The Defence Headquarters on Wednesday commenced deployment of troops in the three states under emergency rule, viz. Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
As was learnt from security sources in Abuja that at least 3,600 soldiers would be deployed in the three North-East states from where President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said his government was determined to flush out insurgents.
“With the massive deployment of troops and the determination of the security chiefs to deal with the threat to the unity of the country, the exercise may involve deployment of about 3,600 men of the Armed Forces,” a top security source told one of our correspondents on Wednesday.
Reports on Wednesday said troops had already been sighted at the borders of the states. Also, residents and reporters in Yola, capital of Adamawa State; and Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, reportedly said there had already been an influx of troops and military hardware.
“I have never seen soldiers on the move quite like this before,” a Maiduguri resident, Ahmed Mari, told Reuters.
Sources indicated that the troops would be drawn from several formations, including the 22 Battalion, Ilorin; 22 Armoured Brigade, Ilorin; 82 Battalion, Jos; 2 Mechanised Division, Ibadan; and 81 Division, Lagos.
Another top security source also confided in one of our correspondents that the Defence Headquarters indeed commenced preparation for the deployment of troops on Monday night, after a series of security meetings between service chiefs and the President.
Jonathan in a national broadcast on Tuesday slammed emergency rule on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the President said there had been breakdown of law and order. In fact, the President said insurgents had taken over the northern area of Borno State, home to members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
It was during the meetings with security chiefs that the President arrived at the decision to put the affected states under emergency rule.
Investigations revealed that crack operatives of the Armed Forces, especially from the military intelligence, the military police and other areas known for proven capability in interrogation are expected to be moved from Lagos and Abuja and other areas.
Director of Defence Information, Brig.- Gen Chris Olukolade, said that the Armed Forces had swung into action to enforce the declaration of a state of emergency in the three most affected states.
He said in a statement that the operation was being jointly handled by the Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies in the country.
However, the DDI was silent on the exact number of troops being deployed to carry out the presidential directive.
Olukolade said, “In furtherance of the Commander-in-Chief’s directive, the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies have commenced operations to rid the nation’s border territories of terrorist bases and activities.
“The military operation will focus on tracking down criminal elements within the vicinity of border communities prone to terrorist activities.
“The operations which will involve massive deployment of men and resources aimed at asserting the nation’s territorial integrity and enhancing the security of constituted governmental structures in all territories within Nigeria’s borders.
“The operational plans have also briefed participating troops appropriately on arrests, cordon and search especially directed at apprehending those who have been violating sovereignty of Nigeria through terrorist training for insurgency and related activities.
“The operation is expected to put an end to insurgent activities in these parts of the country.”
He assured that necessary efforts had been made to ensure the safety of civilians and non-combatant elements during the period of the operation and urged the citizens to give the needed cooperation to the security operatives in the area by volunteering information to them.
Jonathan’s aide on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, however, told the BBC, “We’ve had a lot of problems (of) border crime, and criss-crossing of the border by the insurgents, and there’s also evidence that some of the insurgents really are non-Nigerians.
“So there is actually a need to properly police our borders, and part of that exercise will include ensuring that maximum security exists in that place. You see because as long as the terrorists can go in and out unchallenged, then we’re in big trouble.”
While, declaring the state-of-emergency in the states on Tuesday, Jonathans gave the soldiers wide powers to arrest and question suspects.
He said, “The troops and other security agencies involved in these operations have orders to take all necessary action, within the ambit of their rules of engagement, to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists.
“This will include the authority to arrest and detain suspects, the taking of possession and control of any building or structure used for terrorist purposes, the lockdown of any area of terrorist operation, the conduct of searches, and the apprehension of persons in illegal possession of weapons.”