1. Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press. I invited you here this morning as strategic stakeholders to inform you of the Armed Forces activities around the country.
2. Section (s) 217 – 220 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria places the responsibility of defending Nigeria from external aggression and maintaining its territorial integrity and security on the Armed Forces of Nigeria. It is no doubt that Nigerians have continued to testify that the military has carried out this responsibility gallantly with great sacrifices.
3. In Operation LAFIYA DOLE, our troops have continued to record successes against Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs). So also are the Operations Awatse, Operation Delta Safe and Operation Safe Corridor, our troops have continued to perform credibly well. Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA was conducted from 15 Feb – 5 April 2018 simultaneously in Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba and Kaduna states. The duration of the Exercise in Taraba state has been extended to 14 May 2018 due to the prevailing security threats in the state. Troop’s activities throughout the conduct of the exercise were based on the rules of engagement in line with international best practices.
a. During this period, a total of 183 criminals were arrested in Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA in Benue and Taraba States for various offences. In Benue State, 147 herdsmen, 6 cultists, 5 rustlers and 6 armed bandits were arrested while 15 were arrested in Taraba state. In 1 Div Area of Responsibility, a total of 13 bandits were arrested. All the arrested suspects have been handed over to the Nigeria Police for further action.
b. Several arms and ammunitions were recovered during Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA. In Benue State, 1 x AK 47 rifle, 1 x FN Rifle, 3x AK 47 Magazines, 9 x rounds of 7.62mm special, 23 rounds of 7.62mm NATO, 13 Dane guns, 38 machetes, several spears/axes and assorted charms were recovered. Also, 18 Motorcycles and 15 handsets were recovered in Benue State. In Taraba State, 4 x AK 47 riffles with 3 magazines, 96 rounds of 7.62mm special, 8 rounds of 9mm and 19 locally made guns were recovered. Others include, 5 locally made pistols, one shot gun and 27 live cartridges. In 1 Div Area of Responsibility, 16 assorted arms were recovered and some ammunitions.
c. The presence of soldiers and other security agencies gave confidence to the villagers and Internally Displaced Persons affected by the herdsmen/farmers clashes. Everything is being done for the place to return to normalcy especially the troubled areas in both Benue and Taraba States.
d. As part of Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities, 2 medical outreaches were successfully conducted at Gbajimba in GUMA Local Government Area from 19 – 20 Feb and Logo Local Government Area, Benue State from 26–27 Feb 18
e. Other notable achievements include, denying armed men and criminals’ freedom of action, preventing several planned attacks, rescue operations and creating enabling environment for normalcy to return.
4. During the exercise, we lost some of our dear colleagues; 13 soldiers were killed in action, while 7 soldiers were wounded in action. We also had our equipments destroyed during the operation.
5. Civil authorities at all levels such as community chiefs, Local Government Area chairmen and state governors are often instrumental to the success of Internal Security (IS) Operations. This is because they provide information, synergy, support, and facilitate a conducive environment for military operations. They also assist in winning the minds and hearts of the people in support of the military among others. Regrettably, during the conduct of Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA some civil authorities especially in Taraba State did not accord the military the desired cooperation. For instance, the Chairman of Takum Local Government Area in Taraba State did not cooperate with 93 Battalion but instead portrayed the military in bad light to the locals. His actions before and during Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA were clearly anti-military and he incited his people on many occasions to resist and confront the military.
6. Defence Headquarters hereby appeal to our political leaders not to play politics with security issues and the Armed Forces of Nigeria. The military is the strength of every nation, Nigeria inclusive. If we talk-down on our Military, it will dampen their morale, the enemy will be emboldened to cause more havoc and the consequence on our citizens will be dire.
7. I implore you to use your various platforms to galvanise support and understanding for the military to win the war against these criminals together.