Recently, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, visited Plateau state, where he held discussions with critical stakeholders, on the quest to finding lasting peace that would end needless attacks and killing of people. MUHAMAMD TANKO SHITTU writes.
The Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), hitherto Special Task Force (STF), came into fusion consequent upon the sectarian crises that rocked Jos and other parts of Plateau state, with the sole aim of restoring peace and its upkeep. Able and competent senior officers, have held sway as Commanders of the Operation. Its maiden commander, Major-General Sale Maina (retd.), also doubled as then General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3 Div Maxwell Khobe Cantonment. But with the departure of Major-General Maina (retd.), the commanderships were separated, until recently when the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, re-organised the workings of the GOC to also Command the OPSH, with Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Sallau Ali, assigned with the dual task.
As a competent officer of the Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. IS Ali, assumed duties on July 12, 2021, as the 41st GOC, and 11th Commander of Operation Safe Haven, as mandated. At the taken and handing over, he spelt out some of his vision to include; officers and men welfare, teamwork, commitment to duty and improving civil-military relations amongst others. “I urge all officers to work as a team, imbibe positive attitude to work, and demonstrate professionalism in the discharge of our duties,”
The CDS’s visit
Consequent upon the recent upheaval that rocked some parts of Plateau state the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Leo Irabor, visited the state at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to fashion out ways of ending the sectarian crises that led to the killing of many people. The General was at the 3 Division, then to the headquarters of Operation Safe Haven, where encouraged the GOC, his officers and men to continue with their sacrifices to safeguard the
lives of the citizens.
General Irabor held an interactive sessions with community leaders at the Plateau state Government House, from where he proceeded on tour to some scenes and communities that were affected by the crises. At the Government House, General Irabor said only the citizens can guarantee the desired peace to thrive, stressing that security agencies can only creates the enabling environment for the sustenance of peace. He further told the meeting and indeed journalists who were at the headquarters of Operation Safe Haven, that Major-General Ibrahim Ali, was deployed to serve as GOC 3 Div/Commander OPSH, based on competent and merit, and the narratives against the GOC were false.
“I have also heard from the media, propagating the false narratives, that combining the operation of Operation Safe Haven and the General Officer Commanding the 3 Div of the Nigerian Army is intended to escalate the problem in the Plateau. What a falsehood!
“I am the one who made that re-organisation, I felt that it is necessary for us to combine the Armed forces available to the division and those available through Operation Safe Haven, under a single leadership for it to be more effective. You can’t have a house within a house, it doesn’t exist, the area of responsibilities of the 3 Division is where Operation Safe Haven operates,” he said.
The CDS stressed that “it is, therefore, the responsibilities of the General Officer Commanding the 3 Division to ensure adequate peace keeping in the area.”
“You can’t have two captains in a ship; there must be one captain and he must be objective. The General Officer Commanding 3 Division, as we have today, is someone we have assessed to be neutral, who have the requisites leadership quality that have come to bear in leading men and women of Operation Safe Haven to ensure the objective of the Operation is achieved. The objective is achieving peace and we are going to achieve peace.”
On the call for people to resort to self defence, the CDS cautioned against taking illegal arms, saying: “It is illegal to carry arms for self defense. Self defense; has to do with you taking measures to ensure that you run for safety. Preventing any movement that is injurious to you, knowing who your neighbors is, knowing what your neighbour is made up, knowing the character of your neighbour and your locality and knowing bad elements around your environment. It is not until you carry weapons that you can defend yourself. So, defending your self is not about carrying guns.”
General Irabor urged newsmen to educate the people and also charged them to shun reportage that would further instigate citizens. “I urged you to report what will add values to peace and security of Plateau state and Nigeria at large.”
Maj.-Gen. Ali seeks monarchs, religious leaders’ collabo
Having fully settled down, the GOC, Maj.-Gen. IS Ali, swiftly began familiarisation tour to traditional and religious leaders as critical stakeholders in the peace process, in Plateau state, where he sought their cooperation and support.
