The disturbing security situation in the South-East geo-political zone calls for a more people oriented approach by the military. In a situation where neither civilians nor soldiers are safe, it takes brain more than brawn to restore sanity.
We commend the military for sacrifices made to restore calm in the area. In trying to sanitise the environment, they have lost gallant officers and men which possibly explains why the first rule appears to tilt around the dictum, ‘the best way to defend is to attack.’
Officers and men of the Armed Forces and paramilitary agencies have not been spared the gory treatment suffered by civilians in the hands of criminals who hide under the banner of insurgency to terrorise citizens in the once vibrant South-East.
It is condemnable that the criminals use unorthodox ammunition on troops who patrol the roads and villages. In most of the attacks, security operatives and their vehicles are set ablaze in unpardonable gruesome manner, with the internet filled with photographs and films of the gory aftermath.
However, while unwritten Rules of Engagement may encourage Scorched Earth policy in neutralizing the enemy, what we see in the South-East is more of punishing multitudes of innocent citizens for a crime committed by an enemy who kills civilians as much as he does soldiers.
In this case, the enemy, dubbed Unknown Gunman by the media, emerges from his hideout, unleashes mayhem and disappears. It is a rarity to capture these criminals in action. We are fed with their atrocious tales and in most cases; the vicinity of the crime suffers the consequences during reprisal.
There are numerous examples to support this. And there is no state in the South-East that has not received a dose of this grievous consequence from the military following coordinated attacks on patrol teams or isolated cases of targeting personnel.
The latest happened in September 2023. Eight security operatives, comprising two each from the Army, Navy, Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were burnt in their patrol vehicle at Oriendu Market, Umualumaku in the Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State.
The military response was swift. Umualumaku was invaded by soldiers. It is unthinkable that criminals will live freely in a community, launch attacks on security men so brazenly and be so confident that their shadows are not going to be easily trailed.
In July 2021, Amangwu in the Ohafia area of Abia State was attacked. Initial reports said a soldier was hit by a stray bullet at Ebem Park. There are military bases in Ohafia, making it hard to believe that the Eastern Security Network (ESN) will be bold enough to build a camp there. The ESN is supposed to be the military wing of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
The man who leads the group, Nnamdi Kanu, is under maximum detention in Abuja. His absence has created a bazaar for all sorts of criminals to operate.
IPOB has continuously announced the suspension of stay-at-home in the South-East but criminals have continued to torment the people. The economy has laid waste as a result of their activities. What the government needs to do is to think out of the box.
The military should lead in this regard. Burning down villages is adding salt to injury. Many of these villagers have suffered so much in the hands of the criminals. What they expect from the Army is protection. When those who should restore confidence, add to the misery of the populace, there is danger.
The war against criminals in the South-East requires more than armoured tanks and attack helicopters. The military must do more in the area of intelligence. We have seen cases where innocent people have been picked up. In one instance, an accused was in confinement when the crime was committed and security agencies later paraded him as one of those who launched an attack.
President Bola Tinubu has enough information at his disposal. In budgeting for defense, enough allocation should be channelled to military intelligence. In other climes, attacks are launched after thorough investigations.
The people of the South-East have received enough punishment from criminals who control the forests and infiltrate towns and villages from there. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) should continue to bomb the forests.
In the past, the Nigeria Army trained soldiers in jungle warfare. Col. John Madaki was exceptional. Now we need to bring them to the South-East and spare innocent villagers. The military should burn the jungles, not villages.