Daily Trust report has detailed how over 40 different military operations and exercises launched with billions expended in the last five years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has failed contain various security challenges across the country. The report was compiled by Fidelis Mac-Leva, Ronald Mutum & Haruna Ibrahim
While some experts said there was nothing wrong in code-naming different operations in line with what the security operatives wanted to achieve, others said there was nothing impressive about the names as Nigeria continued to grapple with the same challenges in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
In the past five years, the military, including the army, navy and air force have had reasons to give names to different security challenges including terrorism, farmer/herder clashes, kidnapping, banditry, militancy, ethnic clashes and bunkering among others.
Daily Trust findings reveal that between 2015 and now, the security operatives have launched multiple operations with different code names even as some of the operations had first, second and third phases.
However, while Nigerians are losing count of these operations and exercises meant to protect their lives and properties, attacks have refused to abate as those perpetrating the criminality keep changing tactics and locations.
Presidential anger President Muhammadu Buhari recently met with Nigeria’s service chiefs and told them that their efforts towards addressing insecurity in the country were not enough.
“Mr. President expressed great concern over the declining security situation in the country,” said the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) who briefed journalists after their meeting with Buhari.
“He is extremely unhappy about what is happening.
“He feels that even though the security agencies are doing their best, their best is not good enough for him and he wants an immediate reversal of the current trend and immediate reversal of our misfortunes in all their dimensions.
“He, therefore, warned the security agencies to take into consideration the wider implication of the gradual descent of the security of the country.
“He is not going to accept any further escalation of the security situation,” Monguno said.
Daily Trust recalled that the meeting with the security chiefs came barely a day after the United States Government expressed worry over incessant attacks on citizens of Nigeria living in the northern part of the country.
Not long after the reprimand by the president, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin met with the service chiefs including the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai.
Also at the meeting were heads of other security and intelligence agencies. They deliberated on the current security situation in some parts of the country.
Different operations/exercises, same approach
Findings by the Daily Trust revealed that despite giving various operations or exercises different names, the approach, manpower and equipment being deployed were almost the same; hence the outcome hardly makes any difference.
Ahmed, a serving officer said different operations should entail different preparations. “Sadly, the only thing we have is the changing of names and nothing more,” he said.
According to him, “You can change names 1000 times but you will not get results until you adopt measures peculiar to the challenge on ground.”
One of the numerous exercises launched by the Nigerian Army for the war on terror in the North East was code-named ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’.
The operation, which came into effect in July, 2015, was to transform the army professionally as well as fast track the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
“It is the wish of the federal government to end this terrorism quickly in this part of the country and indeed some other challenges in the South-South and other parts of the country.
“This will make us have a very peaceful country free from any insecurity,’’ Buratai reportedly said at the time.
The fight against Boko Haram, which is now in its 11th year, had recorded different names before 2015.
Another Operation code-named ‘Sharan Daji’ (clearing the bushes) also came into effect in July 2015 to tackle rustling and armed banditry in the North West region.
However, evidence abound that cattle rustling is still a major problem in Nigeria, not only in the North West but in other geopolitical zones. Other operations launched in 2015 were: ‘Shirin Harbi’, to combat restiveness in Bauchi and Gombe States; ‘Harbin Kunama’, to tackle cattle rustling and armed banditry in the Dansadau Forest of Zamfara State and environs as well as ‘Crocodile Smile I’, to take on Niger Delta militants crippling Nigeria’s oil installations.
In July, 2017, Operation ‘Harbin Kunama II’ was put in place in the North West and North Central to deal with cattle rustling, armed banditry and clashes between pastoralists and farmers.
Another one code-named ‘Operation Dokaji’ was launched in the North West and North Central to deal with cattle rustling, armed banditry, and clashes between pastoralists and farmers.
Similarly, ‘Operation Egwu Eke’ to fight crimes like cultism, militancy, and kidnapping in Niger Delta states was launched in October 2017.
Daily Trust checks also showed that ‘Operation Karamin Goro’ covering Minna-Birnin Gwari-Pandogari and Minna-Sarkin Pawa general area was launched in January 2018; while another one code-named ‘Operation Ayem Akpatuma’ aimed at tackling banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and armed militia in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states were put in place in February, 2018.