In a press release by the Information Officer, Operation Safe Haven, Major Ishaku Takwa, the Commander, was at the palace of the Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, who doubles as chairman of the Plateau state traditional council. The commander pledged to ensure fairness and justice in his dealing with the security challenges, and further called for continuous prayers from both the traditional and religious leaders. He said: “Those sponsoring and benefiting from criminalities will be apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law. I urge the community leaders to support the operation, identify
and handover criminals in their communities.”
Maj.-Gen. Ali further urged the community leaders to always be sincere in handling security matters and called on religious leaders to remind the congregations on the significance of peaceful coexistence with one another.
“Justice will be my guiding principles; I believe there can never be peace without justice. So, I am going to be fair to everybody. That is why I am here to seek your prayers and blessings.” he said.
The Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, used the opportunity to
appreciate the security agents for the sacrifice they render on the Plateau.
“We cannot pretend to be ignorant of your sacrifices; you left your family far away and sometimes lose your lives to bring peace. We sincerely appreciate your efforts.” he said.
Similarly, the GOC was at the headquarters of Jama’atu Nasir Islam (JNI), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Jama’atu Izalatil Bidah Wa Iqamatus Sunnah (JIBWIS) and Living Faith Church respectively.
The state vice-chairman of JNI, Alhaji Garba Abdullahi, the CAN chairman, Rev. Polycap Lubo, the JIBWIS National Chairman, Council of Ulama, Sheikh Muhammad Sani Yahaya Jingir, as well as Pastor Gayus Biam, of the Living Faith Church, separately, pledged their support and prayers for permanent peace on the plateau and Nigeria, and assured the GOC of their continuous support. They prayed to God to help the GOC turn the tide of the security situation towards lasting peace in Plateau State and Nigeria.
Maj.-Gen. Ali also visited some crises prone settlements of Fulani herdsmen, the Irigwe people and their leaderships all in Bassa local government area of the state, where he also pleaded for their cooperation to leave in peace and harmony. In some instances, he distributed relief materials to some victims of attacks and counter attacks in the trouble areas. The beneficiaries expressed
appreciations over the gesture, saying the military under Maj.-Gen. Ali has greatly helped them.
Ali re-assures troops
Having accorded great concerned to personnel welfare, the GOC was at the Air Force Military Hospital Jos, where he visited a woundedsoldier ACM Nwafor Nonso, with renewed commitment to personnel welfare, at which he said soldiers have been making un-quantifiedsacrifices while securing the lives and property of their fellowcitizens. Major- General Ali, assured ACM Nonso, on admission at the hospital, having sustained injuries while on military patrol bike during a routine patrol to secure Mangu-Panyam road in Mangu local government area of Plateau state, that all necessary measures have been put in place to ensure he gets the best treatment.
OPSH’s feats under GOC
As criminals continue to set in their injurious in some places under the jurisdiction of 3 Div/OPSH, troops have on their parts been making concerted efforts, by repealing or thwarting some of those criminal acts. Within this period, troops have successfully neutralised syndicate of 6 criminals that specialise in kidnapping innocent people in Mangu local government area of Plateau state. The troops also recovered weapons belonging to the Nigerian Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) from the bandits.
According to Major IsiakuTakwa, the Public Relations Officer of OPSH, the troops in joint operations with the Divisional Police Headquarters at Mangu responded swiftly to a distress call from the IRT that bandits had attacked the team and took away their weapons. The criminals were immediately trailed and neutralised after a gun duel with the troops. He added that remains of the IRT members who lost their lives and that of the 6 criminal gangs were recovered. The troops also recovered 3 AK 47 rifles belonging to IRT team earlier taken away by the criminals.
