The Defence Headquarters yesterday stated that troops deployed in Benue, Taraba and other troubled states across central Nigeria have been withdrawn due to acute shortage of financial and logistical resources. President Muhammadu Buhari had in February this year ordered the military to embark on Exercise Ayem Akpatuma, following a string of killings of villagers in states along the Benue River, as well as Kaduna and Niger states. It was billed as a measure to degrade the capacity of the attackers.
“It requires logistics for military to take part in an operation, which is different from their normal day-to-day,” Defence spokesperson, John Agim, said at a press briefing at the Defence Headquarters yesterday morning, adding: “It also costs money.” Agim, a brigadier-general, acknowledged that residents are distraught about the withdrawal but warned that for troops to return to the troubled states, additional provisions must be made.
“If the military is deployed for an exercise, it’s not for eternity, it is for a particular period. When the period elapses, when there is need for an extension, then there is need for additional logistics for such exercise to continue,” Agim added. The admission shocked security analysts, who said they knew the Nigerian military had long faced financial constraints but did not expect that funding would not be made available for a crucial exercise that formed a major aspect of President Buhari’s response to the lingering carnage. Agim’s comments contradict an April 8 claim by the Nigerian Army that no troops were removed from troubled states that soldiers were deployed to instill peace. Army spokesperson, Texas Chukwu, released the statement in an apparent attempt to counter media reports that the Army had quietly removed soldiers to the apprehension of defenseless residents. Agim said the exercise was later extended in Taraba for another one month, but did not say why they left out Benue, where hundreds have been killed within the past one week, including over 41 in a single attack on April 11.