By Vincent Ujumadu & Nkiruka Nnorom
Awka—THE Nigerian Army, yesterday, began a security operation code-named Exercise Python Dance, in the five South-East states as part of efforts to ensure a hitch-free Yuletide period, with a warning to groups in the area that they would be the target if they foment trouble during the period.
Visible signs of the operation were already in place in Anambra State yesterday, as its step-up headquarters located at the Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre, Awka, was decorated with Army camouflage.
The one-month exercise would end on December 27, after which the Army would be on ground to maintain peace in the various communities in the geo-political zone.
Deputy Director of Army Public Relations of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sagir Musa, told reporters in Awka that the prevalent security issues such as robbery, kidnapping, abduction, herdsmen-farmers clashes and violent secessionist attacks, among others, would be the main focus of the exercise.
Essentially, he said that any group that threatened the security of the nation in the zone would be disarmed, adding that the exercise became necessary because of the rise in violent crimes during the yuletide period.
Col Musa said that for the purpose of the exercise, there would be increase in the number of soldiers and check points in the zone, adding that troops would also be moving from one point to the other to maintain peace.
He said that after the exercise, the Army would continue to maintain internal security in line with the existing joint security task forces in the states, insisting that the military would not hesitate to apply the rules of engagement to deploy troops to deal with secessionists as appropriate
Musa said: “It would be recalled that the Chief of Army Staff, having painstakingly appraised the myriad of security challenges and scenarios across the country, ordered the conduct of both command post and field training exercises as a way of enhancing troops preparedness across the spectrum of contemporary challenges.
“Exercise Python Dance has been planned for the South-East Region from November 27 to December 27. It will be multi-agency in nature: Nigerian Army and other security agencies are expected to synergise and collaborate extensively and an elaborate civil-military cooperation line of operation has been planned during the exercise.
“The Nigerian Army Corps and Services would conduct activities such as medical outreach, repairs of roads, schools and other infrastructure across the South-East region.
“The Chief of Army Staff has therefore directed that a contingent of durable mechanism be imbued in the overall planning and execution of the exercise to achieve a hitch-free yuletide for the entire region.”
Vanguard recalls that as part of the Army’s field training exercises across the country, there had been similar operations in the North-East, North-West, South-West and Niger Delta.
… as IPOB/MASSOB declare member missing
Meanwhile, the pro-Biafra groups have raised alarm over the safety of one of their members, Livinus Okoli, who disappeared without a trace three months ago.
Okoli hailed from Ndiukwuenu in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, and was a social crusader that belonged to IPOB, MASSOB and Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO.
A statement by Johnson Okoro, spokesperson for IPOB/MASSOB, Orumba North Province, Anambra State, said Okoli was reported missing after he was arrested and released by security agents for his pro-Biafra activities three months ago.
He noted that prior to his arrest, Okoli was wrongly accused of being a ‘terrorist’ for agitating for the actualisation of the sovereign state of Biafra and adjudged an enemy of the Nigerian state.
He said: “Livinus was not arrested for any terrorist activity or economic sabotage. He was a leading pro-Biafra voice and agitator.
“We fear for Livinus’ life based on a fresh manhunt for him by the security agents issued after he along with others led a pro-Biafra street procession three months ago.”