Appraising Army’s Ex-Sahel Sanity in combating banditry
By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Armed forces of Nigeria launched a number of operations in the North West and North Central zones of the country aimed at combating and eradicating banditry including kidnapping, cattle rustling and other sundry security challenges in the zones since 2015.
It appeared in recent time as if the military and other security agencies had no solution to the problem which has elicited comments and call from different quarters for the military to change their strategies. In some quarters, the call for the change of security architecture and/or removal of the service chiefs is also very loud.
To find a lasting solution to these lingering security challenges and show the resolve of the military to deal with the recalcitrant bandits in the north western states of Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara and parts of Kaduna and Niger states, the Federal Government launched the Exercise Sahel Sanity on July 6, 2020.
The commencement of the exercise which transformed into real time operation, heralded the 2020 Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL), which took place at the Special Army Super Camp 4 in Faskari, Katsina State, the hub of the exercise.
After one month of the commencement of Ex- Sahel Sanity, various stakeholders like the members of the National Assembly, governors of the affected states and the traditional rulers, have given their appraisal of the exercise.
According to information released from the operation centre, since the beginning of Ex Sahel Sanity, series of operational successes has been achieved which include capture and destruction of bandits’ enclaves and logistics such as the notorious bandits leader Dangote triangular camp in Jibia Forest on July 18.
There was also the recovery of several arms and ammunition, killing of several armed bandits, rescue of kidnapped victims as well as recovery of several rustled cattle and arrest of suspected bandits and their collaborators.
The centre revealed that the troops had in various operations killed 81 and arrested 78 armed bandits, rescued 48 kidnapped victims, arrested 13 bandits’ logistic suppliers, arrested one arms supplier, arrested seven buyers of rustled cattle and recovered 2,855 cattle and 1,081 sheep as well as several arms and ammunition.
These successes, according to the centre, have paved way for massive resumption of farming, social and economic activities by residents of the affected areas while troops have continued to dominate the general areas with aggressive patrols.
During the visit by the Chairmen, Senate and House of Representative Committees on Army, Sen. Ali Ndume and Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, to the Special Army Super Camp in Faskari on Aug. 8, they applauded the renewed efforts of the Nigerian army against the scourge of banditry in the north west and north central zones.
The Chairman, Senate Committee, Ndume, said his concern that farming activities could be stalled due to issues of banditry at its peak at the beginning of the farming season had been addressed seeing that farmers had been able to go back to their farms in various parts of the region.
“I can confidently tell the people that with what I have seen between here and Kaduna that we that depend on the North West for basic grains or food supply have no cause to panic and that farming activities are going on. We also saw herdsmen herding their cattle scattered from kaduna down to here (Katsina).
“I am really elated at what the army has been able to achieve with its limited resources and from the briefing we just received, the successes recorded is very commendable,” he said.
The Chairman, House Committee, Namdas, on his part also commended the Nigerian army for the launch of the exercise, adding that the successes recorded in one month was commendable.
According to him, the number of arrests of bandits and rescue of kidnapped victims also showed the level of successes so far recorded.
Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State, during his visit on Aug. 10, said that prior to the commencement of Ex-Sahel Sanity, several villages were being attacked and citizens displaced by the bandits with attendant high number of casualties.
Masari specifically recalled how the bandits attacked and killed over 50 people in one community on June 5, followed by another attack almost a month after in Batsari area of the state.
The governor also called on the locals in various communities to assist the security agencies with useful information and shun any act of giving information about troops movement to bandits in order to enable the military track and apprehend the bandits.
Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, who was at the camp alongside his Sokoto state counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal on Aug. 11, also commended the Nigerian Army for the commencement of the Exercise.
Matawalle was optimistic that the troops would be better positioned to defeat the criminals at the end of the exercise, adding that the state had begun to witness some level of peace in different parts.
On his part, Gov. Tambuwal said that Sokoto state was gradually returning to peace especially the eastern part where we have had many challenges of banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping and if we can have more and more of this, we will soon end this issue of insecurity.
Tambuwal said that the military needed more funding in terms of equipment and welfare, adding that there should be special funding other than the conventional budgetary appropriation by the national assembly.
On Aug. 12, the governors of Niger and Kaduna States, Alhaji Abubakar Bello and Malam Nasir El-Rufai, were at the camp o see the level of successes by the Nigerian Army in respect of the exercise.
On his part, Bello said that the planned expansion of operations in the region by establishing more camps would go a long way towards addressing the security challenges, adding that most of the forest areas where bandits operate are connected to the affected states as well as between the boundaries of various states.
“I believe that once these locations are manned fully, it will definitely go a long way towards improving security. Overall, I think tremendous successes have been recorded so far and I am sure the Nigerian army are up to the task.
“It will only get better and very soon we will have a serene and safe environment so that economic activities would continue,” he added.
Gov. El-Rufai said that the biggest fear of the governors earlier in the year was that the level of banditry escalated in various states in the North West and Niger state could cripple farming activities in the region.
According to him, the menace could lead to serious food shortages and insecurity but we are grateful to Mr President for introducing this kind of intervention which has subsequently reduced the menace.
“We are, therefore, very impressed on behalf of the people and government of our states, the seven states of the North West and Niger state express our gratitude to officers and men of Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies that support them and particularly the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
“With this intervention, a lot will be achieved within a month and the communities that live in the areas of operation and those of us who are responsible for overseeing their safety and security are aware of this achievement,” he said.
Similarly, the visits of the Emirs of Katsina, Anka and Gusau on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, climaxed the appraisal of the stakeholders on the operations of the Nigerian army through Ex Sahel Sanity.
While the Emir of Anka, Zamfara State, Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad, said the military and other security agencies had done and still doing their best, he added that the recent introduction of Exercise Sahel Sanity had changed the narratives of banditry in Zamfara and other affected states.
Ahmad also called on the political leaders to develop strong political will in support of the effort of the military towards addressing the menace of banditry and other forms of insecurity in the country.
On his part, the Emir of Gusau, Alhaji Ibrahim Bello, commended personnel of “Operation Sahel Sanity” for making farming activities possible in Zamfara and other states in the Northwest.
Bello said that normalcy was gradually returning to the areas and farm lands that were hitherto no go areas, due to the nefarious activities of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers, are picking up.
He assured that traditional rulers in the northwest and other parts of the country would continue to support security agencies in their bid to curb criminal activities in the country.
He also pledged that the people of Gusau Emirate would continue to give the Nigerian Army and other security agencies the needed moral and spiritual support for them to succeed in the fight against bandits and other bad elements in the society. NANFeatures.