Buhari and state of the nation: Is Nigeria at war with itself?

TO say that the proliferation of internal military operations in Nigeria should be a source of serious concern to all of us is actually an understatement. Is it not mind-blowing that at the last count, Nigeria, a country that is not under attack from outside has over 14 full -scale military operations all geared towards internal security maintaining law and order, peace and security?

We have always been told that these major internal security operations were to combat terrorism from extremist groups particularly the Boko Haram Islamic sect; deadly Fulani herdsmen; cattle rustlers; oil thieves and pipeline vandals and even armed robbers and kidnappers. Despite how good and well-intended the stated missions seemed, the frequency at which these operations are coming these days should actually worry our leaders more so when curiously none of these military operations has ever been decisive.

As if all they do is sit down and craft poetic titles for their exercises, the Nigerian military has this fleet of ongoing major operations across the country: Operation Lafia Dole; Operation Gama Aiki; Operation Shirin Harbi; Operation Safe Corridor; Operation Safe Haven; Operation Sara Daji; Operation Harbin Kunama; Operation Delta Safe which was formerly Operation Pulo Shield; Operation Crocodile Smile; Operation Tsera Teku; Operation Eagle Eye; Operation Awase; Operation Mesa; Operation Iron Fence and, Operation Python Dance etc.

First, there is a Joint Task Force (JTF) operation tagged: “Operation Mesa” against all forms of criminal activities in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

It is also a common knowledge as widely reported in the media that the North East has one major operation; Operation Lafiya Dole which is broken down into several specific assignment operations including Operation Crackdown to wind down the war against insurgents and clear the remnants of the Boko Haram sect in Sambisa Forest; Operation Gama Aiki, which serves same purpose in the northern part of Borno state; and Operation Safe Corridor, set up for the de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram terrorists.

In the North Central zone, the military has Operation Safe Haven stationed in Plateau State with area of operation extending to Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kwara States to quell ethno-religious conflicts and other criminal activities.

There is also Operation Sara Daji and Operation Harbin Kunama in the North West, established to battle the criminal activities of armed bandits, cattle rustlers and robbers operating particularly in Zamfara, Kaduna and fringes of Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Kano states.

The military in the South-South has a major operation codenamed “Operation Delta Safe” which was formerly “Operation Pulo Shield.” It is now complemented by the Nigerian Army’s “Operation Crocodile Smile,” and Navy’s “Operation Tsera Teku,” and the latest to be launched: “Operation Eagle Eyes.” These operations are all aimed at crushing the resurgent Niger Delta militancy and other acts of criminality like crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and bunkering in the region.

In the Southwest, there is “Operation Awase” with a mandate to contain the criminal operations around Ogun-Lagos axis, particularly in Arepo where illegal oil (petroleum products) bunkering and pipeline vandalism are regular occurrences.

The Southeast has “Operation Iron Fence” to combat armed robbers, hooligans and kidnappers. Also, the military recently launched the “Operation Python Dance” to checkmate the emerging non-militant Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

How did we get to this point that the military has taken over our civil space in matters that could have ordinarily been tackled by the Police Force and Department of State Security Service if not for the misplaced or rather deviated priorities of the two agencies? Aside the huge cost of these operations in terms of funds, and human resources, we should actually re-examine if we are really not overstretching our military.

Several groups and concerned Nigerians have lately been expressing their opinions on the proliferation of military operations in internal security sphere. And as said in a statement signed by Mark Olise, Communications Director of the Lower Niger Congress, “Ordinarily, citizens of a country should be happy and indeed proud, that the military and para-military forces of that country are taking steps to combat violent crimes and contain security threats that come upon the country or its citizens in or from any part.

“However, where, as the case at hand in the Lower Niger, disputations and agitations, arising from long-standing but neglected constitutional grievances from one region or another are left to degenerate, fester and mutate into all manners of complex problems, manifesting in what is then profiled, calibrated and labelled in terms that generally fall under the omnibus “security threat” requiring massive Military Operations to contain, a responsibility arises, to inform the political and military authorities in the Country that constitutional grievances are political problems requiring political solutions rather than military intervention.

The Police and DSS are supposed to be our internal security first responders but these two agencies have been degraded that both seem to have lost the reasons for their existence. The DSS in addition to hanging around politicians and political office holders, is now more interested in doing EFCC’s job in fighting corruption and raiding Bureau d’ Change markets rather than engaging in generating timely and quality intelligence to aid in the nation’s internal security efforts.

According to a defence analyst, two things easily come to mind: “We failed over the years to upgrade the capability of our police force to cope with internal problems. Also, we more than ever before, prefer military solutions to solving problems even where mere dialogue would have worked. These are failures of our successive governments for which steps should be taken to correct.”

Is it not shameful that we have a well-funded and fully equipped secret police service agency in this country and we had groups like the Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants and rampaging Fulani herdsmen metamorphosed from village criminal gangs to the present well-organised international syndicates without being spotted and checkmated at the onset? What happened to our intelligence gathering in this country or those who were to check these miscreants actually looked the other way for whatever reasons while the different groups garnered strengths to inconvenience everybody?

Whether anyone wants to hear this or not, the Nigerian military is doing a good job today but this is not without some serious consequences to the future of our armed forces. We should honestly look at this issue with a view to re-invent our police and DSS to effective take over majority of the internal security operations and freeing our military from the encumbrance of chasing armed robbers and cattle rustlers. #Istand-with-the-military! God bless Nigeria!