From Uche Nnorom Makurdi
The Nigerian Army has formally flagged off Ayem A’ Kpatuma also known as Exercise Cat Dance’ in Benue state and other neighboring states.
This is just as Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai has assured of restoring normalcy to the troubled communities of Benue that were invaded by suspected Fulani herdsmen on New Year’s day.
General Buratai gave the assurance yesterday in Makurdi when he led top brass of the Nigerian Army on a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state as well as flag off the military exercise in the state.
He said, “Ayem A’kpatuma is an exercise that would help familiarize our troops to the challenge of internal security and this is jointly being conducted with other services of the Armed Forces as well as other security agencies especially the Police, Department of State Services, DSS, and other paramilitary organizations.
“I am not going to trace the history of the challenges that this part of the country had faced but by and large, it is our hope and expectation that at the end of the exercise we expect that things would normalize..”
Continuing, the Army Chief said, “We are covering virtually the whole of Benue state as well as the neighboring states and this will help at the end to ensure that individuals that have been displaced are able to go back to their respective homes. So we will go straight to the field and see how we can get things done properly.” He added.
Receiving the team, Governor Samuel Ortom lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the military exercise in the state.
“I thank Mr. President for approving the exercise in Benue state. Though I don’t know the difference between exercise and operation because It’s a military terminology.
“I trust that you will ensure that normalcy is returned to our communities, that is what we expect and we look forward to that.
“We also look forward that the operations will support the civil society like you have said but we now have over 160,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs and its quite challenging taking care of them.
“It’s our desire that confidence be built in the people and the killers of our people are arrested or made to leave us alone.
“This law is meant to provide a win win for both farmers and herdsmen. This is done with all sense of humility and sincerity to ensure that herdsmen and farmers live together in peace.
“The law is not targeted at any individual but meant to instill rule of law, which is the vehicle for development. We therefore believe that our laws would be obeyed by those who decide to stay in Benue.
“We also pray for the success of the special exercise so that our people will pick up their lives and move on in life.” Governor Ortom added.
Flagging off the Special Exercise at its Operational Base, at the LGEA Primary School, Mbabegha Guma local government area, the Army Chief assured that the 40 day exercise that started on February15 lasting till March 31would address the security challenges facing parts of Benue and neighbouring states.
On his part, Governor Ortom urged the people of the state to extend support to the military personnel in order to ensure the success of the military exercise.
Also speaking, his Kogi state counterpart, Yahaya Bello in whose state the operation would be extended promised that his state would extend support to the operation to ensure its success.
“I want to appeal to the people of Benue state to provide credible information to the security operatives to ensure that the criminals behind the crisis were weeded out and our people would return to their homes and prepare for the next farming season.
In his speech, Governor Tanko Al’Makura, represented by his Deputy, Silas Agara lauded President Buhari for granting the exercises which would be extended to his state stressing that it came timely as the farming season was fast approaching.
“We know that with this exercise peace will return to our communities, and we want to tell the government and people of Benue state that what affects them also affects us in Nasarawa because we are bothers. So we will jointly work to ensure the success of the special exercise,” the governor said.
On the sideline of the Special Exercise was the provision of free medical outreach to the Internally Displaced Persons at LGEA Primary School Antso, in Guma local government area of the state.