Nigerian Army inaugurates 63 Brigade in Delta, begins Operation Python Dance 3 (photos)

Nigerian Army inaugurates 63 Brigade in Delta, begins Operation Python Dance 3 (photos)
– The Nigerian Army on Thursday, January 10, inaugurated the 63 Brigade in Delta state – The Armed Forces also launched the third edition of...

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Buratai inaugurates 63 Brigade in Asaba as he flags-off Operation Python Dance ▷ Nigeria...

- The 63 Brigade Nigerian Army has been inaugurated in Asaba, the Delta state capital, by the chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai- Buratai also flagged-off Operation Egwu Eke (Python Dance) in the state capital- The army chief says the inauguration is a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to ensure security of lives and property across the countryThe chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, on Thursday, January 10, inaugurated the 63 Brigade Nigerian Army and flagged-off Operation Egwu Eke (Python Dance), in Asaba, Delta.Buratai, represented by Major General Jamil Sarham, general officer commanding, 6 Division, said the brigade would ensure peace, security and promote commerce in Asaba and its environs, NAN notes that the army chief said: “It is my great pleasure to inaugurate the 63 Brigade with its headquarters in Asaba, this is a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to ensure security of lives and property across the country."READ ALSO: upgrades to a letter from our Editor-in-Chief Bayo OlupohundaHe said that the essence was to checkmate the myriad of security challenges in the country.He said that the establishment of military formations requires huge financial commitment, adding that while the various governments made provisions, other stakeholders would be required to support the project to ensure adequate security.Buratai said: “I therefore call on the government and the good people of Delta to support the operations of the 63 brigade and the formations in Koko and Oleh.“I am also in Delta to flag off the operation Egwu Eke 3 (Python Dance), at Km 11, Okpanam Road, Asaba."He assured all law abiding people of the state that the Army would ensure adequate security and safety even as the nation approaches the 2019 general elections.He said that the Army would work in cooperation with other security agencies to ensure peace in the state.The army chief said that at the end of the python dance exercise, ”the python must have swallowed all the hoodlums, bandits, kidnappers and militants among others in the country.He said: “The python will also address the issues of fake news by unpatriotic elements; it is necessary that we draw the attention of all well meaning Nigerians that they must have at the back of their minds the importance of national security. Giving out official information or spreading fake news is inimical to national security.”In his remarks, the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa appreciated the army for bringing the brigade to Asaba.He said: “We have just witnessed the inauguration of the 63 Brigade, Asaba and we give God all the glory and I want to appreciate the Chief of Army Staff for enabling this and thank the President for bringing it to Asaba.“I am aware that the military, working with all other security agencies in the state, have done quite a lot to ensure peace.“I also know that a lot have been done to secure our oil facilities in the state and in all, I appreciate our traditional rulers, the youths and various groups that have ensured that we have adequate information to ensure peace in our state."Meanwhile, previously reported that the military was advised by southeast governors to be more professional in the discharge of their duties.The advise was given by the governor of Ebonyi state, David Umahi, on behalf of the southeast Governors Forum, during a visit by the general officer commanding, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major Gen Abubarka Maikobi, to the Government House in Abakaliki.The message came on the heels of the launch of the Operation Python Dance III in the southeast ( -> We have updated to serve you betterSoldier shares battleground experience, dedicates song to colleagues - on Legit TVSource:

SECURITY: Okowa calls for sharing of information among security agencies

… As Nigerian Army Iiaugurates 63 Brigade in AsabaTHE 63 Brigade of the Nigerian Army was inaugurated on Thursday in Asaba with Delta State Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa stating that sharing of information among security agencies is very vital to addressing security challenges in the country.The governor who spoke at the inaguration ceremony, observed that the country will be more secured when proactive measures are taken with the aid of timely sharing of information by security agencies.He said, “I congratulate the Nigerian Army for setting up the 63 Brigade; Delta State is a peaceful state, but, we welcome actions that will consolidate on the existing peace.”“Sharing of information among security agencies will have a lot of impact on checking security challenges in the country; security agencies have done a lot for us to have peace and secure oil facilities in our state, but, I must appreciate the roles played by our traditional rulers and stakeholders who also, assisted us in achieving peace,” Governor Okowa said.He continued, “with the coming of the 63 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, we will have more men to secure our state, we will continue to assist in whatever ways we can for you to carry out your functions,”The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai represented by the General Officer Commanding, 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham said the establishment of the 63 Brigade was neccessary for the continual protection of the nation’s interest stating that Operation Python Dance III will take place in the state.He commended the Delta State Government for providing temporary takeoff for the Brigade.

Opinion: Why dubious politicians dread Operation Python Dance III By David Abu

Editor's note: David Abu, a fellow of the Centre for International and Strategic Studies, Abuja writes on the proposed Operation Python Dance III by the Nigerian Army.Abu in this piece urged some Nigerian politicians should stop spurring imprudent sentiments about a purely military exercise by playing to the gallery.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of own opinion articles are welcome at— drop an email telling us what you want to write about and why. More details in’s step-by-step guide for guest contributors.We’re ready to trade your news for our money: submit news and photo reports from your area using our Citizen Journalism App.Contact us if you have any feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments. We are also available on Twitter.Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai is a man and soldier with a large heart. As Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in the country, General Buratai is confronting adversaries of Nigeria on many fronts and in more invisible ways than known in public space.The Army Chief is leading Nigerian troops in extinguishing Boko Haram terrorism on the battlefield in the northeast; troops have fought to a standstill the venom of militancy and crude oil theft in the Niger Delta; it is battling armed banditry and cattle rustling in the northwest and its operations have tamed to near dissipation the tempo of farmers/herders crises in the north Central.The Nigerian Military has been the saving grace in quenching the cruel and violent separatism movements in the Southeast, anchored by the Nnamdi Kanu- led IPOB and its nest of killer merchants, armed vandals/looters of businesses, armed robbers and kidnappers.But apart from these visible and manifold wars against Nigeria, prosecuted by the military, they are also fighting other silent resistance or frustration wars against the State.There are enemies of Nigeria within who have continued to plot to weaken or diminish the potency of the Nigerian military’s intervention in the prevailing or potential insecurity upheavals assailing in the country.For these categories of Nigerians, who are mostly opposition politicians, all their plots and energies are concentrated on waning the spirit and power of the military in tackling these wars. So, they launch attacks on the institution of the Nigerian Army with frivolous allegations. There is nothing cheerful in their eyes insofar as they are not permitted to thrive in their evil designs against Nigeria.READ ALSO: Senate crisis: We have agreed on cease fire - NdumeAnd these antagonistic forces have not relented in their evil machinations. The latest plot is the irritable, consistent and stiff opposition to the decision of the FGN under President Muhammadu Buhari in lunching a military exercise across Nigeria code named “Operation Python Dance III” (OPDIII).This is the operation that cleansed Southeastern region of armed criminals masquerading as separatism agitators; it restored peace and security in the region because the Nigerian military did a thorough and professional job of assisting regular security agencies in dusting out these armed criminals from their dens or hideout.Today, the people are happier because they live in communities, villages and cities purged of violence, killings, armed robbery, kidnappings and allied crimes which were freely perpetrated by these cursed and criminal souls. The Christmas and yuletide have been celebrated freely without wailing of attacks and deaths in the region peculiar to these times.It is not strange today that some negligible Nigerians are protesting and kicking against the launch of OPDIII all over Nigeria to cleanse the nation of armed criminals. These are politicians suspected of amassing dangerous weapons in preparation to disrupt the next general elections beginning in February 2019.And those who fear most and protesting loudest against OPDIII are opposition politicians, actively backed by their conspiratorial cronies. They want a free terrain where they can foist electoral violence and robbery on Nigeria and quickly turn around to blame President Buhari for “incompetence” to secure Nigerians.READ ALSO: upgrades to a letter from our Editor-in-Chief Bayo OlupohundaThese arch enemies of Nigeria know exactly why they are protesting against OPDIII. And they have not concealed the target of what they want to achieve. They argue feebly and implausibly that President Buhari should rather send the troops to combat Boko Haram terrorism.But who has told the adversaries the territories in the Northeast have no troops? Before now, when Boko Haram insurgency was at its peak (and that Buhari battled insurgents in the Northeast), did it prevent him from deploying troops to tackle other emergent insurrections all over the country simultaneously?These Nigerians should stop spurring imprudent sentiments about a purely military exercise by playing to the gallery.For avoidance of doubts, Operation Python Dance III in the wisdom of the FGN is conceived to be conducted as a military exercise by the Nigerian Army to provide additional support for the Police and other security agencies during the 2019 general elections.No one can deny that Nigeria has an unsavoury history of electoral violence and frauds, perpetrated by dubious politicians. OPDIII is meant to checkmate these realities.The exercise remains one of the most successful military drills in the country. Again, it has successfully chased out criminal elements from the southeast and some parts of the South-south. With exception of the southwest, every other region in the country has felt its positive impact. It is a positive and incontestable record in public domain.That south south which has respite from militancy, kidnappings of oil workers, crude oil theft, blowing up of oil pipelines and facilities is mainly facilitated by similar exercises in the region conducted by the Nigerian Army. This success story has been replicated across all troubled regions of Nigeria.So, no sane or upright Nigerian can dispute the validity or civility of the exercise and it’s far-reaching impacts. Soldiers who handle these special assignments are highly skilled, disciplined and professional officers and men of the Nigerian Army.General Buratai has a reputation of a no- nonsense Army officer. He has devoted time and energy in the last three years to persistently dissuade soldiers and officers of the Army from meddling into the political affairs of the country.Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army has demonstrated to Nigerians repeatedly that even in very difficult times, the Army is handy to complement the roles traditionally assigned to regular security.Today’s Nigeria Army is more zealous to see Nigeria’s democracy flourishes and the democratic/electoral process is insulated from every violent entanglement. It explains why Gen. Buaratai penalized Army officers indicted for professional misconduct and connivance to rig the 2015 governorship elections in Ekiti state.Gen. Buratai had the option to play the card of comradeship by shielding his own; but he rather exposed them. In Nigeria’s recent history, there is no Army which has completely subordinated itself to the democratic process and governance or to civil authorities like the Army led by Gen. Buratai.PAY ATTENTION: Read the news on Nigeria’s #1 news appWhy then are some people afraid of Operation Python Dance III? If OPDIII succeeded in the past, there is no cogent reason for anybody to doubt them now, except those who have their mindset fixated on rigging the 2019 ballot, and have armed political thugs and criminals. But they must be flushed out before the election. Nigerians want peace while exercising their civic responsibility.No one has reason or anything to fear. But politicians who have not campaigned or sold out their manifestoes to the masses to earn support, but are amassing weapons to intimidate voters, cause violence, kidnap opponents, kill and rig the elections should naturally be haunted by the phobia of Python Dance III.Outside this clan of politicians with a passion for violence, Nigerians know OPDIII will assist greatly. Nigerians are aware OPDIII will not allow anyone to intimidate voters on election day. It will not allow anyone to kidnap his opponents or unlawfully cage rival camps within the period in the braggadocios display of jungle might.Certainly, its bad investment for architects of ballot snatching, whose thugs most times overwhelm and even kidnap the police or civil defence officers on election duty.They are scared that with OPDIII, this is impossible and one can imagine the pains and frustrations in them. So, anyone who stands by the path of truth should fear not, Operation Python Dance ( -> We have updated to serve you better.Can Nigerian Soldiers really not deal with Boko Haram fighters?| TVSource:

Python Dance III: Respect human rights, foster peaceful co-existence – GOC tells troops ▷...

