Operation Awatse

Lagos and Ogun states have been subjected to series of brazen attacks by so-called militants in the past couple of weeks. Communities have been attacked and ransacked for no just cause, with scores of people killed, women raped and several families rendered homeless. Indeed the sudden lawlessness was so sudden that one could rightly say that the two states were caught napping. Residents were kidnapped with reckless abandon including a traditional ruler and a pastor. Before the abduction of the traditional ruler, the Oniba of Iba in Lagos state, the convoy of the deputy governor of Ogun state was ambushed. She had gone to one of the attacked communities to commiserate with them and to assure them of the determination of the government to protect their lives and property. She was not allowed to finish her speech before she was literally chased out by these vandals. Her being successfully chased out of the community was a metaphor for the level of security in the state and other parts of the country.
It was thus a welcome relief last Thursday when the military bombarded the base of suspected militants in the Arepo area of Ogun State and some parts of Lagos State in a joint military operation, which lasted for more than one hour and which left some of the “militants” dead.

The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, who confirmed the operation, said, “The military only conducted its routine operation for the purpose of denying the vandals and other criminal elements from causing terror in the area.” The operation, codenamed, Operation Awatse, was initiated by the defence headquarters to dominate the area with a view to flushing out all manners of criminals including militants and saboteurs.
When these criminals linked to militants from the Niger Delta first attacked some communities along the Ibafo, Arepo axis some months back, the question I asked at that time was “are they really militants?” Militants take up arms to fight for the rights they believe have been unjustly denied them. These ones are nothing but hardened criminals out to deprive others of those things for which they have worked hard. Whatever name these people may decide to go by, they are simply terrorists and they deserve to be treated as such.

The way I see it, these people have nothing legitimate for which they are fighting; they simply want to continue their brigandage, which has been seriously curtailed in the delta region and which has also been curtailed by the sudden availability of fuel; a situation that has effectively truncated oil bunkering. Thus, they are into other “lucrative” businesses as abductions and armed robbery.

Many people have wondered how these non-Yoruba speaking vandals got to the southwest and how they were able to penetrate their host communities to the extent that they have become so powerful and so dangerous to these communities. One should not forget that our constitution allows free movement; and also allows bona fide Nigerians to reside wherever they wished. Apart from this, generations of non-Yoruba speaking Nigerians have always lived amicably with Yorubas. These ones are just strange ones and could easily have come from any of the many ethnic groups that make up Nigeria.

And as some Ijaw leaders pointed out, these people may not necessarily be Ijaws so it makes no sense to start attacking Ijaws in these states or to destroy their properties as some Yoruba youths were reported to have done. It is heart-warming though, that Ijaw leaders in Lagos, have taken steps to douse the apprehension arising from the situation. And one hopes that the Yoruba youth groups that recently threatened a reprisal attack on Ijaw indigenes resident in Lagos and other South West states would sheath their swords. Two wrongs definitely do not make a right.

Having said this, perhaps one should ask this pertinent question, who is after Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria or, why the sudden shift of these vandals to Lagos and its environs? What are their motives? Has it anything to do with Dangote’s refinery, which is billed to start producing later in 2018 and subsequent oil drilling which is set to begin off the South West coast? Could this be the explanation for the influx of these strange people? Whatever is the motive, one thing is certain the government must take adequate control of the coast lands; to this end, a well-thought-out security plan must be put in place. And this must go beyond deploying police to arrest these criminals. The latter is obviously out of the question for these are no ordinary criminals, they are high- tech gangs with well articulated modus operandi who at different times have gone out on operations with the sole intent to kill, maim, abduct and generally leave sorrow in their trail.

The action by the military high command is most welcome at this time that these criminals have taken the law into their hands, yet as welcome as the bombardment may be, the military must ensure that there is no collateral damage – no accidental shooting of innocent Nigerians going about their daily activities.