A group, Joint Coalition of Conflict Managers in Nigeria, has called for local support for the ongoing operation Cat Race launched in Benue State on February 20 y the Nigerian army quell the unrest in the state.
According to the group, the exercise, which was code-named exercise Cat Race and known in local parlance as exercise ‘Ayem a Kpatuma’ was a right step to bring to an end the killings in the state.
Speaking at a press conference, the group’s Convener/National Co-ordinator, Onjejefu Peter Bawa, urged the people to support the exercise, saying “Operation Ayem a Kpatuma must succeed and the inky way that can be achieved is if we support it by way of volunteering information and not by making inflammatory comments.”
“Otherwise, history will judge us for standing in the way of the Federal Government in its attempt to put an end to the security situation in Benue State”, the group warned.
Recalling that this was not the first time that troops will be deployed to Benue State in response to clashes between herdsmen and farmers. The group said the military, in 2014, helped to quell attacks on farming communities following an order to that effect by the then President Goodluck Jonathan.
“If that exercise was successful, as it indeed, brought a stop to the killings, which enhanced the displaced to return to their homes, why do we jump to a conclusion that this instant exercise would be a failure?”, the queried.
“What is needed from leaders and indeed, every lover of peace in Benue State is the promotion of those things that would contribute to peace building and the resolution of the ongoing conflict.
“Anything to the contrary amounts to sabotage.
“We call on peace loving people of Benue State to cooperate with the military for the success of Excise Cat Race and avoid the temptation of inciting the citizens to cause more violence.
“Our people will also do well by reporting cases of abuse, trespass, and other acts considered as violation of their fundamental rights to the appropriate authorities for necessary action”, they stated
Giving reasons for the media briefing, the group noted that “It has become absolutely necessary to address you over recent concerns raised by the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT) and Benue Youth Forum (BYF) following the flag off of exercise Cat Race known in local parlance as exercise Ayem a Kpatum.
“Benue, like some other Nigerian States has experienced violent attacks between suspected herdsmen and farmers.
“This has resulted in loss of lives, property and the displacement of thousands from their homes”.
The exercise Ayem a Kpatuma, which was launched following demands by the people for a lasting action to end the killings in the state, is part of the strategy to bring to a stop this ugly trend that the exercise.
The operation was launched to cover Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states and is due to end on Saturday 31st March, 2018 according to Chief of Training and Operations Nigerian Army Major General David Ahmadu.
It will effectively tackle cases of armed banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, sundry crimes, herdsmen/farmers clashes and attacks on communities within the catchment states of the exercise.
However, barely two days after the launch of the exercise by the Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Mdzough U Tiv and the Benue Youth Forum in separate statements have raised concerns respecting exercise Ayem a Kpatuma, which have been dismissed by the Joint Coalition