- Troops of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army have been urged to remain neutral in the course of the Operation Python Dance III- The troops were given the directive by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Abubakar Maikobi- Maikobi urged the troops to respect human rights, remain professional and responsive while discharging their dutiesThe General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Abubakar Maikobi, has urged troops of operation Egwu Eke III to respect human rights and foster peaceful co-existence.The division’s deputy director, public relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, said this in a statement on Friday, January 11, in Enugu after the GOC paid operational visit to Sectors two, three and six of Egwu Eke III otherwise known as Python Dance III.The GOC, who addressed the troops in the operation, said: “Let me convey the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai’s appreciation to you for your sacrifices, patience and perseverance in the service of our country.READ ALSO: upgrades to a letter from our Editor-in-Chief Bayo Olupohunda“I urge you to respect human rights, remain professional, responsive and completely neutral in the discharge of your constitutional roles especially before, during and after the 2019 General Elections and throughout the time for this exercise.”The army boss urged troops to discharge their duties professionally and responsively within the ambit of the Constitution in-line with COAS vision.The vision is, “To have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles”.“Illegal duty, extortion and hobnobbing with politicians are offences that are actionable in military law.“I will not condone or spare anyone who flouts the law, so you are warned,’’ the GOC said.He, however, expressed satisfaction with the level of preparations and commitment of troops to the success of the exercise so far.PAY ATTENTION: Install our latest app for Android, read best news on Nigeria’s #1 news appSectors two, three and six of the ongoing operation are located in 14 Brigade Ohafia, Abia; 34 Brigade Owerri, Imo and 24 Support Engineer Regiment in Abakaliki, Ebonyi.Meanwhile, previously reported that Buratai had on Thursday, January 10, inaugurated the 63 Brigade Nigerian Army and flagged-off Operation Egwu Eke (Python Dance), in Asaba, Delta.The chief of Army staff represented by Major General Jamil Sarham, general officer commanding, 6 Division, said the brigade would ensure peace, security and promote commerce in Asaba and its ( -> We have updated to serve you betterSoldier shares battleground experience, dedicates song to colleagues - on Legit TVSource:

Army inaugurates 63 brigade, flags off operation Python Dance in Asaba

Related NewsThe Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant general, on Thursday inaugurated the 63 Brigade Nigerian Army and flaged-off operation Egwu Eke (Python Dance), in Asaba, Delta.Mr Buratai, represented by Jamil Sarham, a major general and General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division, said the brigade would ensure peace, security and promote commerce in Asaba and its environs.“It is my great pleasure to inaugurate the 63 Brigade with its headquarters in Asaba, this is a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to ensure security of lives and property across the country,” he said.He said the essence was to checkmate the myriad of security challenges in the country.He said the establishment of military formations required huge financial commitment, adding that while the various governments made provisions, other stakeholders would be required to support the project to ensure adequate security.“I therefore call on the government and the good people of Delta to support the operations of the 63 brigade and the formations in Koko and Oleh.“I am also in Delta to flag off the operation Egwu Eke 3 (Python Dance), at Km 11, Okpanam Road, Asaba,” he said.Mr Buratai assured all law abiding people of the state that the Army would ensure adequate security and safety even as the nation approaches the 2019 general elections.He said the Army would work in cooperation with other security agencies to ensure peace in the state.The army chief said at the end of the python dance exercise,” the python must have swallowed all the hoodlums, bandits, kidnappers and militants among others in the country.“The python will also address the issues of fake news by unpatriotic elements; it is necessary that we draw the attention of all well-meaning Nigerians that they must have at the back of their minds the importance of national security.“Giving out official information or spreading fake news is inimical to national security.”In his remarks, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa appreciated the Army for bringing the brigade to Asaba.Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta (2nd, L) inspecting the guard of honour during the inauguration of the 63rd Brigade Nigerian Army, along Anwai Road, Opposite Government House in Asaba on Thursday (10/1/19). 00257/10/1/2019/Ifeanyi Olannye/HB/NAN“We have just witnessed the inauguration of the 63 Brigade, Asaba and we give God all the glory and I want to appreciate the Chief of Army Staff for enabling this and thank the President for bringing it to Asaba.“I am aware that the military, working with all other security agencies in the state, have done quite a lot to ensure peace.“I also know that a lot have been done to secure our oil facilities in the state and in all, I appreciate our traditional rulers, the youths and various groups that have ensured that we have adequate information to ensure peace in our state.“There is no doubt that with the 63 brigade being given birth to today, we will now have many more men to provide security in the state.“We are a peaceful state, but criminals still abound just like they are in every part of nation.“I believe that with combined efforts, all our security agencies will continue to maintain a peaceful disposition,” Mr Okowa said.The governor assured that the state government would support and ensure the full take off of the brigade within the limits of its finances.Earlier, the acting Brigade Commander, M.H.B. Manu in a welcome address, said that the command was committed to providing adequate security in Asaba.He thanked the state government for providing the temporary headquarters for the 63 brigade and requested for more support to secure permanent site for the brigade and the battalions in Koko and Oleh.He called on the people of the state to support the brigade and all its formations in the state, and reiterated that its establishment by the federal government was to guarantee the protection of lives and property.The Asagba of Asaba, Chike Edozien, represented by Patrick Ndili, also lauded the establishment of the brigade.(NAN)

Common man laments on 2018: This is one of the worst years in recent...

