*Urges Nigerians to support operations to end crime
A civil society group, Middle Belt Conscience Guard, has reacted to the declaration of operation Ayem Akpatuma, otherwise known as Operation Cat Race in Benue, Kogi and other northern states to end the endless clashes between farmers and herdsmen as well as other related criminal cases in the areas.
Recall that the Nigerian Army had Wednesday announced plans to conduct Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states) from Thursday 15 February to Saturday 31 March 2018.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. TY Buratai, who made the announcement, said 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 communities particularly in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States by armed militias.
The middle belt group, while describing it as a welcome development, called on all Nigerians to put all hands on deck to support the operation.
Prince Raymond Enero, the National President, who spoke on behalf of the group, called on the political class to desist from the tendency to exploit an operation like this for selfish gains
The statement reads in full.
The Nigerian Army has announced plans to begin “Operation Cat Race” in Benue, Taraba, Niger and Kaduna states. From the details provided to the public, the military operation is meant to deal with the herders-farmers’ clashes and other criminal activities in these states.
We have learnt that other military and security services will be collaborating with the Nigerian Army during the operation that would target killer-herdsmen, cattle rustlers, armed bandits, kidnappers, armed militias and other criminal elements in addition to providing training for troops.
The Middle Belt Conscience Guard is a group that is committed to safeguarding the interest of the people in the states that make up Nigeria’s middle belt or north-central geo-political states and the overlapping ethnic nationals of geographically congruous states to the aforementioned areas.
Our group had wished for this kind of military operation owing to the menace of the identified security problems that falls within the remit of the operation. We had made series of contacts to get such intervention and we are today elated that our wishes are coming to pass.
The people of the Middle Belt region would be the ultimate winner when Operation Cat Race succeeds as we expect it to. We look forward to a time when the states in the Middle Belt would no longer be used as the poster states for avoidable bloodletting. We are eager to a return to a time when the entire area covered by the North-Central geo-political zone and outlying areas are back to providing an abundance of plant and animal produce to nourish the country with surplus left for export.
Such expectation can only come to fruition when farmers and herders are not at each other’s jugular, when expats and investors can visit to prospect without fear of being kidnapped and when people are confident of their safety while in transit for their legitimate livelihood.
We are aware that similar deployments in certain other geo-political zones were unnecessarily sensationalized, politicized and demonized by groups that have dark agenda for their people. Such attitude was even as the larger population in these areas hailed the succession of the operations by the Nigerian Army as helping to restore peace, sanity and stability in their towns and villages.
The medical outreaches that accompanied these exercises have been hailed to being lifesavers for people who would have otherwise have no access to medical care. Our own position is that we want the Nigerian Army’s stabilizing presence in our communities, we want to be rid of killers under whatever guise, we want our indigent people to get healing from the medical outreach.
The Middle Belt Conscience Guard therefore called on our people across the region to give their maximum cooperation to the military. They should see Operation Cat Race as redemption that will allow them free themselves from criminals that had terrorized them in recent months. As law abiding people, we appeal to members of all our communities to provide information that will enable troops track down the killers that are clouding our land with sadness.
We want to appeal to the political class to desist from the tendency to exploit an operation like this for selfish gains. The sanctity of the life of our people is greater than any monetary, material or positional gains anyone could hope to make.
This is why we warn state governors, the leadership of farmers’ groups or associations, the leadership of herders’ groups or associations, traditional and religious leaders not to engage in any acts that would deprive the people of the Middle-Belt of the advantages of the military exercise. Because we see this as a timely intervention to avert further bloodshed in our region, we will not hesitate to rise against anyone that that stands in the path of our return to peace.
Gentlemen of the press, permit us to use this platform to commend the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai for his demonstration of patriotism. He has continued to lead the Nigerian Army to protect the sanctity of lives of all Nigerians. It is most reassuring that Army promised to observe rules of engagement in the conduct of the exercise.
Even on a higher note, we commend President Muhammadu Buhari, without whose approval as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Operation Cat Race would not have been. Both great men have our vote of confidence.