By Frank Itodo
In the annals of the Nigerian Army, it has never been this tough. The crisis in North-East Nigeria is taking its toll, and this calls for concern from all critical stakeholders. That we have managed to stay secured remains a mystery because the Nigerian Army has been stretched thin in the task of ensuring that Nigeria’s territory is preserved from eternal aggression and also ensuring that every Nigerian is free to go about his or her endeavours without fear.
This didn’t happen overnight. In my opinion, it is as a result of the failure of past leadership in the country to correctly orientate and equip the Nigerian Police for greater efficiency. They felt it wasn’t such a big deal to have a responsive police force that would live up to expectation. So the result is the involvement of the Nigerian Army in roles that ordinarily the Nigerian Police should be able to handle.
The Nigerian Army had indeed saved the day when the nation was bedevilled with activities of militant groups. I recall the case of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which indeed tasked the operational effectiveness of the Nigerian Police that the Nigerian Army had to come to the rescue. And as usual, a crisis of phenomenal proportion was averted.
What Nigerians didn’t realize was that the Nigerian Police whose constitutional role it is to quell such uprising were helpless and could not match the violent nature of the IPoB militant group. And as they say, the rest is also history and no form of commendation was extended to the Nigerian Army.
We were also witnessed to the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers that almost brought the economy of the country to its knees. Again the Nigerian Police was missing in action for lacking in the capacity to deal with the threat posed by the Niger Delta Avengers. This too became history not without the great sacrifices made by the Nigerian Army.
The interesting thing about the failure of the Nigerian Police int the discharge of its duties is the fact that at some point the Nigerian Army was simultaneously carrying out eleven military operations across the country at the same time. For example, there was Operation Lafiya Dole set up to counter-terrorism and Boko Haram insurgency. It was later expanded to specialized operations including “Operation Crackdown,” “Operation Gama Aiki,” and “Operation Safe Corridor.”
There was also Operation Crocodile Smile II, an exercise which involves amphibious war games in the Niger Delta region and parts of Ogun State. It was aimed at protecting the nation’s crude oil infrastructure. Operation Tsera Teku was launched in Warri, Delta state to check piracy in the Niger Delta region. Operation Awatse was started to dismantle the operational bases of pipeline vandals and militants in the coastal areas of southwest Nigeria.
Operation Sharan Daji/ Operation Harbin Kunama II was established in the Northwest to battle armed bandits, cattle rustlers and robbers operating mainly in Zamfara, Kaduna, and fringes of Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Kano states. Operation Safe Haven is stationed in Plateau State with areas of operation extending to Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kwara state to quell ethno-religious conflicts and other criminal activities.
Operation Delta Safe This was set up to replace Operation Pulo Shield. It is aimed at containing security challenges in the Niger Delta, especially the protection of critical national assets and provision of security in the area. Amongst a host of others.
What does this tell us? It’s merely the fact that the Nigerian Police failed woefully in the above areas that the Nigerian Army had to step in. With such operations by the Nigerian Army, it is sufficing to say that the Nigerian Army has been indeed stretched thin. However, they have not buckled, and we do not need to wait for them to buckle before the right thing should be done.
The Nigerian Police must get serious and stop playing to the gallery. The times we are in requires that they put their best foot forward in the area of crime prevention, maintenance of law and order and dealing with societal disorders. The political authorities in Nigeria must commend the Nigerian Army for its invaluable contribution to the sustenance of peace in Nigeria.
The political authorities must also see the burden on the shoulders of the Nigerian Army with its various operations in the country and begin the process of overhauling the operations of the Nigerian Police for greater efficiency before things get out of hand.
I have reserved praises for the leadership of the Nigerian Army whose dynamism has been brought to bear in dealing with the myriads of security challenges in the country including those within its purview and those outside its purview. I cant but encourage the leadership of the Nigerian Army not to relent in this arduous task that has stretched it thin.
Also, for the leadership of the Nigerian Police, there ought to be a significant reorganization of its operations to reflect the exigencies of time. This is not the time to play to the gallery, but rather, this is the time to take a cue from the Nigerian Army and be the best they can be. If this is not done, then there would be no moral justification for officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force to continue to draw salaries monthly.
The task of securing Nigeria is not an impossible one. It only requires commitment and sincerity of purpose as exemplified by the conduct of the Nigerian Army. It is naturally expected that the Nigerian Police should take a cue from the Nigerian Army if they are indeed desirous of making meaningful contributions to peace and stability in Nigeria.
*Itodo is a member of the public and contributed this article from Ikeja, Lagos.