…put economic hardship behind him, optimistic despite looming uncertainty ahead of 2019By Emma Amaize (Editor, South-South), Dayo Johnson (Editor, South-West), Sam Oyandongha (Yenagoa), Festus Ahon (Asaba), Gabriel Enogholase (Benin-City), Emmanuel Unah (Calabar), Hari-Okon Emmanuel (Uyo), Chioma Onuegbu (Uyo), Emem Idio (Yenagoa), Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin-City), Ola Ajayi (Ibadan), Rotimi Ojomoyela (Ado- Ekiti) and Gbenga Olarinoye (Osogbo)MOST of the respondents, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in the South-South and South-West, described the ever-increasing unemployment and agonizing poverty situation in the country in 2018 as staggering, declaring that the Federal Government failed Nigerians.With the benefit of hindsight, many were doubtful that 2019 will be better whereas there were those who thought government did its best under the circumstances and expressed optimism that 2019 will be healthier.Poverty rate got worse – Ekwere, businessmanIn Akwa-Ibom, Uyo –based businessman Idongesit Ekwere, a businessman, said, “From my experience, poverty rate has worsened, and the loss of jobs in 2018 is alarming, but it is still better than what we experienced in 2017.”Ekwere went on: “I am particularly saddened that the Federal Government did not meet with my expectation of providing jobs and alleviating poverty among Nigerians. And I am only hoping that things will get better next year, 2019.”Nothing good about 2018- Mrs. George, citizenA citizen, Mrs. Eunice George, asserted, “There is nothing good to say about 2018. I only thank God for keeping my family alive. There is no money. I am disappointed with the current leadership of the country. In fact, things have worsened since this government came into power.“They failed to keep the promises they made when were coming in three years ago. I am only praying to God to touch their hearts so that they will ensure that things improved next year. I want them to live up to our expectation of improved cost of living”Promises not kept – Umo, entrepreneurAn entrepreneur, Mr Michael Umo, stated, “All I can say is that government failed on its promises to the people, particularly Akwa Ibom State government. At the federal level, I can score them high in fighting corruption, but in other areas, I do not think they have performed to expectation.“For instance the Federal Government has not been able to fix electricity despite promises and assurances to Nigerians. Their effort in that sector is very poor. For the coming year, I expect them to live up to their billing, to wake up from their slumber, and try to satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians they are representing”.Cost of living went higher- Chief Udoh, public servantA public servant, who simply identified himself as Chief Udoh, lamented: “The cost of living appears to be higher this 2018 than the previous years. I think this is due to the ban on the importation of some consumable goods. That has negatively impacted on the economy.“They said Foreign Direct Investment is increasing, but there is no correlation on the cost of living, the impact is not felt by Nigerians. And you know that there has been a raging controversy over the national minimum wage, and government appears less concerned about that, it is also affecting the masses.“So I expect both state and federal governments to do something about that soon. In 2019, we expect that measures should be put in place to alleviate the suffering of the masses. From my experience, any year we experience bad conditions, the following year is always good, and brighter. So I am expecting an improved economy next year.“And, politically, as we look forward to the general elections next year, I am appealing to politicians to eschew violence to ensure that the elections are peaceful, and fair. Nigerians do not want to witness bloodletting or war. Let the polls be conducted in a transparent manner”.Life not fair – Bartholomew, security guardKennedy Bartholomew, who works with a security firm, told Sunday Vanguard: “For me, 2018 has not been fair; there has been so much hardship. All the same I thank God because once there is life, there is hope. Akwa Ibom State government to me is doing its best. It cannot satisfy everybody at the same time.“In terms of infrastructure, youth empowerment, agriculture, security, this government is trying. I have lived here for over two years and I will not say that I am satisfied with the situation of the economy but I expect better things happening in 2019. I want government to do more to better the lot of the common man. I expect them to go beyond what they have been able to achieve this year”.EKWEREMADU: What we need to explain to our Northern brothersThere’s no money- Emedion, job seekerEmedion, a graduate and job seeker, said, “I am particularly impressed with the reduced crime rate in Akwa Ibom State. The state is peaceful; development of infrastructure, especially roads even though people are lamenting that there is no money, is on course. Yes there is biting hardship, but I believe that cost of food items, especially garri, rice is fair this year unlike the past two years.“Based on what the governor is doing today, my expectation next year is that things will be better. At the federal level, I am not satisfied with the style of fighting corruption. It is a good policy, but I expect that government should be more proactive and unbiased in the fight”.PMB needs time to fix things – Azikoro, youth leaderAn artisan and youth leader in Akwa Ibom, Ben Azikoro, spoke on an optimistic note, saying: “The present administration of PMB is really doing a lot for our people. For instance, we are not experiencing fuel scarcity during this Yuletide compared to previous PDP government where fuel scarcity was the order of the day. Compared to the rot inherited from the previous administration, I think the current government needs time to fix things.“PMB has promised that he is taking us to the next level, next year. So it behoves on us, Nigerians, to rally round and give him our support so that he will deliver on his promises. I think the government is trying and, given the right atmosphere and support, they can do more.“However, there are still areas for improvement. There are grey areas that need to be attended to, and I think the President should do more in the areas of education, the economy and the Niger Delta, but, overall, they are trying and need to be commended”.We‘ve suffered enough – Udoh, vendorIn Cross River State, Nelson Udoh, a vendor, said, “The economy in 2018 was too bad and the security situation in the country was really a threat to everybody. We witnessed a lot of kidnappings, armed robberies and killings in the country. In 2019, politicians should give peace a chance. Let the elections be peaceful and there should be no use of thugs and security agents to intimidate the people who go out to vote.“Those who emerge victorious in the elections should introduce policies and programmes that would improve the lot of the ordinary people. We have suffered enough”.Too much affliction – Chief Edem Akparika, traditional rulerA traditional ruler, Chief Edem Akparika, said: “There is so much suffering in the land. Those in authority should address the issue of poverty because the ordinary man cannot afford a square meal in a day.“During the polls in 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission should be fair and ensure credible elections to avoid plunging this country into anarchy. Because if there is crisis, the ordinary man would suffer most; as such, we reject any form of trouble coming from the outcome of the elections. Those who win should be declared winners”.Hard-hitting year – George ObotGeorge Obot, trader, said, “This year was really tough for us. We pray God should touch the hearts of our leaders to reduce the suffering in this country in 2019. They should make the economy better and provide employment for youths. I have three children, who have graduated from the university and they do not have work to do. They are still depending on me which should not be the case”.Too many troubles – Mercy Ekpe, studentMercy Ekpe, a student, said: “This country has seen a lot of troubles in recent times. The Academic Staff of Universities, ASUU, has been on strike for months now and government is doing nothing. We expect the government to negotiate with them to call off the strike and also the infrastructure in the universities should be improved upon”.2019: Archbishop of Lagos urges Nigerians to elect only credible leadersInsensitive government – Okoro, legal practitionerBonaventure Okoro, lawyer, for his part, said: “We have seen enough of the change these past years. I dare say that 2018 is one of the worst years in this country. Inflation went up, the number of unemployed youths also rose.“In 2019, we want a return to the pre –change era. We want to go back to 2015 when a bag of rice was N8, 000. This government is very insensitive and one-sided, we cannot continue like this. Imagine the killings in all parts of the country and those in power are so insensitive such that they have refused to do anything about it.“We are really tired and want a change. We have seen both sides of the coin and want to return to the past. Imagine a whole Christmas, no fireworks and even to buy a chicken is a big task. They tell us there is no fuel scarcity, but at N145 per litre, how many people can afford it. The whole place is so quiet like we are in mourning when we should be celebrating”.We’re worn-out – Nkata, traderBeauty Nkata, a trader, opened up: “We are tired of the situation in the country. There is no money. Imagine that during this Christmas, there was no rush for goods because there is no money. The fish I sell, there was no difference between Christmas and an average weekend sales. We are praying that God should help those in power so that they too can help us in 2019; if not the situation will be terrible.”Neophytes managing economy – Asu Beks, veteran journalistIn Bayelsa State, activist and veteran journalist, Asu Beks, told Sunday Vanguard: “Our priority is a free and fair electoral process. This means Mr. President must sign the new Electoral Bill presented to him by NASS. Anything short of that means he is not committed to free and fair elections in which case Nigerians would have no option than to seek self-help, a development that would not be good for our democracy.“Nigerians have this feeling that the EFCC, DSS , IGP and other security services have been conscripted to work towards the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. The signs are there for any discerning Nigerian to see. “As for the economy, there are no signs that the present economic team are thinking outside the box to fix the economy.“There’s no one in the present government in the mould of the likes of former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, that has what it takes to fix the economy. If I were Mr President, what I will do in the New Year is to rejig the Economic Team and inject renowned experts, who would move us out as the poverty capital of world. And lastly, Mr President must sack the current Service Chiefs, including the IGP because they have all failed woefully in the fight against terrorism”.Nigerians should rise against election manipulation – Ijomene, medical doctorFejiro Ijomone, a medical doctor, said: “My expectations for the New Year concerning Nigeria are bleak considering the state of the nation. I doubt that the 2019 elections, which will hold next year, will change anything, as I suspect the will of the people might be sabotaged by INEC and the security forces that we had hoped will help Nigeria have successful elections. Nigerians must rise up and stand against the manipulation of the outcome of the elections as we witnessed in the recently concluded Osun State governorship election.”Virtual artist and entrepreneur, Paniebi Jones, who spoke in the same vein, pointed out, “2019 is an electioneering year and there are expectations that politicians will do a lot of make – believe, momentarily, to our advantage. But I think Nigerians are getting fed up with this ‘our turn syndrome’ such that the new government will have to be forced to concentrate on the economy to make life more meaningful for Nigerians. 2019 will be better than this year in terms of productivity.”Nigerians had traumatic experiences – Morris, environmentalistEnvironmentalist, Comrade Alagoa Morris, stressed: “Actually, from the grassroots to state, regional and national levels, Nigerians went through harrowing experiences. Some even committed suicide due to recession, health challenges and other economic issues. Crimes rate, unexpectedly, soared and, as attested to by Mr President, the nation experienced unprecedented deaths traceable to the violence unleashed by Boko Haram.“As we are in another period of campaign, l expect that those presenting themselves for public offices should know that Nigerians are getting wiser and should prepare themselves to work when elected; including whoever emerges as President.“The electorate too should be more alive to their responsibility as catalysts in the democratic process of getting representatives in government…because any mistake cannot be corrected until another four years”.The problem with Nigeria– Atasi, civil servantDoubara Atasi, a civil servant, said, “Despite the myriad of challenges confronting our dear country, I want to seize this opportunity to encourage my fellow compatriots never to despair. God has endowed us with virtually everything we need to overcome our socioeconomic and political problems.“I have always said that our problem is attitudinal. The moment we (leaders and followers) get our attitudes right, it is then we will have the Nigeria of our dream where there will be equity, fairness, peace, stability and appreciable development and prosperity. On the economic front, we rank among countries that have the best of plans or policies. Our problem has been that of lack of the much needed political will to follow through the sound economic policies and models we fashion out from time to time.“I, therefore, plead with those saddled with the responsibility of managing the national economy to show more patriotism by being apolitical in the implementation of the country’s macroeconomic policies. To this end, I appeal to all arms of government, particularly the legislature and executive, to sink their differences with a view to expediting work on the 2019 budget to ensure its early passage, signing and effective implementation”.Buhari doing his best- Igbapike, lawyerLegal practitioner, Osteen Igbapike, said: “Nigeria will gradually get better though I already have an earful of the disparate outcry of politicians seeking power in 2019 that the government of the day is causing hunger, tears, sorrow and death for Nigerians.“Most of these allegations are politically motivated to confuse voters, but thanks to social media. Some of these allegations are easily verifiable. At the centre, corruption is having a good fight and with oil barely at 60 dollars per barrel, it not the same thing as when it was almost 180 dollars a barrel when PDP controlled the centre.“Though there are shortcomings here and there, President Muhammadu Buhari is doing his best for Nigeria. Fuel supply is, as at today, gaining stability. The thieves of our destiny are the ones shouting most against the government of the day. The avenues for looting are currently limited and far-fetched”.Economy in bad shape – Kramar, traderDiffering with the lawyer, a trader, Mr Kramar, said: “The outgoing year has not been very well; people have not fared well basically because if you consider the economy things are not going well. The ban on importation has really affected the economy particularly the lower class, things are very difficult.“On the issue of corruption that the government is claiming to be fighting, I do not see any good thing coming out of it. So much has been realized from the so-called looters, but no tangible thing has been done with it. We in the Niger Delta we are not faring well because there is no employment.“From their past records, I cannot see any good thing coming out next year. Basically from what we have seen, we are supposed to judge from their records and, in any election year, a lot of expenditure will be made, I wonder how they are going to manage the economy for us”.People are suffering, but – Timi Usman, labourerAlso ventilating his opinion, a labourer, Mr. Timi Usman, said: “I know that the present Federal Government is trying but we are suffering. The people working with the President are making things difficult for the masses; they are sabotaging the President with their selfishness. The ministers, National Assembly members and even the governors are working against the good intentions of the Federal Government, and are deceiving the masses.“ However, I am very hopeful that PMB will reposition himself and the country, next year, things will be better by God’s grace”.FG fell short of everything – Otu, journalistMr. Dennis Otu, Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, was direct in his opinion: “I must tell you that my expectations and those of majority of Nigerians were not met in 2018 by the Federal Government. I was expecting massive creation of jobs, but this never happened. Instead more Nigerians were thrown into the labour market, leading to increase in criminal activities.