By Taye Obateru & Hope Ofobike, Jos
The military and their operations, especially when drafted to a place to restore order, are often associated with a no-nonsense attitude to depict the seriousness of their mission. Thus, it is usual to see road blocks and other security bulwarks in the effort to restore law and order.
However, in Plateau State another side of the Special Task Force, STF, code-named Operation Safe Haven is being seen by the people through community service activities for the benefit of various communities. The STF was set up by the Federal Government some years back to bring to an end the incessant violence in the state and its environs. Since its introduction, the STF has deployed various means to curb the recurring killings and destructions of lives and property in the state.
Apart from advocacy strategies to encourage people to lay down their arms and the use of dialogue, the STF has been rendering free medical facilities, provision of improved seedlings, organising seminars and parleys for youths in the crisis-ridden communities, among others.
This strategy, according to the STF, has helped in restoration of the relative peace enjoyed in the state.
Determined to consolidate on the gains of previous efforts, the STF recently rehabilitated 25 boreholes in various crisis-ridden communities in three local government areas of Barkin-Ladi, Riyom and Jos South. Commander for the Open Plateau Peace Initiative, as the programme is tagged, Daniels Harry, said the initiative is to endear the people and bring them close to the STF as a family.
He said the initiative which started nine months ago began with free medical treatments, educational supports, vocational training as well as organising seminars and parleys with youth on the peace process in Plateau State. He added that the programme initiated quick impact projects, assisting women through provision of improved seedling and fertilizer.
Harry said the STF believes doing this will eventually lead to the disarmament of the villagers and restoring the much awaited peace. According to him: “The rehabilitated boreholes were built in the villages since 2009 before the STF came into Jos, but due to mismanagement they were abandoned. He added that the STF decided to rehabilitate them “for better public use” and urged the benefitting communities to make the best of the boreholes.
The Commander of the STF, Major General Henry Ayoola, said at the commissioning of the boreholes that the operation of the command is based on the military strategy that combines both the military and civilian cooperation “which is an international concept, just like an organisations social responsibility”. He maintained that security is a collective responsibility and solicited the cooperation of the people with the STF in the effort to restore peace to the state.
Earlier while commissioning the boreholes in Riyom and Barkin Ladi, the Deputy Governor of the state, Ignatius Longjan, stressed the importance of peace for development. According to him, “the developments experienced in different parts of the state and the rural communities is largely due to the relative peace that has been embraced by the indigenes of the state”.
Longjam said the STF has not only come to provide security for the people but they have also secured lives through the provision of clean waters.
“If you are not killed through violence you can also be killed by drinking unclean water, by this provisions the STF have reduced the suffering of our people. The military have not only protected you but have also provided infrastructures for you,” he stated. While condoling the affected communities for the loss of lives and property, the Deputy Governor appreciated the Fulanis and Berom communities in Barkin Ladi for signing an agreement to embrace peace. He called on them to cooperate with the STF for total restoration of peace.
Responding to the gesture of the STF, the Management Committee Chairmen of Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas, Emmanuel Longjan and Sam Audu appreciated the effort of the task force in working hard to restore peace in the affected communities. They added that except for some skirmishes experienced in the area of grazing cows and some unexpected attacks, peace has returned to the communities.
Residents were unanimous that STF’s strategy of combining strict military duties with community service was working well in the search for peace among the people and urged that it should be sustained.