Troops are to go after killer-herdsmen and the militia behind the killings in Benue, Taraba, Niger and Kaduna states, the army said yesterday.
President Muhammadu Buhari warned in Nasarawa on Tuesday that attacks by “herdsmen” and other bandits would no longer be tolerated.
The Army said it would begin a special exercise tagged: ”Operation Cat Race”, which in Tiv language means “Ayem Akpatuma’’ to tackle the recurring herdsmen/farmers clashes and criminal activities in the states.
Troops will be deployed in the four states from next week. The exercise is billed for February 15 – March 31.
Chief of Training and Operations, Army Headquarters, Mr David Ahmadu, a Major-General, who represented Chief of Army Staff, Mr Tukur Buratai, a Lt-General, said the exercise would be targeted at killer-herdsmen, cattle rustlers, armed bandits, kidnappers, armed militias and other criminal elements.
He listed other security agencies that will participate in the exercise as Department of States Services (DSS), police, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other Security institutions.
Ahmadu said the exercise would cover the 1 and 3 Divisions representing the Northwest and North central geopolitical zones. Guards Brigade, 707 Special Forces Brigade, and Headquarters Army Command will also be involved.
He said it would also aid civil authority to address those challenges.
“More so, Exercise Ayem Akpatuma has become more expedient due to upsurge in cases of armed banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in Kaduna and Niger states as well as other sundry crimes in Kogi State and herdsmen/farmers clashes and attacks on innocent members of our communities, particularly in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states by armed militias.
“These security challenges have continued unabated in these states, despite the efforts by sister security agencies to curb them.
“The need for troops to be exercised, refreshed and to imbibe the requisite skills to cope with these emerging security challenges within the 1 and 3Divisions, including Headquarters, Army Records, Guards Brigade and 707 Special Forces Brigade Areas of Responsibility in aid of civil authority, calls for this exercise,’’ Ahmadu said.
According to him, it will also afford troops the opportunity to effectively checkmate the dreadful activities of the marauding criminal militias perpetrating criminal acts in those states and their environs.
He said that the exercise was “conceptualised to dovetail into real time operations, thereby fulfilling both training and operations objectives of sharpening operational skills of personnel.
“It will also provide an avenue to conduct operations against violent criminals when called upon,’’ he said.
The chief of Training said that the exercise would be unique as “Step-Up Brigade Headquarters’’ would be established in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger sStates.
“Emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon-and-search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force, as well as humanitarian activities, such as medical outreach,’’ he added.
Ahmadu called on members of the public in the affected states not to panic as their security, safety and well being had been “deliberately factored in to the planning of the exercise’’.
He also assured that troops taking part in the exercise would be guided by the professional “Code of Conduct, Rules of Engagement and the respect for human rights’’.
He said that in case of complaints, the public could call the “Nigerian Army Short Code Information and Call Centre 193’’.