“There was no improvement in power supply in the country too in the outgoing year. The year witnessed killings. The Federal Government failed to protect lives and property.“In 2019, government must do everything to meet the expectations of the people. The Federal Government must ensure credible, transparent, free and fair elections and do the needful to avert electoral fraud and violence.“Killings across the country must be addressed. The grinding poverty in the land must be tackled by government if Nigerians must know peace “.Year of missed opportunities – OvedjeA concerned citizen, Steve Ovedje intoned: “The waning year could best be described as a year of missed opportunities. The failings of the present administration abound in every sector. From the ever escalating violence in all parts of the country, to the speedy evaporation of hope on the part of the led and the disturbing ability of government to spin barefaced lies to cover their numerous failings, we are stuck.“The reasons President Buhari gave for not signing the amended Electoral Bill is not only laughable, but also clearly demonstrates the shameless degree of President Buhari’s insincerity.“How can a President who refused to honour ECOWAS Court judgment on Dasuki rely on ECOWAS Protocol as reason for not signing the amended Electoral Bill that would have significantly strengthened the electoral process? We have a huge task ahead of us”.Year of good and bad- Oguma, peasant farmerA peasant farmer in Igarra, Akoko Edo local government area of Edo State, Onobere Oguma, described 2018 as a year of good and bad experiences.He was however full of encomiums for the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR), a World Bank scheme which engaged him under its employment scheme for the better part of 2018.His words: “It has been a year of the good and the bad. The economy was not very buoyant. I have to dedicate more time to my farming. However, I was also lucky to have been engaged by SEEFOR through the Chief of Staff to Edo State governor and that went a long way to cushion the hardship I would have faced.”On his expectations for the New Year, Oguma said he expected the Federal Government to cushion the economic hardship of the people, adding, “We are preparing for elections in 2019, I expect that things should be better economically for the common man. “Government should do more to improve power supply which will go a long way in helping small business people.”I’m worried- Erabhor, petty traderA petty trader in Benin-City, Johnson Erabor, asserted: “I am disturbed going by what I read in newspapers everyday and what I watch on television. It is always killings in various parts of the country. Boko Haram is still terrorizing parts of the country in the North-East and, just now, we are hearing of bandits attacks in Zamfara State. The IPOB challenge in the South-East is still there and we are still witnessing cult- related killings in some states in the South-South.”My grievance is there’s no power – Flavour, barberA barber, along Erediauwa Street, off Ekenwan Road in Benin-City, who simply gave his business name as Flavour, said his major challenge is power and expected the Federal Government to do something in 2019.“We spent two straight months here without electricity and I have to resort to using generator. How much am I making that I have to spend more than half of my earnings on buying petrol before I will now pay my rent for the shop? I believe President Buhari should do something about light; otherwise those of us in small-scale business will have to close shop.“This issue of light I learnt is very bad in Edo State and not the same in other parts of the country, especially in the North, so what is BEDC doing about electricity in Edo State?”On the 2019 elections, Flavour said: “The beauty of democracy is that the people will decide who they want and that is what I expect INEC to do. I am a card – carrying member of a party and I believe that we as Nigerians should be allowed to decide who wins and our decision should be so respected.”Present govt bereft of ideas- Omaka, unemployed graduateAn unemployed graduate, Miss Chinwe Omaka, who spoke to one of our reporters in Benin-City, stated: “Government both at the federal and state levels has not met my expectations in the outgoing year, especially in the areas of unemployment, the economy, provision of stable power supply for small entrepreneurs and security of lives and property.“ As far as the present leadership in the country is unable to meet the expectations of Nigerians in the past three and half years, voting for it again will worsen the plight of Nigerians. So it is time to try another as they are bereft of ideas on how to move the country forward”.Vote out this hopeless govt- Ayokhai, media consultantMedia consultant, Dada Ayokhai, said: “The government did not meet the expectations of Nigerians in the year 2018. For 2019, my expectation is for Nigerians to vote out this ineffective government.”Dashed expectations – Ighodaro, studentVictory Ighodaro, a student, asserted: “My expectations for this year were not met by government, especially in the areas of education, power supply, cost of foodstuff, security, war against corruption, etc.“My expectations for 2019 are that a reliable government should be voted in by Nigerians, that the elections should be free, fair and credible. There should be transparency by those in government.I’m disenchanted- Obosa, activistCivil rights activist, Agho Obosa, pointed out: “My expectations from government were never met in all ramifications. I am very disappointed that the issues of insecurity, poor power supply, unemployment, cost of foodstuff and war against corruption, which has become a one- sided affair has not been resolved by government. “For 2019, I expect free, fair and credible polls and there should be transparency by those in government.”Ordinary Nigerians suffering – Foluke Osatuyi, secondary school teacherFoluke Osatuyi said, “In terms of corruption, the administration has probed the deals and activities of the last administration, especially in the area of security where billions of naira are said to have been embezzled. The administration through the EFCC is trying to prosecute corrupt officials and send a strong signal to corrupt officials in Nigeria, with the probe of various sectors. Huge amounts of monies have been recovered, though many see it as a witch-hunting claim it is one-sided, the focus on people from the opposition party. This anti-corruption war, however, has not improved Nigeria’s economy one-bit or Nigeria’s image in the international community. The ordinary Nigerian is suffering still, and the exchange rate of dollar is high, therefore, making importation difficult and expensive and even the so-called home made goods are inaccessible as there is no adequate support from government. The little support that should come to our local farmers and manufacturers are being sabotaged by those at the top meant to overseer such gestures.“The government claims it has subdued Boko Haram, but there are still bombings here and there. The government has so far shown that it cannot fully respect court orders. There are unwarranted arrests and detention of suspects without evidence. The freedom of speech enjoyed during the Jonathan administration cannot be compared to that of ‘Sai Baba’. There has been loss of lives of peaceful protesters and believers of doctrine, and this shows no care for the value of human lives, not to mention the havocs caused by herdsmen and kidnappers. The economy of the nation is falling apart, and although it is a worldwide problem, the government needs to do something about the bad economy.“The government has not acted too poorly really but it is far from meeting my expectations with the promises of change it made during electioneering. I wish to see a government that is more proactive in delivering her campaign promises, a government that is transparent and reflects equity, a government known for integrity with economic policies that will help alleviate poverty and other policies that will ensure security of lives and property. A government that cannot provide the basic amenities of food, health care and security is no government at all”We can’t run away from restructuring — IdadaWe are going backward – Sunday Menukuro, student lawyerSunday Menukuro, a student lawyer resident in Akure, said, “Nigerians situation in the outgoing year has been the worst ever, no thanks to the government of the day, especially at the central, which has made Nigeria unbearably pathetic since it got to power. Things are from bad to worse this year because Nigerians expected that by now what those in government promised Nigerians at the time they were struggling for power in 2014/15 would have had positive effects, but unfortunately, Nigeria has gone backward almost in all spheres of life. None of their promises has come to reality. Talk of security, more innocent Nigerians have been killed by Boko Haram and killer herdsmen. Kidnappers and ritualists are on the increase, and they perpetrate their dastardly acts on daily basis.“Our military and police who are supposed to provide security have been killed by these terrorists. Fear is everywhere in Nigeria. Nobody sleeps with his two eyes closed again. When you talk of economy, most people in Nigeria have become companions of hunger as a result of the economic policy of the government of the day. Prices of commodities have gone to the roof top. No money, no job. Even those who have little amount of money to buy foodstuff, which is the basic need of human beings, would get to the market to be confronted with high price partly as a result of herdsmen whose cows have destroyed plants or the killing of farmers. Hike in the pump prices of petroleum prices does not help matters. No significant improvement in electricity supply, our roads are bad. Lecturers go on strike incessantly. All of these and many that I have not mentioned are as a result of the cluelessness of the current government. Nigeria needs a man or woman who is experienced, who understands Nigeria”.Year of the good and the bad -Michael Adeyeye, public analystMichael Adeyeye, a public analyst , said, “2018 has been one of mixed fortunes for Nigeria. One might be tempted to say it is a seemingly blend of the good and the bad. It is a known fact that there is prevailing poverty in the land and this confirms the current rating of Nigeria as the headquarters of poverty in the world. And we appear to be more divided than before.“Let me say that the expectations of Nigerians at the inception of the current government were high especially with the change agenda of this government. Nigerians are really tired of the blame game, the government must wake up to reality and take the bull by the horn to deliver on its promises rather than engage in blame trade“The year 2018 was full of crisis that threatens the unity of this nation. I don’t think we have gotten it right as expected. The technically defeated Boko Haram had suddenly resurrected and now wreaks more havoc by weakening our military through coordinated attacks. This portends a greater danger to the nation. I wonder where an ordinary citizens would go to seek refuge if our military and IDP camps can be attacked with little or no resistance.“Despite the war against corruption, the country still ranks among the most corrupt nations of the world. “Our budget performance with respect to capital budget is worrisome and nothing to write home about. With 2018 winding off and even a possible extension of the life span of the 2018 budget, it is uncertain whether much will be achieved that can guarantee a solid foundation for a better economic growth.“It is disheartening that we will be entering 2019 with the imbroglio between the Federal Government and ASUU.“On the other hand, I must commend the NNPC for a good job especially at this Yuletide period. “Nigerians are happy that the perennial fuel scarcity and long queues in our filling stations have suddenly disappeared. This is a welcome development and a good gift to the nation.“On 2019, Nigerians expect and deserve nothing but free, fair and credible elections that will be acceptable to everyone. “Government must re-strategize and possibly overhaul the current security architecture of the country. “It is an understatement to say that the prevailing security situation in the country may derail the 2019 elections if not checked. Above all, we look forward to a better and prosperous nation in 2019”.We are at a crossroad – Leke Adegbite, unionistLeke Adegbite, a unionist based in Akure, said, “In 2018, government has failed economically. Prices of products are going up daily without any policy from government to curb it. “Government increased pump prices of petroleum products two years ago with a promise that there is no more subsidy, and there was hope that they will have money for infrastructural development. But huge amount of money is still being committed to subsidy this year.“I am also disappointed that government is yet to resolve industrial crises in our tertiary institutions. As at today, ASUU and ASUP are on strike while COEASU just returned to class from a long strike.“Failure of FG and state governments to honour their agreement with the organised labour on minimum wage is another way government has not met my expectation.“Politically, internal democracy is still very far in our political parties especially the popular ones. They held terrible primaries and my expectation is that INEC, security agencies and other stakeholders will ensure credible 2019 polls while the judiciary should decide all pre-election litigations before the general elections”.Oduola Tunde Olatunde, an aggregator at Oluwabamiduro Agricultural Company, in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, said leaders displayed a high level of insincerity at all levels in the outgoing year. According to him, insecurity of lives and property was at its peak with Nigerians unsure of what next would happen. He said, as we move to election year, whoever is elected as President should ensure that lives of Nigerians are safe.Miss Mary Thomas, a Secretary at a private company, felt if the issue of unemployment is not addressed, there will be a serious pressure on the economy and this will increase insecurity.While admitting that 2018 is a challenging year which actually stretched the economy to the limit, Comrade Okon Ofonime, a marketer and maintenance operator, said the most challenging thing that actually threatened the foundation of the country is insecurity especially in the North-East.Mr Adeleke Adegoroye Witty, a farmer in Ibadan, said the most daunting challenge facing the country is inability of the leaders to provide food for its citizens. “Food is very scarce. For example, the price of rice is now N18, 000. How many people can afford that? It is not convenient for a common man to feed himself”, he said“Self employed people have no patronage because government is not paying salaries of its workers. You know most of the customers of these artisans are civil servants. “What happens when workers are not paid their salaries and entitlements? Of course the effect would spread to other sectors of the economy.“Any political party that wins the 2019 polls should improve on food production and open the borders to allow minimal importation of rice. If we want to stop importation, do we have enough to feed our people? “Government can give license to companies to import food that we are not producing enough? Then government should call farmers for town hall meetings in rural areas. “Youth Corps members serving in various states should be introduced to farming. Whatever they produce will help the economy.“Also, inmates of prisons should be made to farm. Government spends a lot of money on them. The take home pay of the members of the National Assembly should be reduced. Their allowances alone can employ several youths loitering the streets.”Deji Ogundaunsi, a final year micro biology student of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, said the situation in 2018 was so bad such that he was a victim of kidnapping. “If the security approach of government had been excellent, vices in the country would have been curbed”, he said.“The economic policy is bad and the outcome felt everywhere”.On his expectations for 2019, he said: “We hope to see a turnaround in the economy. We expect to get foodstuff at cheaper rates and land borders should be reopened”.Ogunrinde Blessing, an unemployed graduate of industrial chemistry resident in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, on her part, said, “2018 has been tough and rough for most families in the country, especially where the husband and wife are civil servants and salaries were not paid as and when due.“The Federal Government has too many irons in fire and no particular policy was given attention. With this approach, most of the projects in vital sector of the country suffered neglect or were haphazardly and shoddily done”“My expectations in 2019 is simple: Let the Federal Government complete all on-going projects in the transportation sector, roads and rail, complete all the power projects, give more loans to small scale industries and revive the textile and paper industries, these will create more jobs”.Babawale Afeez Olanite, a public servant in Osogbo, Osun state capital, asked government to reduce unemployment in the country.

