From Uche Nnorom, Makurdi
Force Commander of the Military spike Operation code-named Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini yesterday, said clearly and strongly that his troops are neither overwhelmed nor overstretched by the security challenges in the three states of their operation.
Major General Yekini further stated that the OPWS started operation in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa State in July 2018 following daunting security challenges occasioned by the activities of armed herdsmen and armed militias in these States, adding that they had been working round the clock to keep all armed elements away from the three (3) states.
He said this while reacting to a statement credited to Governor Samuel Ortom on Monday that the security agencies are doing their best but are overstretched and overwhelmed, adding that the armed herdsmen sometimes have superior weapons.
“We are not overstretched or overwhelmed. No, we are not. Every military operation has a mandate and we believe we have substantially fulfilled our mandate not just in Benue but also in Nasarawa and Taraba States.
“We know how we met Benue State in particular when we got here. The security situation then was characterised by mass killings by armed herdsmen and other acts of brigandage by warlords such as Gana and Ojoundu who carved out parts of the state for themselves.
He maintained that within a short period of operation, the OPWS succeeded in flushing out all these criminals and also curtailed the activities of armed herdsmen which have now been reduced to occasional skirmishes with troops.
The Force Commander disclosed that his troops have so far recovered close to 300 assorted weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition in the three(3) states as well as destroyed all identified militia camps especially in Benue.
“We made it possible for the Benue State Government to reassert political authority over places like Katsina Ala, Gbise, Gawa and so many other rural communities in Logo, Ukum and Kwande Local Governments which were hitherto being controlled by some of these war lords.
“We assisted greatly in preserving Benue as the food basket of the nation in spite of all odds. Thanks to OPWS, Benue today is exporting trailer loads of foodstuff to other parts of the country almost on daily basis thereby boosting the state’s Internally generated Revenue, IGP. .
While further reeling out more achievements of the OPWS, Gen. Yekini said his troops eliminated hundreds of armed militia men and apprehended hundreds of others as well as facilitated the voluntary return of close to 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) mostly in Benue.
“We acknowledge that some are still in camps and we will continue to work hard to get them back home. We brought back social life to Makurdi and other key towns in Benue State which were badly affected by the crisis at the time.
“We kept the Makurdi – Lafia – Abuja Highway open on 24 hours basis for use by commuters including high government officials in Benue State who ply the road to Abuja. We kept open other key highways including the reopening of the Takum – Katsina Ala road linking Taraba with Benue, which Gana closed for several years unchallenged. We also ensured the reopening of the Makurdi-Naka-Ankpa road which was deserted by motorists for months and taken over by armed herdsmen.
“We substantially brought the lingering Tiv/Jukun crisis under control. We can go on and on if need be. We are professional soldiers. We are not saying that there are no lingering security challenges on ground. No, but we will continue to tackle them headlong in conjunction with other security agencies in the state.
“What I said above does not portray us as overstretched and overwhelmed. No. We remain resolute in pursuing our mandate to its logical conclusion. OPWS’ mandate does not include catching cattle on the streets,” Yekini concluded.