Nigeria: Withdrawal of Troops From States

10 January 2020

NIGERIANS have been reacting with mixed feelings over the Federal Government's recent decision to withdraw the military from the various theatres of operation around the country.

Following the advent of Boko Haram Islamic terrorism in the North East, activities of militants in the Niger Delta, upsurge of violent crimes such as kidnapping, cultism, herdsmen terrorism, banditry and cattle rustling in the North West, the Federal Government deployed the military to tackle them.

The operations were named by such catchphrases as "Operation Python Dance", "Operation Crocodile Smile", "Operation Harbin Kunama", "Operation Ayem Akpatuma", "Operation Lafiya Dole", among others.

While some of these deployments (in the North East, North West, Niger Delta and North Central) were necessary because of the nature of the security threats, some were seen as misplaced since they were assignments constitutionally reserved for the Police.

There was undue militarisation which spread our armed forces too thin and exposed the civilian population unnecessarily.

According to William Adama, "there is a reason you separate the military and police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people".

The ugly side of the military's involvement in civil law-enforcement was seen in the ways the unarmed Shi'ites and Biafra agitators were attacked which sparked several rows between Amnesty International, the Nigerian Army and the Federal Government.

The military deployments were not properly prioritised to deal with armed groups threatening the country's territorial integrity such as Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa, ISWAP; the Zamfara bandits, and herdsmen massacring Nigerians with a view to taking over their farmlands.

In more developed countries you hardly see the military active on domestic soil except when there is a war with a neighbouring country. Our military forces in the past four years were used to do mainly police work, while many police officers were relegated to serve VIPs and those who could pay for police escorts.

We call on the Federal Government to restore the police to its place of pride by recruiting more personnel, giving them necessary training, paying them adequately, equipping and motivating them to perform their constitutional duties to the nation. The perceived sectional control of our police and military personnel must end forthwith. These forces belong to all Nigerians equally.

The armed forces should only be deployed to face foreign threats, while the Police maintain the law. In the meantime, to keep the herdsmen terrorists at bay, a thorough security assessment should be carried out in places like Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states before troops are withdrawn.

But the fight against Boko Haram and ISWA must be intensified to defeat them.

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