By Kingsley Omonobi
ABUJA—Ahead of the 2011 general elections, Defence Minister, Adetokumbo Kayode, yesterday said the armed forces would not wait for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to solicit the support of the armed forces in the area of provision of, and enhancement of security towards a peaceful, free and fair elections as well as other logistics support requirements.
He noted that “we are already making our plans; we are going ahead with security arrangements for 2011.”
He made the disclosure just as he stated that the Joint Task Force for the Niger Delta, code named ‘Operation Restore Hope’, has been reinforced with additional 4 battalions of troops from the Nigerian Army, while another 2 battalions have been provided for pipeline monitoring in the Niger Delta.
The minister added that “they are to help in curbing activities of militants and illegal oil bunkerers in the Niger Delta.”
Speaking during the 2010 ministerial briefing of the Defence Ministry, the minister said: “In spite of the forecast of doom regarding the 2011 elections, be it from the international media or local media, I want to say that come what may, the 2011 elections must take place and it will be peaceful, free and fair.
We will not wait for INEC to talk to us about security and logistics. We have started and we will continue to make arrangements.”
According to the minister, “we must realize that in terms of ensuring peace and security of the nation and for the about 120,000 polling stations for the elections, the Nigeria Police are tasked with that primary responsibility.
But we will be in a fall backing position as the backbone of security. In any case, the military has always played roles in helping INEC with very sensitive materials, especially for the purpose of those in very difficult terrain and we will continue to play these roles as demanded.”
On the harmonized terms and conditions of service of military personnel, which have been causing unease in the services, especially since a committee set to work it out had submitted its report over six months ago, the minister said the delay in getting it approved for implementation arose as a result of the division of members of the armed forces over the final outcome of the committee.
While noting that some section of the armed forces were in support of its implementation, the minister said another section within the armed forces were opposed to its implementation as it is seen to favour a particular set of the military particularly the top bracket which may hinder the growth of up and coming members of the military.
”It (TACOS) was divisive. Some people are in favour of it, others are against it, among the armed forces. We are trying to achieve a middle ground that will make everybody happy because it is a very sensitive issue. When this is done, we will pass it to the appropriate authority for approval and implementation”.
The minister who enumerated the achievements’ of the ministry and said no administration of the Defence ministry has done more than what was achieved in the 2010, disclosed that from the year 2011, “Women will be shortlisted into the Nigeria Defence Academy in line with the transformation agenda of the federal government”.
Operationally, the minister further said that the Defence headquarters ensured the provision of security for the companies that handled dredging of the Lower River Niger (lots 1 and 2), establishment of the Special Task Force code named ‘Operation Safe Heaven at Jos, Plateau state comprising personnel of the Army, Navy, Airforce and the Nigeria Police.
“We are also involved in curbing Boko Haram activities and restoration of peace in some Northern States, Production and circulation of Code of Conduct for Internal Security operations and establishment of headquarters for the JTF ‘Op Restore Hope’ in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State”, the minister said.