From Femi Oyelola, Kaduna
The Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Major General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo has described the killings in Southern Kaduna as the activities of criminal elements on both sides and not ethnic cleansing as it is being claimed.
General Okonkwo who briefed journalists after the high level security meeting which held at the council chambers of Government House Kaduna yesterday said that ‘’what we have were attacks on some communities and reprisal attacks.’’
According to him, both sides of the conflict have been attacking each other but ‘’the reports are not balanced. Perhaps, most of the media houses don’t know, both sides are actually involved.’’
‘’You have Kataf youths, Fulani militias and the criminal elements of both sides. Some people are also leveraging on the security situation to perpetuate their criminal activities, aside communities involved in the crisis,’’ Okonkwo added.
The commander said that ‘’any incident is enough to spark off crisis in that area, they have been lingering disputes and animosities, banditry and cattle rustling there.’’
The commander promised that the military and other security agents will re-strategise and ‘’we will deploy as much as possible to shorten our response time.’’
General Okonkwo assured that there is going to be improvement because ‘’we have reviewed our operations. We are going to close ranks. We are going to be more robust in the days to come.’’
He said that contrary to the allegations that the military and other security agents were not doing enough to contain the attacks, he argued that ‘’if one or two attacks took place, three were prevented.’’
The commander said that although there have been some gaps in their operations, he listed difficulty of the terrain and limited manpower as constraints, adding that in spite of those challenges, they are committed to bringing peace in the area.
‘’If you know the area very well, the communities are far and dispersed, they are several kilometres apart from each other. The terrain is difficult to access with vehicles. And we have limitation of manpower but of course you know that we are committed.
‘’But be that as it may, we are going to get more troops. We are strategising, we will deploy as much as possible to shorten our response time. Perhaps, we used to respond a bit late but if we had not responded, we could have had more casualties,’’ he explained.
General Okonkwo said that there is need to the communities to embrace peace, adding that ‘’we will create the conducive environment for them to meet, dialogue and resolve issues so that they can continue to live together as they have been living together.’’
The commander promised that ‘’community leaders and other stakeholders will be carried along in the search for lasting peace because it is not entirely a military issue.
‘’’The leaders have to embrace peace and we will give them the conducive environment to have peace parleys, meetings and mediations, to bring the crisis to an end,’’ he added.
The General said that the military and all the security forces are working closely with the state government, adding that Governor Nasir El Rufai ‘’has pledged to support us.’’