By Simon Ebegbulem
BENINâ€”Soldiers in the Joint Task Force, JTF, code named Operation Thunderstorm, withdrawn prior to the Etsako Central House of Assembly re-run election by the Minister of Defence, General Godwin Abbe, returned to duties yesterday.
This comes as a group, Edo South Leadersâ€™ Movement, gave the Defence Minister seven days ultimatum to apologise to the people of Edo State for the role he played in the withdrawal of the soldiers.
It would be recalled that thousands of people thronged the streets of Benin to protest the withdrawal of the soldiers by the Defence Minister, who is a native of the state.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who described the action as wicked and an attempt to rubbish the efforts of the state government in checking the excesses of kidnappers and armed robbers, took the protest to Abuja last week and stressed the need to allow the soldiers return to their duty post.
Shortly after the withdrawal of the soldiers, the Anglican Bishop ofÂ Benin Diocese and Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Edo State chapter, Rt Rev. Peter Imasuen, was abducted by armed men suspected to be kidnappers.
They immediately opened contact with the family, demanding N50million as ransom.
However, the Commander, 4 Brigade, Benin City, General Ugwu Chima, who confirmed the return of the soldiers when he received the Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Security, Mr Uyi Igbe, said the directive for the men of the Nigerian Army to return to the JTF came from the Military High Command.
He explained that there was a specific instruction to withdraw the army personnel a week before Etsako Central House of Assembly re-run election and to recall them to duty after the election, adding that the order affected other states and not only Edo.
General Chima condemned the spate of kidnapping in the state and urged residents to always provide useful information to security agents in order to fish out criminals in the state.
Speaking earlier, Mr Igbe, who commended the efforts of the military in assisting other security agents to protect the citizens of the country, expressed joy over the return of the soldiers, saying their presence in the streets had started bringing smiles to the faces of the people.
Meanwhile, the group which is composed of leaders from the seven local government areas that make up Edo South senatorial district, warned that any attempt to undermine this ultimatum would provoke a ten thousand man procession to the Presidential villa to demand for the resignation of the Minister.
In an address read to newsmen yesterday, by Godwin Adenomo (Ovia South West), signed by Kenneth Edebiri, Aiyemenkhue Edokpolo, Osahon Imaru and five others, the group said it was laughable to note that a Defense Minister, in an attempt to please his godfather, would totally disregard the orders of his President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and render vulnerable the very people he was appointed to protect and defend.
â€œCustomarily speaking, it is a taboo in Bini land for a man or woman to spearhead a war or clandestinely instigate crisis against his own clan, village or settlement or people.
â€œTherefore in as much as General Abbe has continued to work within the dictates of Mr Fix it to the detriment of the entire Edo people, so long we will continue to denounce his leadership.
â€œThis is not one of those press relevance that people seek on the pages of newspapers, at least, no one should be in doubt of our resolve to actualize this objective,â€ the group stated.