By CLEMENT NWOJI, Abuja
The Nigerian Government has indicated that its army would next week flag-off operational exercise codenamed “Ayem Akpatuma” at the flash points of clashes between farmers and herdsmen, and bases of armed bandits militias in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and environs.
This is coming against the backdrop of protracted increasing clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Benue state which had resulted in deaths of many farmers allegedly killed by the herdsmen.
The Benue state government had openly accused the Nigerian presidency of neglect of its earlier complains about planned attacks by armed herdsmen in the state and had insisted that justice must be done by bringing to book the herdsmen who had masterminded slaughtering of citizens of the state at various locations.
In the recent time, the attacks had led to destruction of lives and property as many communities in Benue state had been wiped out, while survivors were rendered homeless by armed herdsmen.
Vice President, Osinbajo
But in response to questions about security on Tuesday, the Nigerian Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said that the government had been deploying mobile police forces, army and Air Force to troubled areas in Benue state.
Osinbajo cited that the Army had within the last few days scaled up the size of troops and equipment in Agatu, Guma, Katsina-Ala and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State.
He said: “The approach of the government has been to deploy mobile police forces to troubled areas and also both the army and Air Force, the Nigerian Army formations and units in Benue State.
“For example, especially 72 Special Forces Battalion, have consistently maintained Forward Operating Bases at the flash areas covering Guma, Logo, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas.
“The operation has the generic name Operation MESA, but it is nicknamed Operation ZENDA in Benue State. The Army had within the last few days scaled up the size of troops and equipment in Agatu, Guma, Katsina-Ala and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State.
“The Army also recently deployed troops at Awe and Tunga Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State, in order to monitor and block the gaps that were presumed to be used as staging points by armed herdsmen to attack communities in Benue State.
“Additionally, troops of 93 Battalion, Takum in Taraba State, also occupy blocking positions as well as maintain constant liaison with troops in Benue State.
“Furthermore, the command and control structure of the Army formations and units in Benue and contiguous states have been reorganized.
“Accordingly, more troops were deployed and the Commander 707 Special Forces Brigade was reassigned to Taraba State for effective command and control of troops operating in the entire Benue/Taraba general area.
“And next week, the Nigerian Army will flag-off Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA, to checkmate the activities of armed bandits and militias in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and environs.”