The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, at the official flag-off of Exercise Egwu Eke; also known as ‘The Python Dance’, on Tuesday in Lagos, has promised that the operation would be used to tackle electoral crimes, amongst other sundry security issues.
Buratai, who made this disclosure at the kick-off of the exercise in the Lagos area, also said the operation will help ameliorate the Apapa gridlock, as well as provide free medical care to citizens, before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
He particularly noted that the operation will tackle the menance of banditry, rustling, terrorism, kidnapping, robbery and militancy in the country, as well as fake news.
He said: “I am highly delighted to be here today for the flag off of Ex Egwu Eke III (Python Dance III) in 81 Division Area of Responsibility (AOR).
“This is another historic and important event geared towards reassuring law abiding citizens and Nigerians in general of the resolve of the Nigerian Army to provide adequate security and safety even as the nation approaches the 2019 General Elections.
“This significant event is also a reassurance of the resolve of the Nigerian Army to conduct joint operations in collaboration with other security and para-military agencies in aid to civil authority.
“The objective is to reinvigorate all existing operations in the country with additional manpower, equipment and resources to address the lingering security problems in the country.
“I assure Nigerians that at the end of the exercise which is also conducted simultaneously by other divisions in the army, the python must have swallowed all the bandits, rustlers, terrorists, kidnappers, robbers and militants in the country.
“The Python will also swallow thugs and other miscreants that may raise their heads to disturb peace in the country.”
On the issue of fake news, Buratai lamented that the increasing rate of such anomaly and that of unpatriotic elements that are impeding military operations and demoralising forces at the expense of national security.
He said: “The exercise is a realistic training package in Internal Security operations, clearance operations, emergency management, rescue operations, road blocks, cordon and search as well as anti–kidnapping and anti-cultism.
“It is necessary to draw attention of well-meaning Nigerians that while reporting issues of defence and security, they must have at the back of their minds the importance of national security.
“Just as mentioned earlier, defence and national security is not all comer’s affairs. No one is permitted to divulge any information that is injurious to national security.
“This is contained in the Official Secret Act 1962. ‘Section 1(3) of this Act state that a person who transmits any classified matter to a person to whom is not authorised on behalf of the government to transmit it; or obtains, reproduces or retains any classified matter which he is not authorised on behalf of the government to obtain, reproduce or retain, as the case may be, is guilty of an offence’.
“I enjoin Nigerians to be mindful of the fact that this is the only country that we have and all efforts should be focused to save it from the claws of unpatriotic elements fighting to pull the country down.
“Giving out official information or spreading fake news is inimical to national security.”
On the gains of the ongoing Operation Awatse in the West, he said: “Prior to Exercise Egwu Eke III, recall that Operation AWATSE among others have intensified operations to crack down the activities of illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism, kidnapping, armed robbery and cultism among others.
“It is worthy to note that operations conducted against economic sabotage by pipeline vandals and cultists as well as other criminals have achieved commendable successes.
“Several vandals have been apprehended while other criminal elements especially cultists are on the run. The momentum of the operation must be sustained.”
He further charged personnel to continue to display professionalism in the discharge of their constitutional roles while acting in aid to civil authority.
“Do not provide any opportunity for criminal elements to infiltrate your ranks. You must also embark on Civil Military Relations activities like medical outreach and others.
“Let me use this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the Nigerian Army and our mandate in aid to civil authority. Accordingly, Exercise Egwu Eke III has the mandate to provide adequate protection and security for the good people of Nigeria.
“You must deal decisively with the criminals while observing strict Rules of Engagement and ensure the right of law abiding citizens are protected,” he added.
He also called on the citizenry to provide troops adequate support and cooperation, especially timely information to enable them to accomplish their task.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by the Special Adviser on Security and Intelligence, Adekunle Ajanaku, commended the army.
He said: “Perhaps, apart from the North-east, the Chief of Army Staff has visited Lagos more than any other state. His Excellency also identifys with the army at this time in the remembrance of our fallen Hero’s.
“From the tone set by the chief, the python is very hungry and has so many foods to feed upon. We appreciate that operation Egwu Eke 111 is indeed going to enforce other measures that are already on ground like the OP-MESA, and other task forces like that of traffic management in Apapa area of Lagos State.
“The state government is ever willing to support this initiative in Lagos State as government through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund.”