Molly Kilete, Abuja
The ongoing military operation, code-named “Exercise Ayem Akpatuma,” in Benue, Kogi, Nassarawa, Kaduna and Taraba states, has claimed the lives of 13 soldier, with seven other seriously wounded.
This is even as the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) warned political leaders against politicising military operations.
Director, Defence Information, Brigadier-General John Agim, who gave the warning at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, also disclosed that the military lost major equipment in the operation.
“During the exercise, we lost some of our dear colleagues; 13 soldiers were killed in action, while seven soldiers were wounded in action. We also had our equipments destroyed during the operation,” he said.
The DHQ, therefore, solicited the cooperation of the civilian populace to enable the Nigerian armed forces contain the security challenges bedevilling the nation.
Agim said, “Civil authorities, at all levels, such as community chiefs, LGA chairmen and state governors are often instrumental to the success of internal security operations. This is because they provide information, synergy, support, and facilitate a conducive environment for military operations. They also assist in winning the minds and hearts of the people in support of the military, among others.
“Regrettably, during the conduct of Exercise Ayem Akpatuma, some civil authorities, especially in Taraba State, did not accord the military the desired cooperation. For instance, the chairman of Takum Local Government Area in Taraba State did not cooperate with 93 Battalion but instead portrayed the military in bad light to the locals. His actions before and during Exercise Ayem Akpatuma were clearly anti-military and he incited his people on many occasions to resist and confront the military.
“Defence Headquarters hereby appeals to our political leaders not to play politics with security issues and the armed forces of Nigeria. The military is the strength of every nation, Nigeria inclusive. If we talk down on our military, it will dampen their morale, the enemy will be emboldened to cause more havoc and the consequence on our citizens will be dire.”
He also blamed Amnesty Intervention for allegedly frustrating attempts by the Nigerian government to procure military equipment from some foreign countries to fight the counter-insurgency war and other security challenges.
Agim, while listing the successes of the operation, said 183 criminals were arrested in Benue and Taraba for various offences.
According to him, “In Benue State, 147 herdsmen, six cultists, five rustlers and six bandits were arrested, while 15 were arrested in Taraba State. In 1 Division’s area of responsibility, a total of 13 bandits were arrested. All the arrested suspects have been handed over to the Nigeria Police for further action.
“Several arms and ammunition were recovered during Exercise Ayem Akpatuma. In Benue State, 1 x AK 47 rifle, 1 x FN rifle, 3 x AK-47 magazines, 9 x rounds of 7.62mm special, 23 rounds of 7.62mm NATO, 13 dane guns, 38 machetes, several spears/axes and assorted charms were recovered. Also, 18 motorcycles and 15 handsets were recovered in Benue State. In Taraba State, 4 x AK-47 rifles with three magazines, 96 rounds of 7.62mm special, 8 x rounds of 9mm and 19 locally-made guns were recovered. Others include five locally-made pistols, one shotgun and 27 live cartridges. In 1 Division’s area of responsibility, 16 assorted arms were recovered and some ammunition.”