Editorial: Why the demilitarization of the Niger Delta and South East is paramount. The North East is where the threat is.

The crushing defeat the Nigerian Army suffered in the hands of Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram in Metele is heart-wrenching and disturbing too. Over 118 soldiers were reportedly killed during the attack with much more missing in action.

It showed massive loopholes in intelligence gathering on the side of Nigeria’s intelligence community. Footages that appeared on social media during the week showed members of the terrorist group killing personnel of the Nigerian Army in their droves. They did so with little resistance. Some of the soldiers that appeared in the footages had no protective gears as they were being shot and their vehicles and rifles being taken from them.

Others footages showed wreckages of military equipment that were burnt by the terrorists during the attack, with survivors pleading with the president to rescue them from death. One of the soldiers was heard in the footage saying that “The Generals want them dead”.

The Nigerian Army’s leadership came out guns blazing, threatening to invoke cyber laws on anyone found sharing the gory footages on the internet. But the deed has been done, especially with the Army’s perchance for downplaying personnel casualties.

While publicizing the video will in a way lower the morale of the soldiers, the army has not in any way devised a mean to counter the media warfare launched by the insurgents. The Army needs the support of the media to achieve this.

This also points to the fact that the war against insurgency has turned into another feeding bottle for those in power owing to the fact that the federal government sought and got approval to withdraw one billion dollars from the sovereign wealth fund to buy equipment for the military. But despite being granted access to the fund, basic gears like bulletproof vests are not provided for soldiers.

Yet, to defeat the rising insurgency and cripple it, there has to be maximum force which the administration of the President Mohammadu Buhari has not employed in dealing with the menace. Rather, and quite unfortunate too, the president is treating the insurgency with kid gloves as some arrested members of the sect are being released and integrated into the society under questionable circumstances.

More intriguing is the fact that while the military is suffering heavy casualties in the North East, it is deploying men and equipment in the Niger Delta and South East in the name of Operation Crocodile Smile and Python Dance. In short, the two regions have been grossly militarized with not known existing threat against the nation like those posed by Boko Haram and Herdsmen.

There are more police and military checkpoints per radius in the two regions than there are in the North East, with several documented instances of unprovoked brutalities by the military against unarmed civilians.

Weeks ago, the military launched Operation Crocodile Smile III in the Niger Delta with the aim of checkmating oil theft and other forms of economic sabotage in the region. Within days of the launch, there have reports of killing of innocent civilians by the military. While it is the duty of the police to checkmate these illegal activities, the police have been sidelined while the military carries on with relish.

Also, there have been series of protests by communities who accuse the military of aiding illegal refining of crude oil in the region. They also accused the commander of Operation Delta Safe, Apuk Suleiman of aiding and benefiting massively from oil theft in the region.

Worse still is the fact that the proliferation of illegal refineries has not reduced since the military crackdown begun. If anything, it is on the increase with communities asking for approval to inaugurate modular refineries as a way of stemming the tides of the environmental dangers posed to their environment by the activities of illegal crude refiners.

The deadly crackdown against members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB by the army was also uncalled for. These freedom fighters were killed by a state that is supposed to negotiate with them. And while it is easy for the group to be proscribed as a terrorist group, even without harming anyone, Boko Haram has been allowed to operate freely with the government paying millions of dollars to the group as ransom.

What these point to is that the system is dysfunctional and the nation is yet to get her priorities right. The Nigerian Army has no business patrolling the streets of South East and the Niger Delta States while the insurgency in the North East is reaching an alarming level.

The police should be allowed to do its job. The massive deployment of troops and militarization of the two regions is unnecessary. The army needs to deploy thousands of troops to the North East especially to the borders and crush the Boko Haram insurgency once and for all. There is no time.

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