroke. Till date, there are reports of attacks emanating from Taraba. And following the extension of farmer/ herder clashes to Kogi State, the security agents launched Operation Total Freedom in the area.
In 2015, Operation Shirin Harbi was launched in Gombe and Bauchi states to tackle youth restiveness.
There was also Operation Awatse to tackle vandals in the South-West, Operation Crocodile Smile I, which was launched in the South-South to address the issue of militancy and sea piracy and Operation Delta Safe, also in the Niger Delta, to take care of oil installations.
We also have Operations Python Dance I and 11, created for the South-East. Apart from tackling cultism and kidnapping, it helped to address the issue of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In the North-East, there is Operation Lafiya Dole, which has done a lot in curtailing the Boko Haram crisis.
The operation which covers about five states has dovetailed into Operation Gama Aiki and Operation Safe Corridor. There is also an Air Force team, Operation Thunder strike, in the South-east of Bonne, working to check insurgency.
The police also have special troops in Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger and on the Abuja highway.
When contacted on why killings have persisted despite the several Operations, the acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, said the security situation in Nigeria had taken a new dimension, adding that without the operations/exercises, the killings would be worse.
“It may appear as if we have many operations on-going, but the thing is that some of them are actually exercises and they have duration. So when an exercise is launched to take care of a problem, if it expires and the problem is still there, we analyse the situation and come up with either an operation or something else to tackle it. Another thing is that the number of personnel we have is not enough to take care of the about 180 million Nigerians, so we urge citizens to assist us with useful information so that we can do better. The idea is to continue until Nigeria is safe”, he said.