The Nigerian Army announced yesterday that it has concluded plans to deploy its troops to conduct operation Ayem Akpatuma (Cat Race) from next week Thursday in a bid to tackle armed banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in some volatile states in the country.
Specifically, the exercise that will last till March 31 this year is an operation meant to end herdsmen/farmers clashes and attacks on innocent members of communities in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States by armed men.
The operation Ayem Akpatuma, a Tiv term which means Cat Race in English translation is also targeted at combating cattle rustling in Kaduna and Niger States as well as sundry crimes in Kogi State.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, announced the launch of the operations yesterday at the Nigerian Army Headquarters Abuja.
Briefing journalists on the planned operations, Buratai who was represented by the Army Chief of Training and Operations, Major General David Ahmadu, said these security challenges have continued unabatedly in the said states despite efforts by sister security agencies to curb them.
He expressed 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 3 Divisions, including HQ CAR, Guards Brigade and 707 SF Brigade Areas of Responsibility.
Noting that the exercise is in aid of civil authority calls.
Buratai said the drive towards actualising his vision, which is "to have a Professionally Responsive NA in the discharge of its constitutional roles", informed the plan for the conduct of the exercise.
According to him, the exercise will be conducted in conjunction with other security agencies such as Department of State Services, the Nigeria Police Force Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
He said the exercise would also afford the troops an opportunity to effectively checkmate the dreadful activities of the marauding criminal militias perpetrating criminal acts in the said states and their environs.
His words: "Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA will also be unique as the ones before it, with the establishment of Step-Up Brigade Headquarters in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger States.
"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.
"It is pertinent to note that Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA is set to be another remarkable exercise that would make the nation proud of the Nigerian Army's determination at sustaining its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the nation as well as its commitment to aid the civil authority to bring about peace and security in troubled areas.
"Furthermore, the troops taking part in the exercise would be guided by the Professional Code of Conduct, Rules of Engagement and the respect for human rights".
The Army Chief implored the general public to remain vigilant and be security conscious, saying suspected criminals may be fleeing from military operations in volatile areas and finding safe haven in other communities.
He continued: "The public is also reminded to report any suspicious activity or movement to the nearest military formation or other security agencies for prompt action.
"In order to ensure cordial civil-military relations, we shall make contact phone numbers of all Brigade Commanders public in addition to the Nigerian Army short code Information and Centre 193" COAS said".
Burati further urged members of the public, especially residents of Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger States not to panic as the security, safety and well being of innocent and law abiding citizens have been deliberately factored in the planning of the Cat Race exercise.