by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
The Commander of ‘Operation Safe Haven,’ Maj-Gen Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, has described the killings in Southern Kaduna as the “activities of criminal elements on both sides and not ethnic cleansing” as it is being claimed.
Maj-Gen Okonkwo, who briefed journalists after a high-level security meeting, which held at the council chambers of Government House Kaduna on Tuesday, said that “What we have were attacks on some communities and reprisal attacks. Both sides of the conflict have been attacking each other, but the reports are not balanced. Perhaps, most of the media houses don’t know both sides are actually involved.
“You have Kataf youths, Fulani militias and the criminal elements of both sides. Some people are also leveraging on the security situation to perpetuate their criminal activities, aside communities involved in the crisis,” Okonkwo added.
The commander said that “Any incident is enough to spark off crisis in that area; there have been lingering disputes and animosities, banditry and cattle rustling there.”
The commander promised that the military and other security agents will re-strategize, “And we will deploy as much as possible to shorten our response time.”
Maj-Gen Okonkwo assured that there is going to be improvement, saying, “because we have reviewed our operations. We are going to close ranks. We are going to be more robust in the days to come.”
He said that, contrary to the allegations that the military and other security agents were not doing enough to contain the attacks, “if one or two attacks took place, three were prevented,” he argued.
The commander nevertheless admitted that although, there have been some gaps in their operations, he listed “difficulty of the terrain and limited manpower” as constraints, adding that, in spite of those challenges, they are committed to bringing peace in the area.
“If you know the area very well, the communities are far and dispersed; they are several kilometres apart from each other. The terrain is difficult to access with vehicles. And we have limitation of manpower but, of course, you know that we are committed.
“But, be that as it may, we are going to get more troops. We are strategizing; we will deploy as much as possible to shorten our response time. Perhaps, we used to respond a bit late but, if we had not responded, we could have had more casualties,” he explained.
“Military and all the security forces are working closely with the state government,” he said, adding that, “Governor Nasir el-Rufai has pledged to support us,” Maj-Gen said.