Another one code named ‘Operation Last Hold’ was also put in place for Borno North and Lake Chad Region in April 2018, to clear the Boko Haram terrorists in the Lake Chad region and to ensure the rescue of the remaining hostages of the insurgents while another one called ‘Operation Egwu Eke (aka Python Dance II)’ was launched in August 2018, to check kidnappings, robberies, cultism and of course secessionist agitations in the South East.
Operation 777 against anti-kidnapping, anti-robbery and related criminal activities including the security of Epe and Ogun Waterside in Lagos and Ogun States was launched in October 2018, and in December of the same year, another one called ‘Operation Egwu Eke III’ (Python Dance) aimed to checkmate all forms of violence before, during and after the 2019 elections across the country came into being.
In January 2019, ‘Operation Python Dance III’ was launched in Lagos to tackle violence before, during and after the 2019 general elections and in April of the same year, ‘Operation Harbin Kunama III’ was launched to cover forest areas of Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states, in a bid to end activities of bandits.
Later in September 2019, Operation Python Dance I came into being to check the spate of robberies, kidnappings, and cultism in and around Anambra.
In October 2019, an operation tagged, ‘Cat Race’ was launched in Niger State to contain perennial insecurity caused by bandits, cattle rustlers and other criminal elements across the country.
‘Operation Positive Identification’ was also put in place at the same time to fight the fleeing Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists in November, 2010 the North East, while ‘Operation Atilogwu’, (Operation Dance for Peace) came up in the South East about the same time to address security challenges.
The year 2019 ended with the launching of ‘Operation Rattle Snake’ targeted at selected locations within the North East to “further degrade remnants of the terrorists as well as deny the insurgents safe havens and freedom of action.”
Other operations launched during the period in review included: Operation Long Reach in the North East; Operation Sharan Daji in the North West; Operation Whirl Stroke in the North Central Zones; Exercise Sahel Sanity North West and Operation Ruwan Wuta I, II, and III in the North East.
Daily Trust contacted army spokesman, Colonel Sagir Musa, on Sunday, and sent him questions regarding the use of code names for army operations.
He was asked to explain the significance of code naming different operations, whether such names bring about positive results and why insecurity persists despite change of code names.
However, hours after sending the messages and several phone calls to his mobile number, Colonel Musa did not respond to our questions as at the time of filing this report.
Why military operations/offensives don’t provide solutions Some security experts said operations launched at different times by the Nigerian military are only temporary solutions to insecurity in the country.
In a telephone interview, Kabir Adamu who is a security expert told Daily Trust that: “Operations are meant to be stop-gap solutions… You now put forward operations to stop that security challenge.”
He said in Nigeria, operations were presented as the solution without a template for achievements, goals and a time frame in which such successes or failures could be measured.
“I believe that many of the 27 ministries and agencies of government saddled with the provision of one form of security or supervisory mandate already have the wherewithal to tackle insecurity,” he said.
Adamu said unfortunately, all the operations in the past have been without a time frame on what it hoped to achieve, saying they rarely have monitoring and evaluation templates.
Also speaking to Daily Trust, a former Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Abubakar Sa’ad (rtd) said it was the failure of the security system that led to the issue of operations.
He said: “Over the years, we have shunned the training, retaining and equipping of the police in terms of manpower and working tools, which have led to insecurity in the country.”
He also said the traditional and religious institutions, which hitherto were the best places for information and intelligence gathering by security organisations have been left relegated to the background, saying security agencies no longer have up to date information.
“Operations are temporary and not solutions to lingering insecurity. In Nigeria we have politicised security and it is a dangerous thing,” he said.
On his part, Group Captain Sadeeq Shehu (rtd), a security consultant, said “we are in a situation where bandits have a strong grip on some states in the country,” noting that “operations could be the solution but they are not effective.”
He lamented that within the last two months, bandits launched attacks in Katsina State because there was no presence of troops on the ground, stressing that there was a need to dislodge the bandits.
“How many military helicopters do we have in this country if we have to move the troops with proper equipment” he asked.
He said demands on security forces were enormous, adding that troops’ reaction is a function of helicopters and mobile equipment.”