Call for state of emergency not political, I am serious about it

By Kingsley Omonobi, Dayo Johnson, Chidi Nkwopara, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke•Briefs Buhari, laments shortage of Policemen in Zamfara•2 pilots, 3 others die as helicopter crashes in fight against B-Haram—NAF•Let’s confront Boko Haram more vigorously — Archbishop ObinnaABUJA—AS bandits continue to wreak havoc in Zamfara State, Governor Abdulaziz Yari said, yesterday, that he is ready to quit as governor if a state of emergency is declared to solve the security problem in the state.This came as the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, revealed also yesterday that all five of its personnel, including the pilot, co-pilot and three crew members died in Wednesday’s helicopter which crashed in fight against Boko Haram in Borno State.NAF’s revelation came on a day Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, urged the Federal Government to tackle more vigorously, the Boko Haram insurgency and growing menace of armed herdsmen across the country this year.Governor Yari, who is the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, also lamented the shortage of police personnel in the state, stressing that with the presence of securitymen, banditry, kidnapping and insurgency which had become the order of the day in the state would become a thing of the past.Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the governor explained that his readiness to vacate his position, if President Buhari should declare a state of emergency in the state, is the culmination of the value and importance he attaches to human lives, adding that without the people, he would not be governor.The governor had less than two weeks ago, declared that he would support imposition of a state of emergency on the state, if that would help resolve the insecurity in the state which has claimed hundreds of lives.Why I met Buhari — YariFielding question on why he met the President, Governor Yari said: “You are aware of what is happening in Zamfara State and some parts of neighbouring states on the issue of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency.“So, it is necessary for me to come forward and brief the President as the Commander-in-Chief. We sat down as head of security in the state and all other stakeholders and looked at the situation and came with a report that we think would help heads of security agencies here, through Mr. President, to strategize so that they can know what actually the problem is.”On the present situation in the state, Yari said it was calm, adding that with the encouragement of the President and deployment of more security agents in the state, the situation would improve.“The situation on ground now is calm and as a state, we are putting all our best to ensure that normalcy returns and we have started getting results.“We believe strongly that with what we have on ground, with the number of securitymen, if they take their jobs seriously, within a short period of time, we can get out of where we are.“We hope with the encouragement from the President and the encouragement from the service chiefs, the issue will become something of the past in a short time,” he said.Why I’m ready to quitOn whether he was prepared to leave office if a state of emergency was declared in the state, Governor Yari said he valued the lives of human beings more than the position he occupied, noting that without the people, he would not be in the office as governor.He said: “Actually, it is the life of people we are talking about and not the position. We are there because lives are there, if there are no lives there, what is the essence of leadership?“Therefore, I did not call for declaration of state of emergency in the state out of politics, I am serious about it.“The way some people are talking about it politically, I am not looking at it that way. Since I assumed office, I have never looked at insecurity as being political but I am looking at it as criminality and I approach it in a way it could be solved.“Some politicians for about three years, have been calling for a state of emergency and I said if the declaration of state of emergency will solve the problem, I am ready.”The governor, however, said he did not discuss declaration of emergency in Zamfara with the President in his meeting with him.Asked if he was overwhelmed by activities of the bandits, Governor Yari said he is not but was quick to add that as a leader, he was worried about the incessant attacks and killings.He said: “There is no territory the bandits occupied, they are there in the forests but the problem I shared with the President is that there was instruction given by the President that any policeman who has stayed more than three years should be transferred.“Unfortunately, those that were transferred have not been replaced. So out of 230 districts and 147 electoral wards with over 20, 000 people, it is only in 23 (wards) that we have Police presence. So, you can understand a number of places that there is no presence of security and these people are aware and those are the places they (the bandits) hit most.“They hardly go to any area there is police or security presence because they know that the security men will attack them. I told the President that we need attention of the Inspector-General of Police so that the police officers transferred could be replaced.”On elections in ZamfaraOn whether election would take place in the state, in view of the security challenges on ground, Yari said election would take place in the state, stressing that people have also exaggerated the situation in the state.“There is no place occupied by bandits, they live in the forest where they operate on hit-and-run basis. They take advantage of the terrain because they rear their cattle there and they know the terrain more than the security agencies.“Security agents find it difficult to trace the terrain. Sometimes, they go to where people are mining. Therefore, aircraft for surveillance or reconnaissance cannot find out anything at all. The bandits hit and run and don’t occupy any territory, the governor said.5 die in NAF helicopter crashAlso yesterday, the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, said five of its personnel died in Wednesday’s helicopter which crashed in combat against Boko Haram in Borno State.There was no survivor in the crash as the pilot, co-pilot and three crew members all died.A statement by Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force, yesterday, confirmed the development.NAF said bodies of the deceased had been recovered and taken to Maiduguri, the state capital.Following the development, Chief of Air Staff, Air Mashal Sadique Abubakar, who flew to Maiduguri early yesterday, has commiserated with the families of the five fallen heroes and prayed that the “Almighty grants their souls peaceful repose.”According to NAF, the helicopter, an Mi-35M, crashed in combat while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak, in Borno State.The NAF statement read: “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of the five crew members who were on board the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Mi-35M helicopter which crashed in combat yesterday, (Wednesday), January 2, 2019, while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak in Borno State.“The deceased personnel, whose remains have been recovered to Maiduguri, are Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob – Pilot in Command,Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas – Co-Pilot,Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim – Flight Technician, Lance Corporal Adamu Nura – Gunner,Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael – Gunner.“These gallant fallen heroes made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our Fatherland, for which the NAF, and, indeed, the entire nation owe them an unending debt of gratitude.“The Chief of the Air Staff, CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf all officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF commiserates with the families of the five fallen heroes and pray that the Almighty grants their souls peaceful repose.“The Chief of Air Staff was in Maiduguri today (yesterday), January 3, 2019, to convey the condolences of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammed Buhari, to personnel of the Air Task Force Operation Lafiya Dole over the unfortunate loss.“While in Maiduguri, the CAS also received a condolence visit from the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.“NAF appreciates the overwhelming support shown by the general public to the Service over the sad incident.“We continue to solicit your understanding and support as we daily strive to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.”Buhari condoles with NAFMeanwhile, President Buhari has condoled with the Nigerian Air Force, and relations of the five people who lost their lives in Wednesday’s military helicopter crash in Damasak, Borno State.The President in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, in Abuja, yesterday, specifically mourned the helicopter crew that died in the mishap.Commiserating with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, President Buhari said it was sad that the fine officers and men lost their lives in the bid to guarantee the safety and protection of their countrymen.He said rather than dampen the morale of troops fighting insurgency in the North-east, the unfortunate development would rather bolster their resolve to completely eliminate all evildoers within the shortest possible time.FG must fight B-Haram more vigorously — Archbishop ObinnaMeanwhile, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, has urged the Federal Government to tackle more vigorously Boko Haram insurgency and growing menace of armed herdsmen across the country this year.Archbishop Obinna, who gave the charge in his New Year Message, also expressed regret over what he described as lack of spirit of peace and mutual understanding in Nigeria.“It is my sincere prayer that this year, Boko Haram would be more vigorously confronted and those who have been pushed into kidnapping through dangers of thuggery during election, would repent,” Obinna said.While appealing to politicians to see politics more as a fair competition rather than a deadly engagement, the cleric prayed for citizens who had been unduly deprived of their dignity.“The year 2019 that we have waited for with great expectation is here with us. We must thank God for making it possible for us to enter the year. We pray for all people in business, school children, all the youths, men and women.“We pray for the elderly in our society. We pray for those who are deprived of their dignity, those deprived of their wages, and pensions. We pray that this year would be a better year,” Archbishop Obinna prayed.He also gave a thought to the forthcoming general elections in the country and hoped that it would usher in a turnaround for the citizenry, so they would have cause to thank God after the exercise.Buratai warns politiciansIn a similar development, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, yesterday, vowed to deal with politicians arming youths ahead of this year’s general elections, even as he frowned on the alarming rate youths were being armed for the purpose of elections.Buratai, who vowed that the military was ready to flush out political thugs ahead of the elections, said this at the flag-off of Operation Egwu Eke III at Owo in Ondo State.The flag-off was attended by the Brigade Commander of 32 Artillery, Brigadier General James Ataguba and other heads of other security agencies in the state, among others.Speaking through the General Officer Commanding, 2 Division of Nigerian Army, Major. Gen. Okwudili Azinta, Buratai assured that the military and other security agencies would ensure adequate security of lives and property before, during and after the February elections.He said the exercise was “aimed at checkmating the threat that may arise before, during and after the 2019 elections and the activities of kidnappers in the state.”The Chief of Army Staff noted that troops would be deployed to flash points across the state, adding that the exercise would be carried out both on land and water.He said: “This exercise, which will be on from today till February 24, is to checkmate the activities of criminals before, during and after the coming elections.“Our men will be everywhere in the state, both on land and water, to check the threat of criminals who might want to take advantage of on the current security situation in the country and Ondo State to cause trouble.“Let me also assure the people of the state that there will be no hiding place for kidnappers in the state.”Observe rules of engagement —AkeredoluFlagging off the exercise in Owo, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu urged the officers and men of the Nigeria Army that will participate in the exercise to observe the rules of engagement and code of conduct to avoid any action that might infringe on the rights of the public, especially the host communities.Akeredolu said: “It is my pleasure again to witness another important effort of the Nigerian Army in ensuring the security of lives and property in Ondo State with the flag off ceremony of Exercise Egwu Eke III.“I am made to understand that this is an internal security exercise that will be conducted on both land and water with a view to checkmating the diverse security challenges prevalent in the Southern region of the country including militancy, vandalism of oil and gas infrastructure, piracy, kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and illegal bunkering, among others.“I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the Nigerian Army is capable of flushing out the criminal elements among us, with the recent achievement in the ongoing internal security operations in the State embarked upon by the officers and men of the 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure.“We, therefore, attach a great importance to the issue of security in all parts of the State. We have of recent, witnessed an upsurge in criminalities especially kidnapping, cultism and army robbery.“However, I am happy to state that with the combined efforts of all the security agencies in the state, substantial arrests have been made.“All those found culpable will be charged to court and prosecuted accordingly to serve as deterrent to others. We are not going to relent until the state is rid of people with criminal tendencies.”

