Nigerian Army as agent of development

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By Hyacinth Ogbu

Worldwide, the Army traditionally plays the role of securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations. Excitingly, in Nigeria, the Army has gone a notch higher by establishing its imprimatur as a strong agent of development through the provision of awful and charming infrastructural facilities and social amenities to various communities in the country which play host to them.

Never in the recent history of Nigeria has the country been troubled by multifaceted insecurities than what it is experiencing at the moment. To say, civil security has been overwhelmed by these orchestrated insecurities is stating the obvious. However, the Nigerian Army has never belched each time it is called for intervention; but rescues the endangered Nigerians.

And almost always, the Nigerian Army has been the last resort and proved its mettle as the guardian angel of the Nigerian people. In the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and North Central, the Army has shadowed as great and admirable emancipators of a people trapped by a vicious circle of violence and bloodbath.

Even with the resurgent insecurities, the Army has risen to task, especially in containing the acts of armed banditry and other criminalities troubling the Northwest. The launch of “Operation Sahel Sanity” by the COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai has landed with resounding success; restoring peace and security.

President Muhammadu Buhari has never flinched on his responsibility of deploying the Army to assist civil security to provide security and to ensure that there is peace in every part of Nigeria.

But sometimes, appreciation from beneficiaries of an effort or project is difficult and rare. It is normal with human beings. In any case, one part of Nigeria that deeply appreciatives and excited with the Nigerian Army is the Southeast. This is a region once held captive in their fatherland by armed criminal elements.

These evil men masterminded gruesome murders, violence, constantly sealed up the Southeast unlawfully and recklessly in exercise of barbaric might. Citizens were subjected to untold hardships in the region. Innocent and law-abiding Nigerians became targets of molestations, harassments and intimidations by the criminal elements assembled into various gangs. Many Ndi’gbo and our visitors were even afraid to travel home to celebrate yuletide and new yam festivities because these elements laced the killings with armed robbery and kidnappings.

Nonetheless, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General TY Buratai launched the first military exercise code named “Operation Python Dance I” (Egwu Eke I), spanning from November 27 to December 27, 2016. The one-month military exercise crushed the season of armed robberies, kidnappings, cultism, inter-communal clashes, herdsmen-farmers clashes and associated violence in Nigeria’s Southeast region. The Army patrols, road blocks and checkpoints restored instant peace, tranquility and security to a people immensely troubled by bands of armed criminals, ethnic militias, miscreants and hoodlums.

Similarly, a repeat edition of the “Operation Python Dance II” (Egwu Eke II) was also conducted in the Southeast a year later, in 2017. It recorded similar positive impacts in securing the lives and property of law-abiding Nigerians in the region. Largely, the Nigerian Army has been able to rescue a region once in the jaws of armed men, tormentors and killers. Every part of Nigeria has experienced the saving interventions of the Army.

But apart from performing its natural and constitutional obligations, the Nigerian Army has marketed itself uniquely under the Buhari Presidency and its leadership by Gen. Buratai for introducing a third mandate in its operations. The Nigerian Army today is vigorously pursuing the agenda of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in various sectors in host communities across Nigeria.

Anywhere there is the presence of the Nigerian Army, the host communities have had the special privilege of benefitting from water, road, electricity projects or health services. It is a deliberate strategy by Gen. Buratai to win the heart and minds of host communities as well as endear them to the Army. These critical capital projects have immensely supported civilian populations.

Therefore in 2017 in the Southeast, the 82 Division, Nigerian Army built an over N200 million water plant at its Abakpa Cantonment Enugu. It was personally commissioned by Gen. Buratai. The water treatment plant with a capacity of over one million litres per day was conceptualized to serve the military personnel of the Abakpa cantonment and the members of the host community of Abakpa.

Strikingly, though, the primary source of the water plant is the Ekulu River, but the efforts of the Nigerian Army in constructing the water treatment plant is the first time the Abakpa community accessed treated, portable and hygienic water in the history of their existence. The residents were faced with the severe problem of availability of water. The natives usually go to distant places in search of water to perform domestic chores. But the Army had ended the era of suffering over water.

And the Army has not rested on its oars in pursuing the agenda of repositioning the Army as well as consolidating on CSR gestures and benevolence to host communities. A few days ago, Gen. Buratai performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital at Nkwagu Cantonment, Abakaliki, Ebonyi state.

The Army Reference Hospital is conceptualized as a world class and state-of-the-art hospital designed to serve both the Nigerian Army personnel and the civil populace in the South-East region of the country generally. Access to quality healthcare has been a major problem in most communities in Nigeria. This is where the excitement over the project is derived.

Therefore, the decision of the Nigerian Army to avail the people of the Southeast this rare health facility is commendable and a legacy the people will enjoy for generations. It is an indication that the Army leadership, does not only think about security of the people, but also the health and physical wellbeing of Nigerians.

An elated Ebonyi state Governor David Umahi was full of eulogies for the Nigerian Army. The action of the Army leadership in establishing the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Abakaliki has for the umpteenth time confirmed to the Governor that the Service Chiefs are indeed committed to defending the territorial integrity of the country and fond of the Nigerian people.

This latest action by the Army has compelled Gov. Umahi to stoutly dispute the National Assembly (NASS)on sack of the Service Chiefs. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Gov. Umahi hotly disputed the position of the NASS demanding for the sack of the Service Chiefs in the wake of resurgent insecurities.

The Governor rather canvassed for more support and funding to security agencies. Particularly, Umahi echoed that the Nigerian Army is not only appreciated in the region, but a blessing to the Southeast.

His words; “I want to disagree with the National Assembly in my own view about the change of service chiefs. One thing I have realized is that we like change too much in this country. We want everybody to taste every seat. That is not what we need at this critical time of our security challenges. What we need is cooperation with the security agencies. The Chief of Army staff is also a very committed person. Very friendly to the civil society.”

Interpreting the issue with the eye and wisdom of an elder and a true leader, Gov. Umahi aligned with the position of President Buhari by insisting that “I will be suggesting to Mr. President in support of his retaining the Service Chiefs that we should increase their funding of the Armed Forces, we should increase their logistics, we should increase the programme that will bring information to the security agencies.”

He added; “So, I support Mr. President that instead of changing the Service Chiefs he should rather increase their funding and increase the frequency of his meetings with them. And also encourage civil society to come up with information that will assist the security agencies.”

Clairvoyant minds have sighted the capacity of the Nigerian Army and believe that with a little support by government and the civil population, Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Army will surmount all insecurities soonest. Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Army has seamlessly continued to win more converts for the Buhari administration, in degrees even far more than the core politicians.

The latest verdict of Nigerians in the Southeast is crystal that the Service Chiefs, particularly the COAS are all performing excellent jobs. Gen. Buratai particularly has brought uncommon values and panache to the Army such as professionalism, discipline, loyalty and patriotism. Even the doubting Thomases are now beginning to see the wisdom of President Buhari in insisting on still keeping the Service Chiefs in office. The effects are palpable, as seen by everyone from the activities of Operation Sahel Sanity in the Northwest to now the Southeast. #

Ogbu PhD wrote this piece from Ebonyi State University,

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