Residents and journalists saw military trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers into Yola and Maiduguri, yesterday, in compliance with the president's orders. The military launched the first phase of its campaign to secure the country's borders and flush out all terrorists and insurgents from the northern states.
It was gathered that the entire Northern flank of the armed forces, including the 3rd Armoured Division Jos; the 1st Division Kaduna; Brigade Commands and Components of the Infantry, Artillery, Armoured and Signal Corps have been co-opted into the military onslaught.
It was also gathered that Air Force Helicopter Gunships, and fighter jets have been put on standby for air bombardment of mountains and hill tops that adorn the three states, where the terrorists and insurgents run to after causing havoc. Towards this end, the headquarters 75 Strike Group in Yola and the Air Combat Attack Group in Kainji where the fighter jets and helicopter gunships are to take off for sorties, have been activated.
Already, it was gathered that scores of armoured personnel carriers including those for reconnaissance, interjection, long range assault, as well as military vehicles for desert operations, signals and quick intervention action are already on their way to the three states.
Defence spokesman, Brig. General Chris Olukolade, says the operation which is to be commanded by Major General Jack Enwasiha, Commander of the Joint Task Force in the area, also has Police and DSS contingents.
His words: "The Nigerian Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies have commenced operations to rid the nation's border territories of terrorist bases and activities. The military operation will focus on tracking down criminal elements within the vicinity of border communities prone to terrorist activities.
"The operations which will involve massive deployment of men and resources is aimed at asserting the nation's territorial integrity and enhancing the security of constituted governmental structures in all territories within Nigeria's borders.
"The operational plans have also briefed participating troops appropriately on arrests, cordon and search especially directed at apprehending those who have been violating sovereignty of Nigeria through terrorist training for insurgency and related activities".
No time frame for military operation
Explaining that there is no time frame for the state of emergency, Olukolade said the operation is expected to put an end to insurgent activities in these parts of the country.
In this regard, he said: "The Defence Headquarters assures law abiding citizens that every effort has been put in place to ensure safety of civilians and non-combatants while the operation lasts.
"All citizens are enjoined to cooperate with troops and supply necessary information on criminal and terrorist activities or movements in their localities as the operation is intended to safeguard the nation's interests and citizens in all parts of the Federation."
The Defence spokesman said the operation will spread to anywhere terrorists or insurgents can be found in the entire northern flank adding, "that is why President Goodluck Jonathan is appealing to foreign countries to block their borders and stop the terrorists running into their country.
Following the presence of troops in Maiduguri, the mood was tense in the city while shops were mostly shut with very few people on the streets. Schools were also closed. A resident in Maiduguri, Ahmed Mari said: "What I saw this morning scared me, I have never seen soldiers on the move quite like this before". Another resident, Kabir Laoye who expressed fears that civilians could be caught up in the conflict said, "there is a lot of apprehension about the state of emergency".
Yobe, Borno govts pledge support
Meanwhile, Yobe and Borno states, two of the three states where emergency rule has been declared have pledged support for the president's action saying they would work with security agencies to restore peace and security in their respective states.
Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Information, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego said, "as people across our state and the country are aware, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had declared a State of Emergency in three states, including Yobe.
"The reasons advanced by Mr. President in taking this action are clear. Over the past few years, the problems of insurgency and criminality in Yobe State and other parts of the North have led to many deaths and injuries and caused untold hardship to millions of innocent people.
"The Yobe State Government, has done and continues to do everything within its power to ensure peace and security and support the security agencies in their task of protecting life and property. As everyone knows, there is no alternative to peace. The Yobe State Government therefore agrees with Mr. President on the need to take more effective measures to address the problem of insecurity in the country.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State in his reaction urged the people of the state to support and cooperate with all the securityagencies who are charged with the sole responsibility of tackling the Boko Haram insurgency. Shettima in a Live Broadcast to the people of the state said:
"It is the constitutional responsibility of the President to take such measures. It is also the duty of any responsible state government, to support lawful efforts that would guarantee the security of lives and property. It can never be the wish of any guarded democratic government to have the military directly involved in the affairs of any federating unit except for unfortunate and painful causes."
CAN calls for dissolution of amnesty committee
The declaration of a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe has received the official endorsement of the umbrella body of Christians in the country, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, even as they called for the dissolution of the amnesty committee saying it was no longer relevant.
CAN president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, in a statement by his Special Assistant, Media and Public Affairs, Kenny Ashaka, maintained that "with the declaration of a state of emergency in the three states, the Amnesty Committee was no longer relevant and should be dissolved. According to him, "we are being vindicated that no reasonable agreement can be reached with terrorists. Not dissolving the political structures coupled with the retention of the office of the governors, are signposts that President Goodluck Jonathan is a democrat, and that, the action of the President is also an indication that he is primarily concerned with the issue of human rights abuses and the need to secure the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
The CAN President then called on the three governors to reciprocate the kind gesture by cooperating with those charged with the responsibility of bringing down the insurgency.
This is a new experiment—Mustapha Akanbi, former ICPC boss
In his reaction, the pioneer chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Alhaji Mustapha Akanbi, described the declaration of state of emergency in the three states as a new experiment being carried out.
The octogenarian, however, expressed concern about how the military officers and other security agencies deployed to the affected states would work together to achieve the desired result of the state of emergency.
Speaking with journalists in Ilorin, yesterday, Alhaji Akanbi said:"This is not the first step taken on this problem of insecurity, Amnesty Committee has been set up among other steps, so this one may not necessarily provide the ultimate answer. But my major concern is how the civilians and the military deployed to the areas will work together to achieve the desired result."
It's counter-productive —ACN
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has, however, described the declaration of a state of emergency in the three states as lacking in original thinking, and therefore asked the National Assembly to reject it.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said if the use of force was capable of ending the Boko Haram crisis, it would have ended a long time ago. It said while the President was right in expressing outrage over the mindless killings and wanton destruction by the insurgents, he was wrong in proposing more of the same measures that have failed to yield results. "If the medicine given to a patient has not cured his or her illness, is it not futile to prescribe more of the same medicine for the patient? If the declaration of a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in four states in 2011 has not curbed the activities of the insurgents, why extend such measure to other areas…?
"Secondly, the President should go ahead and disband the committee he recently inaugurated and saddled with reaching out to the insurgents, because by opting to flood the states with more troops under an ill-advised emergency rule, he has succeeded in pulling the carpet from under the Committee's feet. Who negotiates genuinely with a gun to his head? The committee's job is over, the members can as well pack up and go home.
"Thirdly, one hopes the President's action is not linked to the politics of 2015. With the three states militarized, there can neither be electioneering campaign nor voting there. We had warned earlier that as 2015 approaches, the Jonathan Administration will increasingly take measures that will make it impossible to hold election in many states. The over militarization of some states in the north, the plan to destabilise the South-west using slush funds from the so-called oil pipeline protection contract and the infantile threats from some Niger Delta militants seem to be part of this plan.
"Fourthly, what happens if and when the declaration of emergency rule fails to stem the violence, now that the President has gone for broke and played his last card?
"In view of the reasons stated above, we hereby reject the declaration of emergency rule in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, and we call on the National Assembly to also reject it and not allow itself to be used to rubber stamp a declaration that is largely cosmetic."