ANALYSIS: How Nigeria’s defence fared in three years of Mansur Dan Ali’s leadership

Related NewsAs Nigeria’s defence minister since 2015, Mansur Dan Ali has taken on a number of major policy initiatives aimed at fostering a sustainable reduction in security crises and a determination to shore-up defence capabilities in a country beset by perennial unrest on many fronts.Mr Ali, a retired brigadier-general, remains largely the same person today as the young soldier who took the oath to make heavy sacrifices for his nation when he joined the military in 1984.He assumed office with a resolve to reposition and revamp the armed forces capacity to successfully defend and deter external aggression and threats from non-state actors, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency.He also planned to address capital crimes like armed robbery and kidnapping, as well as the economic agitation that has kept the Niger-Delta restive for nearly two decades.Mr Ali, who represents Zamfara State in the federal cabinet, appears to have pursued a fairly conventional, at times controversial, national defence policy.He has had some notable successes, such as the procurement of new equipment for the armed forces, establishment of new military colleges and fresh alliance with world military powers in defence and aerospace technology.But he has also faced heavy criticism for his handling of the armed herdsmen crisis which claimed six times more Nigerian lives than Boko Haram in the first six months of 2018, according to the International Crisis Group.In January, Mr Ali drew nationwide ire after attacking states like Benue, Taraba and Ekiti that have put in place legal framework to tackle herdsmen in their specific borders. He declared the anti-open grazing laws confrontational and said they were responsible for the armed herdsmen aggression against unarmed women and children villagers.The states in their response dismissed the minister’s remarks as insensitive and provocative, saying the herdsmen were equally as destructive in states without anti-open grazing laws in place, including Plateau and Nasarawa.Mansur Dan AliAs a political appointee, the minister’s key exploits are intrinsic to those of President Muhammadu Buhari in defence, and he once declared that he had the “commitment and support” of the president.Defence Ministry Since 2015Nigeria’s defence ministry has coordinated defence and other national security efforts since it was established in 1958.Successive ministers have encountered unique problems that often greeted the ministry, including during the civil war and the political strife of the 1990s.Mr Ali, too, said he came at a time of intense security circumstances for Nigeria but said the challenges are far from being insurmountable. He has made efforts to provide political leadership aimed at ensuring a modern, compact, strong, professional and mission-ready armed forces for the defence of our national territory, maritime interest, airspace as stipulated in the Constitution.Since 2015, Mr Ali, as the Buhari administration’s top man in Defence, has contributed greatly or mildly in the following areas:1. Coordination of the presidential directive relocating the Military Command and Control Centre to the North-east. The government said this has incrementally boosted the fighting spirit and general morale of the troops across the theatre of operations.2. Launching of some operations and exercises which are periodically reviewed from time to time to handle emerging challenges, including Harbin Kunama, Gama Aiki I and II, Iron Force, Sharan Daji, Ayem Akpatuma, Delta Safe, Safe Haven, Safe Conduct Mesa, Last Hold, Crocodile Smile and Python Dance.Recently also, the Nigerian Army kicked off ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’ to tackle security challenges in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara and Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State.But despite these measures, the security situation in the country has witnessed little improvement. The Boko Haram sect has killed hundreds of Nigerian troops in a string of attacks on Nigerian military bases.In Zamfara, Mr Ali’s home state, armed bandits have continued to overrun villages, often killing residents in dozens before plundering their livestock and farm produce.The Nigeria Air ForceOn November 19, an attack on a police team left dozens of officers dead and many missing. The police said 100 bandits were killed during a raid on their hideout, indicating that the threats remain potent despite an active deployment of officers.3. Drafting sectoral reform aimed at re-organising and expanding the military strength to revamp personnel welfare programme that enables the Armed Forces to adequately tackle multiple threats to national security, stability and unity.There is little indication, however, that this has started yielding desired fruits.4. Introducing a harmonised terms and conditions of service for all military personnel to improve their living standards after retirement. Mr Ali also said he helped implement a prompt payment of troops’ operations allowances and personnel monthly emolument, as well as ensuring that troops who have stayed for a reasonable time in the theatre of operations are rotated and new ones inducted.It is still difficult to measure this as a success because troops are still reporting being held in the North-east for over four years in a single deployment, and the military often claims there are not enough personnel to implement prompt rotations.5. Initiating a fundamental review of the nation’s defence policy to meet up with global security challenges, the ministry procured a group life assurance scheme for military personnel and has touched the entire gamut of the military pensions to the benefit of service retirees.Mr Ali said these incentives have helped improve the welfare of relatives of military personnel, although there are still complaints that families of fallen heroes are not being notified on time and their next-of-kin not paid outstanding benefits.6. The minister claimed credits for helping the Nigerian Army commission 72 medical doctors into its officer cadre in 2017, eight of whom were consultants in various medical fields. There were also twenty-six lawyers, twenty-one public relations specialists and eighteen specialists in army aviation and engineering.Also, 19 protestant chaplaincies, 21 Catholic and 23 officers for Islamic affairs were recruited.7. At the Nigerian Air Force, 7,000 personnel were trained in Nigeria and abroad to enhance service delivery and professionalism. More than 80 young pilots from the rank of wing commanders to pilot officers were trained against the previous practice whereby only very senior officers formed the bulk of the fighter pilots.8. Mr Ali said he helped ensure delivery of the first batch of 10 brand new Super Mushshak aircraft procured from Pakistan, all fitted with digital glass cockpit in line with current practice in the global aviation industry.The configuration of the aircraft would enhance the transition to higher performance and lay a good foundation for the fighter pilots whose training were completed less than a year after the aircraft were inducted, meaning that returns on government’s investment had started yielding dividend.He described this as ‘unprecedented’ in the history of the Nigerian military, and one that could serve as a major boost to its operational strength. Again, how effective this procurement has been in the war against Boko Haram, bandits and herdsmen remains complicated.Since Boko Haram renewed its fresh assault on military bases in July 2018, there have been claims that the air force did not respond to emergency calls to provide air support, because the operation often takes several hours.The air force also faced accusations of late intervention whenever bandits strike in Zamfara, despite having a base in nearby Katsina State.9. The minister said he contributed immensely to the establishment of Army, Navy and Air War Colleges across the country. This, he said, was to “bridge the educational and research gap” in the military.Nigerian NavyThe Nigerian Army and Navy have established the Nigerian Army University in Biu, Borno State (NAUB), and the Admiralty University in Ibusa, Delta State. The Admiralty University was granted its licence in December 2017, while the NAUB got its operating licence in April 2018. Aeronautics University of the Nigerian Air Force is anticipated to take off soon in Kaduna.10. The minister also reviewed the military order of battle (ORBAT). Under the new order, Nigerian Army 6 Division in Port Harcourt and 8 Division in Sokoto were established by the Nigerian Army with a plan to have a Brigade in all the 36 states of the Federation.The new army divisions were planned to enhance security along the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Republic of Chad as well as in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta. New units were similarly established in line with the requirements of the new order of battle.Under the arrangement, some specialised units such as the motorcycle battalions were established to enhance quick mobility especially in areas unsuitable for vehicular movements. A K-9 sniper dogs’ battalion has been deployed in the North-east.Additionally, the Nigerian Army established many forward operating bases across the country to provide the necessary support to tactical operations and to cover possible security gap especially around the border regions.One of the latest is the Fort Muhammadu Buhari commissioned by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant-general, in Mr Buhari’s home-town of Daura, Katsina State.The Nigerian Navy has similarly expanded in line with the demand of the new order of battle. A naval outpost has been created and stationed in Lake Chad Basin and has since been operational.The air force has established a special operations command with quick response units located in Gusau, Owerri, Ipetu-Ijesha, Bauchi, Jos, Katsina, Yola, and some parts of Kaduna State to enhance base protection and quick response to national emergencies.11. Shortly after assuming office, the minister directed a renovation of barracks across the country. He said this move had been “adequately complemented” with the provision for the soldiers’ comprehensive kitting tailored along modern warfare requirements.This is why the ministry says it is committed to procuring modern equipment for the Armed Forces of Nigeria in its effort to improve the combat effectiveness and raise the morale of the troops.Newly initiated projects include the Gusau Barracks in Zamfara State, where for example, troops were stationed immediately after the civil war but lived in rented properties in over five locations in densely civilian-populated areas which no doubt endangered civil-military relations.It is a different story in the last three years as the phases one and two of the Gusau Barracks are already completed with the third phase ongoing. The renovation of quarters for military personnel across the country, the renovation and upgrade of most of the army, navy and air force schools to promote better learning environment is ongoing.This is in addition to new command schools and health facilities established across the six geo-political zones in the country to improve a better working condition for military personnel.Twenty blocks of 320 flats barracks accommodation by the Ministry of Defence have been initiated to ease the problem of personnel accommodation in Abuja.The 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna, the Nigerian Air Force Reference Hospital in Bauchi, the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital in Calabar and 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Yaba, Lagos, are undergoing rehabilitation. [12. To guide against defence procurement fraud, the minister said there is a new government-to-government policy that guides arms procurement which essentially prevents abuse and under-hand dealings in line with the anti-corruption stance of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.This new arrangement requires the Ministry of Defence to buy equipment and platforms directly from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), thereby eliminating vendors and middle-men from the procurement process.Although Mr Dan Ali said “the new policy now guarantees the supply of cost-effective standard equipment as well as complete elimination of fraud and manipulation by vendors thus saving the government huge hard-earned foreign exchange,” there is little evidence to corroborate the claim. The National Security Adviser still has a significant impact on equipment procurement for defence. A director and the Central Bank of Nigeria said while testifying in the case of Raymond Dokpesi that there have been no changes in ”how the military collected money for procurement.”Moreover, the Nigerian government appeared to have used middlemen in its recent procurement of 12 Super Tucano fighter jets for the Nigerian Air Force. This, perhaps, explains why the amount spent on procuring the equipment was well below the amount Mr Buhari paid to the U.S. Department of Defence.13. To improve civil-military relations, which have been strained in recent years with regular human rights abuses by soldiers, especially, a hospital by the Nigerian Air Force was completed and commissioned by Mr Buhari in Bauchi. Four cancer screening centres were also established by the Nigerian Air Force its base in Maiduguri.The minister also said NAF opened a Dialysis Centre and an emergency ramp at the recently-established NAF Reference Hospital in Port Harcourt in May 2018 to further enhance healthcare delivery for personnel, their families and members of the civil populace. The ministry also established health maintenance facilities in its zonal offices across the six political zones to cater for medical needs of the personnel and the retirees.Under Mr Ali’s supervision, the Nigerian Air Force recently invented Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) nicknamed ‘Tsaigumi’, and it was unveiled by the president. The UAV is capable of day and night operations with an operational endurance in excess of 10 hours, a service ceiling of 15,000 feet and a mission radius of 100 kilometres, including a maximum take-off weight of 95 kilogrammes while its payload is an electric-optic/infrared camera system.Tsaigumi DroneThe NAF has since expressed readiness to partner with Shell Petroleum Development Company to deploy the UAVs to secure critical oil installations in the Niger Delta.The minister also said the NAF has produced various calibres of Alpha jet bombs locally and overhauled Alpha jet break systems assembly in collaboration with indigenous Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing Company. Weather monitoring systems were also deployed at all Nigeria Air Force stations to improve air safety. How pivotal these measures are for the Nigerian defence would be revealed in the future.14. Mr Ali lamented that the nation’s security assets have been of great concern as most of the platforms and military hardware have become obsolete. The last bulk purchase of equipment was in 1982.However, he says tremendous efforts have been made to provide funds for the acquisition of modern equipment for the military to simultaneously confront multiple security challenges such as terrorism, farmer’s clashes with pastoralists, killer-herdsmen, pipeline vandalism, crimes, armed banditry, cattle rustling, border clashes between communities, kidnapping, ethno-religious conflicts, trans-border criminal activities, amongst others.To address the challenges, the minister said he has “taken the bull by the horns” and committed huge resources to improve military platforms in the country. He said at least eight helicopters have been released to the air force and the NNPC for surveillance operations.The minister also inducted four Mi-35 helicopters from Russia deployed in the ground attack in the North-east to boost the operations of the Nigerian Air Force which has also produced hydraulic accumulator diaphragms for the helicopters locally.The government also said it procured Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), minesweepers and ammunition of different calibre for the Nigerian Army.Recently, some military personnel were trained on explosives detection and disposal by the British Liaison and Support team at the theatre of operations in Maiduguri. In the Nigerian Navy, there were newly-activated NNS Unity and CENTENARY from China and the locally-built NNS KARADUWA and Tugboat Commander EDWIN UGWU and boats locally manufactured.But Nigeria’s defence budget has witnessed significant decrease under Mr Ali. Compared to preceding years when defence spending averaged N900 billion under President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Ali has overseen only about half of the annual defence spending, overseeing N429 billion in 2016, N465 billion in 2017 and N422 billion in 2018.15. Mr Ali also said he was the one who directed all military formations across the country to establish a human rights desk to treat complaints promptly in furtherance of Nigeria’s commitment to honour its obligations under various human rights treaties. While the military had since confirmed setting up the desks, very little has changed in regards to how military personnel treat civilians. Acute abuses are still rife. Soldiers only recently opened live rounds on unarmed Shiite protesters, killing dozens of them.15. Mr Ali negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the U.K, Russia, Turkey and France including other African countries such as Equatorial Guinea to cover maritime security. How much this would help in foreign relations in the area of national security could not be immediately measured.Overall, based on his promises, successes, challenges, and the current realities of Nigeria’s security situation, Mr Ali can be scored an average performance in office (5/10).

