Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The federal government has concluded plans to deploy more military assets, including troops, intelligence personnel and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to the South-east and South-south, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
The two regions, had, in recent weeks, come under attack by armed groups, who killed policemen as well as torched police stations and correctional facilities in Abia, Ebonyi, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.
The security challenges in the two zones had engaged the attention of the National Security Council at its series of meetings held in Abuja and chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the last meeting last Tuesday, the council had given the security chiefs a fresh ultimatum of three weeks to check the rising insecurity in the country.
The council also announced that a new security strategy to contain violence in the two zones would be devised.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Alkali Usman, who also addressed State House correspondents after the meeting, declined to provide details about the new security strategy.
Also, the IG, in a wireless message with reference CB: 0900/DTS/DOPS/VOL.47/812X, titled “Attack on policemen, snatching of rifles by IPOB” warned police officers and personnel not to accompany their principals to Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia, Enugu, Imo and Rivers States until the security situation in the region improves.
However, it was learnt that security authorities were finalising plans for a massive troop and security assets deployment in the two zones to restore order.
A similar deployment was done in the two zones under the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd), codenamed Operation Python Dance in the South-east and Operation Crocodile Smile in the South-south and South-west.
THISDAY gathered from security sources that the planned deployment is aimed at neutralising armed groups responsible for the killing of security agents and destruction of security formations in the two zones.
There have also been concerns that 11 years of insurgency and the recent upsurge of mass kidnappings by bandits across the country and the killing of policemen by armed groups in the South-east and South-south have combined to stretch, significantly, the capacity of security forces to contain non-state actors, who have taken up arms against the state.
A security source told THISDAY that the new security strategy for the two regions was aimed at neutralising armed groups as a disincentive to further violence in the two regions.
He said: “It is not more than deploying the Army because the police formations are overwhelmed. At the height of insurgency, police stations in Bauchi State were guarded by soldiers.
“I don’t see any other thing than the military, including the navy, air force playing the lead role in internal security in the regions instead of the police.
“The idea is that when armed groups go and destroy security formations and there is no response, they will be emboldened to go to other places but when they are neutralised, it will serve as a disincentive.”
Spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, declined to comment on the security arrangements for the two regions when contacted by THISDAY.
However, senior retired security personnel said the security strategy for the two regions might also be linked with dialogue or a total, containment package.
He explained: “If they say they have developed a strategy, it is either government will seek dialogue or they go all out, armed resolution or both.
“We are hoping that the new strategy will work. Whatever strategy government adopts, what we want is peace.
“The strategy should be one that brings solution because the attacks are spreading.
“For the government to find a solution, they must identify those behind the attacks.
“Until you identify those behind these attacks, I don’t think there is going to be any solution to it.”
A civil society activist, who spoke anonymously, said a security strategy that is hidden from the public may not be a workable strategy.
“We are here. If they start killing and abducting people, we will know. If they start bombing people, we will know.
“They have been going about doing the same thing. Any strategy that the government is hiding must be atrocious.
“In any case, whatever the strategy will be the world is watching,” he said.