The information officer, also said troops of OPSH burst drug syndicate and recovered 320 blocks of Indian hemp worth 9.5 million naira concealed in a Toyota Camry car with registration number Abuja ABC 214 HV, while the suspects Ex Sgt Patrick Kalu a retired police officer, 60 year old and Mr. Friday Kalu 40 years old were nabbed during stop and search operation at Manchok Riom road.
Similarly, another 248 blocks of substance suspected to be cannabis estimated to be about 7.5 million naira, was recovered from an ex-military man, in a Toyota Camry car with registration number Lagos, KJA 150 EG.
“The suspects ex-corporal Essien Friday, a 60 year old, retired Army personnel and 50-year-old Ibrahim Ali were arrested by the troops during stop and search operation along road Manchok – Jos in Kaura LGA of Kaduna state. The suspects claimed that they were contracted to convey the illicit substance to Yola, Adamawa State from Ondo state.”
“The Commander OPSH, Major General Ibrahim Ali, commended the troops for their vigilance and doggedness towards preventing criminals from carrying out their heinous acts,” he added.
Furthermore, the troops intercepted two 2 suspects with 370 rounds of ammunition, concealed in a Toyota Pathfinder car with registration number Plateau LGT 772 JN.
“Luck ran out of the suspect when the driver of the car attempted to maneuvre the military check point located at Werreng along road Barkin Ladi – Jos in Plateau state.
“Unfortunately, for the suspects, their car hit the barricade at the check point which resulted in the death of one of the suspects. Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspects Sergeant Azi Jonathan, a 30-year-old serving police traffic warden drove the vehicle and Mr Nengak Daniel, a 60-year-old were intercepted by the troops during stop and search operation at a checkpoint,” he said.
According to Major Takwa, the body of the deceased suspect was handed
over to the Police Divisional Headquarters at Barkin Ladi while the other suspect is undergoing interrogation.
He said a Toyota Pathfinder car, a cash sum of Two Hundred and Five Thousand, Seventy Naira (N205, 070.00) only, one empty case of ammunition, one Dagger, a torchlight and 3 Techno phones, national identity card, 3 wraps of a substance suspected to be cannabis and a bag containing clothing materials, were recovered from the suspects.
Major Takwa said the surviving suspect is currently undergoing further interrogation for prosecution. Major Takwa said the troops have also rendered search and rescue operations, after the attack on travelers along Gada-biyu Rukuba road, where 36 of the survivors were rescued, he added that the GOC/Commander OPSH, has continue to motivate troops to discharge their duties.
According to Major Takwa, the Commander OPSH, is leaving no stone unturned, as far as swift response is concerned, adding that troops have responded to so many security concerned in areas like Rafi Bauna, Rukuba Road, Dutsen Kura, Lantang North and Wase. He revealed that the troops have on the instructions of the commander intensified surveillance and intelligence gathering effort to mitigate the activities of criminals/militia in Plateau State.
“It is pertinent to note that OPSH is committed to safeguarding lives and property in line with global best practices of adhering to rules of engagement (ROE), standard operating procedure (SOP) and respect for fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
For the records, OPSH deploys in a joint operations involving al security agencies whose mandate is to bring lasting peace on the Plateau and environs. It is practically impossible to issue out orders
to troops and for them not to respond to any distress situation aimed
at saving the lives and property of law abiding citizens considering
that they are drawn from all the security agencies, cutting across
ethnic, religious divides and under oath to maintain peace and
security in the nation.
“Therefore, the submission that troops have not been given permission
to protect communities is not only false but wicked as the mandate of OPSH is explicitly clear on what should be done in an event of such unfortunate situation in line with the SOP. However, it would be appreciated if anyone has information that would help identify personnel that is alleged to have given such excuse as to not given orders to respond to distress calls. It is also important to stress that prior to deployment, troops are adequately briefed on their expectations for operations in realisation of OPSH mandate. Currently,
the Commander OPSH has ordered the beefing up of security and increased patrols to safeguard all troubled areas to prevent recurrence of such sad incidents,” he said.