Days after release of report: Army, Amnesty stick to their guns –

ADVERTISEMENTReport will shore up terrorists, weaken Military – ArmyGo to court if you feel undermined – AmnestyYou got your facts wrong – PresidencyAltercations will worsen insecurity – ExpertsThe leadership of the Nigerian military and that of the Amnesty International (AI), Nigeria, are not shifting grounds in their altercation arising from the rights group’s latest report on security situation in Nigeria.ADVERTISEMENTThe Nigerian Army has restated its allegation that the Amnesty International was out to sow discord between the military and the Nigerian public, by making Nigerians lose confidence in the military so that terrorists will have the upper hand. But the AI has dismissed the charge, blaming the Nigerian Army of failing to admit shortcomings and make corrections. The group challenged the Army to seek redress in court if it truly feels the report would undermine it.The latest exchange of words followed the release of a report on Monday by Amnesty, saying at least 3,641 people had died in clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria between 2016 and 2018.ADVERTISEMENTIn the report, titled “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes between Farmers and Herders,” AI said 2,000 deaths occurred in 2018 alone.The group said the number would have been significantly reduced had security operatives acted accordingly.“These attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria director.“Little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available. The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population,” the group stated.Since the release, the rights group has come under barrage of criticisms from the military and the Nigerian government, who accused it of plotting to ‘dismember’ the country and derail the ongoing war against terrorism, allegations that Amnesty denied.Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, the Nigerian Army spokesperson, Brig-Gen Sani Usman, said AI’s goal was to cause the erosion of confidence in military commanders for the benefit of ‘terrorists and criminals’.“Indeed, it is a deliberate attempt to cast aspersions on the leadership and cohesion of the military, thus demoralising them, thus affecting their performance.“It would make them lose credibility and public support, thus giving terrorists and other criminal elements an upper hand,” he said.He faulted the organisation that failures by the security forces fuel escalating conflict between farmers and herders.“It is not true that troops failed to respond to distress call, 16 hours after,” he said.The Army spokesman condemned AI’s reports as annual ritual aimed at denigrating the security forces without any shred of evidence.But the rights organisation dismissed the charges, saying it expected the Nigerian authorities to use its report as a basis for further investigation, adding that the nature of their reactions showed that they never bothered to read the report in the first place.“Sometimes, the way the government dismisses our reports, clearly you will get the idea that they never even bother to read it, which is very unfortunate,” Isa Sanusi, Amnesty’s media and communications manager, told Daily Trust on Sunday.He said, “What we are actually trying to do is to help the Nigerian government get pieces of information that will help the government to conduct its own research and investigation. Its own investigation can even be better than ours because the government has more money, resources and power to obtain all documents.“But unfortunately, what we get is criticism, condemnation and allegations that are so unfounded.”Sanusi also faulted the Federal Government over its allegations that AI’s operation in Nigeria was damaging the morale of the military, saying that instead, the report was to encourage Nigerian authorities to do more to protect human lives.“If they read the report they would realise that we never blamed the military or demoralised them. The whole report is about failure of authorities to protect the lives of people. We respect the Nigerian military; we believe that they are doing a good job. So if we undermine the Nigerian military, what is the point?” he said.He urged the military to seek redress in the court of law if it feels undermined by the report.“If they have any evidence that we are undermining them, why can’t they take us to court? Why can’t they use the judicial processes to deal with us?“We hope they would have a rethink, sit down and read our reports. If they have found any faults with our report, let them follow the legal processes and deal with us. This is what we want,” he added.He said Amnesty releases reports on different human rights issues, but no one will react. But the moment it is about the military, the government and everyone becomes interested.He said the display of professionalism by the Nigerian military during the investigation of the killing of the late General Idris Alkali showed that they have the capacity to protect Nigerians and that this kind of expertise and seriousness should be applied to the protection of lives in Nigeria.Amnesty’s latest report came at a time Nigeria is preparing for the 2019 general elections, raising concerns among government officials that the organisation may have political motives. But Sanusi denied the allegation.“Our colleagues in other countries are busy pushing governments to ensure that everyone has adequate housing, education and health care. But in Nigeria, we are still at zero point. We are just talking about a situation where people will have the opportunity to live without being killed.“During the last administration, the same people in this government, who are now abusing us, always liked what we were doing when they were in opposition. Now that they are in government, they don’t like what we are doing.“Those who are politicians and who see politics in everything are the ones giving political meaning to our action,” he added.In a reaction earlier in the week, the Nigerian Army said Amnesty was plotting to destabilise the country with “fictitious allegations” and threatened to demand its closure in Nigeria.“There is credible information that the Nigerian branch of the International Non-governmental Organisation is determined to destabilise the country.“This is noted through fabrication of fictitious allegations of alleged human rights abuses against the Nigerian security forces and clandestine sponsorship of dissident groups to protest, as well as unfounded allegations against the leadership of the Nigerian military,” Brig-Gen Usman said.Hours after Army’s response, the Presidency issued its own reaction, saying it was increasingly concerned about the role the AI was playing in the war against terror in Nigeria.Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Amnesty’s operations “seem geared towards damaging the morale of the Nigerian military.”“It often appears as if the Nigerian government is fighting two wars on terror: against Boko Haram and against Amnesty International. The obvious bias and inaccuracies in Amnesty International’s recent country reports on Nigeria risk Amnesty’s reputation as an impartial international organisation,” he stated.Similarly, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described Amnesty’s report as “largely outdated.’’Mohammed, who addressed journalists on Thursday, said AI was wrong to have accused government of ineptitude after 947 suspected terrorists were arrested, 841 being prosecuted and 68 convicted.He gave a breakdown of government’s achievements in tackling insecurity across the country, saying that in Taraba State, 49 were arrested and 42 being prosecuted; while in Plateau State, 43 were arrested and 31 were prosecuted.He said that in Benue State, 120 were arrested, 81 prosecuted and 68 convicted, while in Niger State, 47 were arrested and 40 are being prosecuted.In Zamfara State, the minister revealed that 172 were arrested and 162 are being prosecuted, while in Nasarawa State, 43 were arrested and 40 are being prosecutedHe said 38 suspected terrorists were arrested in Adamawa State and 34 are being prosecuted, while in Yobe State, 42 were arrested and 38 are being prosecuted.Mohammed said that in Borno State, 40 were arrested and 36 are being prosecuted, while in Katsina State, 49 were arrested and 46 are being prosecutedIn Kogi State, the minister said that 23 were arrested and 20 are being prosecuted, while the Operation Absolute Sanity in North-East and North-Central arrested158 suspected terrorists and 150 are being prosecuted.He also disclosed that the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team had arrested 123 and is prosecuting 121 suspected terrorists.“You can now see that the alleged government inaction is not true. I think Amnesty International should update its report to reflect the present reality, which is that the killings from the herders-farmers clashes have reduced. This is because of the concerted efforts by the Federal Government and the fact that perpetrators of the killings are being brought to justice,’’ he stated.He said the achievements did not happen by accident, but by concerted and determined efforts by the Buhari Administration.You got your facts wrong – PresidencyThe latest report, according to AI, was based on 262 interviews with victims, eyewitnesses, community leaders, medical practitioners, religious leaders and government officials, including members of the security forces.Researchers also analysed 230 documents, including medical records and reports by the security forces.But the presidency, in its second response in a week, faulted the report, saying AI got some of its facts wrong.“The report has raised our concerns about the validity of their evidence gathering. It is like knowing the facts but drawing the wrong conclusions.” “It is not correct to state in any way that the problem between farmers and herders is a new thing over the last three years. It has been happening for over 100 years. Colonial powers, Britain and France, had regularly recorded these conflicts, which are available in archives.“It is equally untrue that government has done nothing. Alleged human rights abuses have been investigated. Clashes have been reduced through government’s actions,’’Shehu said in the statement on ThursdayHe said the progress recorded was due to the strong determination of the administration to punish rights violators, no matter who they are, including the military, through orderly room trial, court martial and the regular courts.Endless altercationsThis is not the first time the Nigerian military and the human rights organisation have been exchanging altercations. In October 2018, Amnesty International accused the security forces of using excessive force on the Shii’te group during their procession in Abuja. At least 45 members were killed and many injured during two days of violent crackdowns on protesters who were demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, jailed since 2015.The director of AI Nigeria, Ojigho, said in a statement that the organisation had evidence that the military used live firearms during the protests.But the Nigerian Army denied the reports, saying personnel responded with “proportionate force.”John Agim, a spokesperson for the Defence Headquarters, said Amnesty’s account of the incident was worrisome and could have adverse consequences on national security and cohesion of Nigeria.Also, on May 24, 2018, Amnesty International accused Nigerian security forces of raping thousands of women and girls who fled Boko Haram.In a report titled, They Betrayed Us, the global human rights group reported that troops separated women from their husbands and raped them, sometimes in exchange for food, in refugee camps.Nigeria’s military dismissed the allegations as malicious and false. “These false reports, which are capable of derailing the good work being done by our patriotic and selfless soldiers, must stop,” the military said in a statement.The Amnesty International stated in its 2017/2018 human rights report that the Nigerian Army carried out “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture and other ill-treatment, which, in some cases, led to deaths in custody.”In February 2017, the Nigerian military accused Amnesty International of fabricating its report about extrajudicial killings and torture of 240 people in the North-East and 177 pro-Biafran agitators.The organisation’s reports stated that 240 people, including infants, died in a dreaded military detention centre in Borno in 2016, while 177 pro-Biafran agitators were extra-judicially killed in the same year.The then acting Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen Rabe Abubakar, in a statement, described the report as a continuation of Amnesty’s “series of spurious fabrications aimed at tarnishing the good image of the Nigerian military.”Army, Amnesty clash will worsen security challenges – ExpertsSecurity experts have waded into the verbal war by Nigeria authorities, including political leaders and the military in the aftermath of the recent report by the AI.A retired military officer, Salihu Bakari, said Nigerian authorities were in a tight corner, and advised that instead of engaging the AI in needless debate, those concerned should address genuine observations and act accordingly.He said the AI shared its report with the international community on different countries facing different challenges, and that fighting the group would only worsen the plight of any country that was accused of violations.“Silence by Nigeria is acceptance of guilt; acknowledging the report is also acceptance of guilt.“All the contents of the reports are facts which seriously indict the military and political leadership of the country. These have serious consequences to the country, military and political leaders. This could affect Nigeria’s successes in fight against crimes,” Bakari said.“The International Criminal Court (ICC) could pick up and initiate further investigation with a view to indicting individuals and charging them to court. The international community (USA) could sanction individuals.“Embargo could be placed on arms sales to the country and other privileges denied. The arms sales embargo on Nigeria by the USA was a result of human rights abuses allegations against the Nigerian military in Odi and Benue,” he said.He said in military parlance, the response by the military was the right thing to do.“It’s the best option at the moment because the report is already out. They just have to challenge the report. Silence or acceptance is inimical to them.“Past allegations and embargos have not been cleared, and now, new ones. The little support we got from the USA was as a result of international cry for the crises in the North-East, especially the Chibok and Dapchi girls,” he said.On allegations that the AI was simply blackmailing Nigeria, he said, “It is not blackmail; they are saying it as it is. They have no reason to blackmail. They are doing what they were established to do – exposing human rights abuses and identifying the perpetrators in such acts for actions to be taken(either locally, internationally or both).“Most of the local AI members are Nigerians. They have no reason to be against the government or individuals. They have facts, figures, documents and dates of everything,” he said.Another officer, who left the military service some years ago but does not want his name mentioned, said, “During our time, we related intimately with the AI. We got their reports before time and acted promptly. Their target is for actions and remedy. But now, the military, especially the Army, think they can do and undo.’’Advising on the way forward, he said, “The military should have direct liaison with AI and others. It should treat all correspondences from AI and others with military urgency.“The military should be taking actions on allegations of abuses and publicising same. Imagine how the military set up panel to investigate issues of rights abuses against it, now almost a year of submitting the report, nothing public is out,” he said.On his part, Dr. Amaechi Nwokolo, an international terrorism and development consultant, described as absurd, the altercation between the Nigerian authorities and AI.In an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Dr Nwokolo, however, urged the AI to exercise caution in dealing with the Nigerian government.He said, “It sounds very absurd that our military will be exchanging or joining issues with AI. What I expect from the military is pure professionalism and to continue to focus on what they are doing.“Again, AI must also be very careful. They are dealing with government, whereas the international community is asking our government to use the military to quell terrorism.“There is no way we will not have these mistakes and incidences, but our military should tread with caution. The more they are joining issues with AI, the more they paint the Nigerian security forces and the country in a bad light in the international community.”He, therefore, urged the military to be in constant communication with the Nigerian public.“I don’t think Amnesty should be the one telling us what has happened and what did not happen. It behoves on the Nigerian authorities to tell the people what is going on and not waiting for reports from international organisations and start dismissing them. They have to be proactive at all times,” he said.Cautioning the government against banning Amnesty, he said, “We are in a democratic dispensation. Over 90 per cent of countries around the world are practising democracy. If we dare carry out such an act, the world will come after us.”A lawyer with interest in human rights violations, Musa Ali, said Amnesty report was far off the mark.“Nigeria as a country is very poor in record keeping, and this is why no one can tell you the casualty figure through suicide bombers, Boko Haram terrorists, own troops killed, missing in action and wounded in action,” he said.CSOs back AI over faceoff with militaryThe chairman, Board of AI Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani said, “The military threat to shut down AI Nigeria or any human right organisation operating in Nigeria is not the solution to the negligence or failure on the untimely response to the issue of human rights and providing security for Nigeria.“Amnesty is not engaging in sabotage, but to help in ending the violence in the country. We would advise the military to look at the recommendations we have made to the government and address them.”The Amnesty International Nigeria has said that its recent report on human rights violations in Nigeria was based on facts that every Nigerian was already aware of, noting that it stands by the report.Amnesty said that even the Nigerian government itself had admitted that there were serious human rights violations in the country and constituted a committee to look at that, but that it failed to take action on the panel’s report, which it received since February.Rafsanjani told Daily Trust on Sunday in a telephone interview that it appeared some people in government were benefiting financially from the insecurity in the country; hence they would not want it to stop.The executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)further said the Nigerian government had not been sincere on how its citizens are killed on a daily basis.“It is unfortunate that some people in government are calling this obvious insecurity and violence as a false alarm. Amnesty International (Nigeria) and other non-governmental organisations are monitoring and documenting these human rights abuses. Every Nigerian knows that things are not okay. There’s a lot of ethic, communal and political violence going on in Nigeria.“For any person to come and say that it’s a false alarm, I think he is an enemy of Nigeria. He doesn’t want Nigerians to have peaceful atmosphere. It is because their family members are not victims of this violence, that’s why they can dismiss that there are no violence and human rights abuses in Nigeria.“If their family members were involved, they won’t be making this kind of careless talk. We want to call the attention of the people in authority to remember that this human right is for everybody. Look at the case of former Chief of Defence Staff.“When he was in the position, they were also having the same kind of response, dismissing human rights organisations. But look at the way he ended up being killed. So, it’s important when you are in government to make sure that you do everything possible to ensure that Nigerians are protected.“If you look at the kind of funds going into the issue of security in government at all levels, you begin to wonder why we still have insecurity? So, we have noted that it is like some people don’t want peace in Nigeria because once there’s no violence, there won’t be justification for siphoning public funds in the name of security votes. So, some people deliberately want this violence to continue, that’s why they are not doing anything to stop it,’’ Rafsanjani said.Rafsanjani noted that they were vindicated by the killings that took place about 48 hours after the release of the report, saying 25 people were reportedly killed in Zamfara State and a former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, was also killed thereafter.“What Amnesty International, Nigeria has always been saying is that government must take its responsibilities and obligations seriously in terms of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians as enshrined in the constitution.“We have been trying to draw the attention of the authorities to the continuous gross violations of the fundamental human rights in Nigeria.“Even government itself has acknowledged the problem of violent violations of human rights, but what is weighing us down is that every time you try to bring this issue to the attention of government, because of the fact that those people who, in the corridors of power, are not victims of this violence, are quick to dismiss these problems that Nigerians are facing on a regular basis.“Anybody who lives in Nigeria knows that the level of violence and insecurity in different parts of the country is something that any serious government must rise up to ensure that it prevents.“Each time Amnesty International or any other organisation asks government to take proactive measures, instead of them to look at it, the people in government and the security agencies look the other way.“One of the issues we want the government to address is that the National Human Rights Commission as a government agency has no board, up till date. It has no political leadership that will deal with the issue of human rights abuses in Nigeria. We want them to address that.”Thirty-five Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in NIgeria urged the Federal Government to stop the incessant attacks on human rights and humanitarian organisations in the country.“We as stakeholders in the human rights community in Nigeria are concerned about the incessant attacks and criticisms of human rights and humanitarian organisations by the Nigerian Government and its security agencies, in particular, the Nigerian military and security services.“The latest of such attacks has been the announcement of the ban of UNICEF, later rescinded, and the call to close the Nigerian office of AI, which has become a regular object of attack by the Nigerian military and security services for doing its work of exposing human rights violations.“We totally condemn threats and intimidation of UNICEF and AI Nigeria by the Nigerian military and security services, especially as the Presidency has joined in the fray. That these threats are always issued against AI Nigeria whenever it issues a report detailing credible allegations of human rights violations in Nigeria shows that the attacks are aimed at gagging the organisation, undermining credible human rights reporting and covering up systemic violations of human rights,” the jointly signed statement read.

