BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
Towards the end of November 2012,while the nation was being rocked with the shocking news that the Jaji Cantonment housing the Corps of Nigerian Army Infantry and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College had been bombed by terrorists, Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan as if he is a prophet, was raising alarm over the rising spate of kidnapping and illegal oil bunkering in the state.
And as if on cue, the most daring kidnapping to date in the Delta state, that of Professor Mrs. Mabel Kaneme Okonjo, mother of Nigeria ’s Finance Minister took place some days after. The episode is behind us all as the kidnapping puzzle has been resolved with the professor released hale and hearty.
Receiving the COAS, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika in his office in Asaba shortly before the COAS annual conference, Governor Uduaghan told Ihejirika he was seriously disturbed about the rising spate of kidnapping and illegal bunkering in the state and called on the Army which was one of the security agencies Nigerians were looking up to, to rise to the aid of Delta State.
“Though the Army has been rising to the challenges of insecurity, a lot more needed to be done,” he said noting that “one of the three-points agenda of his administration which is providing security for the people of Delta State was being facilitated by the Army.
“The Army has assisted Delta State is achieving peace and security, because sometimes when the problem overwhelmed other security agencies, the Army was always invited and they have always responded positively by bringing the situation to normal”.
It is against this backdrop that COAS Conference was dedicated to reviewing how the army fared in the outgoing year while mapping out strategies and projections on expected challenges and other activities for 2013.
Principally, it dwelt on the terrorism challenges plaguing the nation, reviewed tactics being employed, projected into the aspect of counter terrorism training, building intelligence capacity and looked at such other areas like kidnapping, robbery incidents like attacks on banks with assorted military-like weaponry and what could be done in conjunction with other security agencies to tackle these challenges. Specifically, Boko Haram menace was dissected as well.
However, the conference with the theme ‘Consolidating Nigerian Army Transformation Drive towards Enhanced National Security’ had hardly taken off in full gear when another devastating attack, this time, on the headquarters of SARS in Abuja occurred when gunmen suspected to be sympathizers of Boko Haram tried to allegedly free their detained members. At the same period, three banks in Auchi were attacked with heavy weaponry like grenades and high intensity explosives while AK 47 rifles were freely used to kill and maim.
A determined Ihejirika who has been a source of strength and inspiration in the effort of the Nigerian Army to tackle these challenges headlong, acknowledged that the battle of these challenges though internal security operations has been daunting.
His words, “The year 2012 has been eventful and challenging for the Army but the menace of terrorism and other crimes continues to be worrisome. In spite of all efforts and strategies put to combat the challenge of terrorism in the country, it has remained an arduous task which the security agencies are determined to confront in the New Year.
“Aside from internal security responsibilities, the leadership of the army has also confronted the issue of peace in the sub-region, the continent and the world as a whole such as the peacekeeping in Liberia , Darfur , Guinea-Bissau and Mali of recent.
“In the past 12 months, the focus of the transformation process of the Nigerian Army has centered on realignment of force structure, training, re-training and innovations to meet emerging operational challenges at home and abroad. Equally, tackling of logistics and other welfare inadequacies of troops was undertaken, hence, the Chief of Army Staff vision to transform the Nigerian Army into a force better able to meet contemporary challenges has remained as relevant as when it was framed in 2010.
Consequently, the Nigerian Army Training Centre (NATRAC), Kontagora has been expanded to incorporate Advanced Recruit Training, Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency (CTCOIN) in addition to Conventional Warfare Training directorates.
“To further confront terrorism headlong, the Nigerian Army has made it mandatory for all new recruits and newly commissioned officers to be trained in counter terrorism and counter insurgency.
“The essence is to equip the young officers and soldiers with the requisite skills to meet asymmetric threats characteristics of the contemporary challenges and also provide a centre for the training of personnel of other services and the Nigeria Police.
“However, the Nigerian Army has recorded some laudable achievements in some of the Joint operations; they have increased the tempo of internal security operations in conjunction with NPF, DSS, and other security agencies.
Continuing he said “It is noteworthy that the successes achieved in OPERATIONS SANITY I, II, III covering Kogi state, Damaturu and Mubi respectively, attest to the advantages of Joint Operations and should be intensified for future operations if the country is to overcome the issue of terrorism once and for all.
“Other landmark achievements recorded in the outgoing year” he said, include “the adjustment of the areas of responsibility of 2 and 81 Divisions to optimize the use of forces and also the clumsy and difficult nature defining the boundaries between Lagos and Ogun states and its attendant problems while Ogun state is now under 81 Division with the Brigade in Abeokuta becoming 35 Artillery Brigade as one of its formations.
“A new Brigade Headquarters, 32 Artillery Brigade is now located in Akure under the 2 Division while there are also the re-establishment of units in Damaturu, Mubi, Kuje and some others”.
A particular comment from the Army Chief that was pleasing to the ear, was the aspect where he said the military and the police have agreed to work together to deal with terrorism and other related internal security challenges in the country because it is his belief that all security agencies must put hands on deck if Nigeria is to overcome the menace of terrorism.
Going by the assurances of the Army Chief, it is gratifying to note the optimism that the end of terrorism is in sight, hence, there is urgent need for government to play its part by intensifying the release of more funds to ensure that security agencies live up to the expectation.
On his part, President Goodluck Jonathan used the avenue to task the Nigerian Army to evolve new strategies that would address the security challenges facing the country before the entire nation is completely wiped out from the comity of nations.
Emphasizing on the need of joint cooperation, he maintained that it is up to the Nigerian Army to intensify efforts and work closely with other security agencies in the fight to defeat terrorism so that its threat would be a thing of the past.
The president asserted that an integral approach involving all the security agencies is crucial in effectively combating the threat, obviously to create a ‘conducive environment’ for economic activities to thrive, particularly in the affected areas of the country.
“The threat of terrorism in some parts of our country remains an issue of serious national security concern, with the potential to impede our transformation drive. The recent achievements by the security agencies in the fight to defeat terrorism underscore my earlier position that the extremist threat will soon be a thing of the past.
“I must however, emphasize that an integrated approach involving all the security agencies is crucial in effectively combating the threat so as to create a stable atmosphere for economic activities to thrive in the affected areas” he said.