By; Colonel Sagir Musa
In line with the constitutional mandate of the Nigerian Army to assist civil authority when directed, the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Buratai proactively appraised the myriad of security challenges and scenarios across the nation. Consequently, he directed the conduct of several Simulation, Command Post and Field Training Exercises in various regions of Nigeria.
These Exercises were deliberately initiated and conducted with an overarching aim of checkmating identified security challenges prevalent in the regions where they were carried out. In this regard, Exercise SHIRIN HARBI was staged from 17 -19 April 2016 in 3 Division Area of Responsibility to take care of the insurgency and sundry crimes such as cattle rustling and armed banditry common in parts of the North Eastern Region.
In the same vein, Exercise HARBIN KUNAMA was held in 1 Division Area of Responsibility from 9 – 15 July 2016 to rid the general area of the North West Region of banditry, insurgency, religious insurrection, armed robbery and cattle rustling among other menaces.
Also, Exercise CROCODILE SMILE was conducted from 5 – 10 September 2016 in the Niger Delta Region by a combination of 2 and 82 Divisions with the major aim of reducing incidences of illegal bunkering, oil theft, piracy, pipeline vandalization and other criminalities across the entire region. Additionally, it was the objective of the exercise to sharpen the skills of army personnel to be proficient in Internal Security duties in maritime operations.
Similarly, Exercise PYTHON DANCE was carried out in the South Eastern Region from 27 November – 27 December 2016. The peculiar security challenges in the region such as kidnapping, abduction, armed robbery, farmers – herdsmen clashes, communal crisis, traffic gridlock and violent secessionist agitation among others were the targets of this Exercise.
Thus, the concept of Exercise PYTHON DANCE, just like others before it, is purely Command Post, Field Training and Real Time Exercise. It is aimed to enhance troops’ agility and preparedness across spectrum of contemporary and emerging security challenges peculiar to South Eastern Region. The Exercise is three in one, in that – it was – deliberately designed as – a Command Post Exercise that transmuted into Field Training Exercise and where necessary dovetailed into real time mission or activities such as anti kidnapping drills, Patrols, Raids, Cordon and Search, Check Points, Road Blocks and Show of Force.
One interesting aspect of the Exercise is that it is multi agency in nature and execution. Relevant Para-Military organizations such as elements of the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, State Security Services and Federal Road Safety Commission synergized and collaborated to ensure successful execution and attainment of outlined objectives.
Also, the non reliance on only Military Line of Operation to achieve the end states of the exercise was part of the texture of EX PYTHON DANCE. For this reason, an elaborately generous Civil – Military Cooperation Line of Operation had been successfully planned and executed during this exercise. In this regard, some relevant Nigerian Army Corps and Services such as the Medical Corps and Engineers Corps carried out medical outreaches, roads and schools repairs across the South Eastern Region. This contributed to positive public perception of the exercise and won the hearts and minds of the civil populace in the targeted areas.
On the whole, Ex PYTHON DANCE has numerous objectives. Some of which are; to practice participating units on planning, preparation and conduct of Internal Security Operations, intensify training on Counter Terrorism and Internal Security Operations as well as to deter the activities of kidnappers, cultists, armed robbers and violent secessionist agitators. Others are – synergizing with relevant Para- Military services to address the identified threats and sharpening the skills of troops towards curtailing current and emerging security challenges peculiar to the South Eastern Region. In all standards, this Exercise and others before it were successful. The earmarked objectives have been achieved and lessons learnt are being put into practice for the benefit of future training and exercises.
Despite the initial disinformation, agitation and misplaced apprehension about the Exercise, the record of achievements during Ex PYTHON DANCE is huge and highly acknowledged particularly by well meaning locals and visitors across the South Eastern Region. Due to intensity of patrols, road blocks, raids and other activities in the Military Line of Operation, miscreants and criminals were denied freedom of action. As a result, most of the criminal elements fizzled out of the region into neighboring Delta and Rivers States. The account of peace, law, order and secured environments in the entire South Eastern Region occasioned by the Exercise was widely circulated by the media among others. Accordingly, the political leadership, some elites and the locals in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States appreciated and differently voiced their commendations about the Nigerian Army.
Also, most of the security challenges such as intra and inter communal crisis, farmers – herdsmen clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery and cultism as well as “trading in human misery” in the region were grossly reduced to the barest minimum. These menaces are and have been the focus and targets of this Exercise and have so far been effectively achieved.
Similarly, violent secessionist agitators and related irredentist groups were silently suppressed. Consequently, the region was stabilized, with an increased level of free movements and a boost to economic and social activities.
Parenthetically, the annual gridlock on the Niger Bridge at Onitsha was effectively remedied. The yearly sufferings, inconveniencies and insecurity arising from traffic jam on the Asaba-Onitsha axis of the bridge were curtailed. Seamless flow of traffic was achieved by own troops working in synergy with the Federal Road Safety Commission and the Nigerian Police Force. Above all, Federal Road Safety Commission available Road Traffic Accident Statistics in the entire region present a significant reduction occasioned by the strength of road blocks, check points and patrols during the period.
Equally important is that the Exercise has further raised the image and reputation of the Nigerian Army in its struggles to end insurgency, crimes and criminalities across the nation.
It is therefore interesting but not surprising to security and intelligence community, – that Command Post and Field Training Exercises were initiated and executed with the major objective of addressing peculiar security challenges across the various regions of Nigeria. This idea assisted significantly in the huge successes achieved in all the areas where the Exercises were conducted. The Buratai’s Approach – that of putting – realism/pragmatism and subterfuge into training, exercises and/or operations strategically aimed or targeted to solving identified security threats across the nation has so far yielded the desired results.
Some of the effects of this “Realist Approach to Warfare, Training and Exercises” are obvious not only in the successes recorded, but also in the elements of surprise as been achieved. Miscreants, saboteurs, bandits and criminals were taken unaware – believing that the Exercise remains – a Command Post and/or a Field Training Exercise only.
Similarly, the art of warfare –real or putative, is part of a training period for the participating troops. In this regard, a lot has been learnt on real time situations during Ex PYTHON DANCE and the other Exercises before it. Here, lies the beauty of the pragmatic approach to Internal Security Operation, the imperativeness of its sustenance and possible extension to Southern Kaduna and other identified flash points across the nation.
Colonel Sagir Musa is the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Enugu.