Nationwide Operation Python Dance will boost voters’ confidence during elections – Middle Belt group...

- The proposed nationwide Operation Python Dance would boost voters' confidence in the forthcoming election, a group has said- The group also condemned the attack on the Army over the proposal- According top Middle Belt Conscience Guard, extremists in the last quarter of last year invaded the Federal Capital territory with a view to cause mayhemA group has reacted to the proposed nationwide exercise tagged Operation Python Dance III by the Nigerian Army.The Middle-Belt Conscience Guard said the exercise would rather boost voters’ confidence rather before, during and after the election.The board of trustees chairman of the group, Sunday Onoja, while speaking to journalists in Abuja, on Friday, January 5, said the exercise would address areas in the Middle-Belt where the terrorists were once known to have sleeper cells.Onoja said: "Our geo-political zone, the north central sits between the north (northeast and northwest geo-political zones) and the wouth (southwest, south south and southeast geo-political zones). Whatever happens in any of these other geo-political zones therefore automatically affects the Middle-Belt."He said such makes the group a default stakeholder in whatever happens in these sister geo-political zones.READ ALSO: upgrades to a letter from our Editor-in-Chief Bayo Olupohunda“Our concerns extend to extremist and separatist groups to the north and south of our geo-political zone. A separatist group had in the past earmarked part of the Middle Belt as territory to be excised to form part of the illegal country they are dreaming up," Onoja said.Onoja said extremists in the last quarter of last year invaded the Federal Capital territory with a view to cause mayhem while the north east continues to be in need of protection from these elements.“It is in view of these peculiar challenges that the Middle-Belt Conscience Guard welcomes the Operation Python Dance that the Nigerian Army has launched across the country and meant to last until the end of February."We see the operation as being able to address the security concerns and challenges that we have identified. For us, it is a confirmation that the Federal Government is committed to tackling violence and criminal activities such as banditry, politically aided killers and other criminalities that worsen during general elections.“We are hopeful that the Operation would be able to identify and apprehend any Boko Haram suspect that escaped southwards. The exercise should equally address areas in the Middle-Belt where the terrorists were once known to have sleeper cells. We would like the last vestige of Boko Haram to be removed from our geo-political zone.“We equally desire for the banditry in the north-west to be contained by Operation Python Dance within that geo-political zone so that they do not ever have the chance to trouble the people of the Middle Belt. We believe this is a unique chance to decimate the criminals that have kept people across Nigeria agitated over the wanton killings that trail them everywhere," the group concluded.PAY ATTENTION: Get the Latest Nigerian News Anywhere 24/7. Spend less on the Internet!Meanwhile, previously reported that the chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai has declared that the army is ready to drastically reduce kidnappings and other violent crimes in parts of the country.The army chief who was represented General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2 Division of Nigerian Army, Major-General Okwudili Azinta, said the military would do everything possible to flush-out kidnappers in Ondo state.He also raised concerns over the influx of arms and training of political thugs by some politicians, ahead of the general ( -> We have upgraded to serve you better.Primate Ayodele releases 2019 prophecies, says B/Haram will infiltrate the army| Legit TVSource: