South-West troop deployment an option, not a promise – VP Osinbajo

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There were indications on Thursday that the military had yet to get an order on the deployment of troops in the South-West to tackle killer herdsmen.

The acting Director of Defence Information, Col Onyema Nwachukwu, in an interview with newsmen in Abuja, said if a directive was given, the military would comply.

Traditional rulers, including the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji; motorists and residents of the South-West in separate interviews with newsmen, said the Federal Government had yet to deploy troops in the zone as it promised after Mrs Funke Olakunri, a daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Ruben Fasorati, was killed by suspected herdsmen in Ondo State on July 12.

Some of them also said that the threat by herdsmen, who had been kidnapping people and attacking farmers in the region, still persisted.

During a condolence visit to Fasoranti on July 14, the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, had said the Federal Government would consider troops deployment on the highways.

Also at a stakeholders’ meeting attended by the Vice-President in Osogbo on July 23, it was agreed that security agencies would carry out an aerial surveillance of the South-West forests.

On Thursday, the Vice-President’s office said Osinbajo did not promise a date for troop deployment on highways, but only stated that it was being considered as an option to tackle insecurity

When asked to comment on remarks by traditional rulers that there was no military presence in their areas and their people could not go to farms, Nwachukwu stated, “If a directive is given, the armed forces definitely have to comply. Everything has to go through due process.”

He, however, said that there were existing joint operations with other security agencies in the zone.

He stated, “The fact is that we have an existing joint operations with other security agencies in the South-West. Although we have an existing operation, if a directive is given, definitely, those operations can be reviewed. We have Operation Awatse which we are jointly conducting with other security agencies. There are other Quick Response groups around there.”

When contacted, the Vice-President’s office said Osinbajo only said troop deployment was a possible option to be taken by the Federal Government.

The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the VP, Mr Laolu Akande, who made a reaction, stated, “The Vice-President said it was one of the options (troop deployment); not that he gave a date. Go and check what he said again. He said one of the options.”

In separate interviews, traditional rulers, motorists and residents of the South-West said there was no security presence on the highways in the zone, adding that threats by herdsmen had not abated.

In Ekiti State, the Alara of Aramoko Ekiti, Oba Olu Adeyemi, who stated that he had not noticed any deployment of troops, said, “I don’t think that much has been done on the said deployment noticeably. We are only hoping that they will do something.

“Government should make good the promise to carry out surveillance and to keep vigil over the troubled places otherwise the security situation will worsen. If the bandits find out that no efforts are being made, they will be strengthened to continue to launch attacks. But for now, there is no noise around the place. Government should actualize its dream,” the monarch said.

A community leader in Ise Ekiti, Tunji Falana, who corroborated the traditional ruler, said: “I have not noticed any (troop deployment). They (the Federal Government) should start the planned troop deployment immediately”.

The community leader, who said his community had about 56,000 square kilometres of reserves, which were occupied by strange faces, canvassed community policing.

According to him, the community policing should include the Oodua Peoples Congress, Agbekoya and local hunters.

A traditional ruler, the Owa Ooye of Okemesi Ekiti, Oba Gbadebo Adedeji, who said he had not heard in the news that troop had been deployed in any road in the state, said, “The security situation is bad and the solution that the government is proffering is not the best.

“Aerial surveillance and troops deployment are not what we need right now particularly in the South-West. What is the adequacy of the troops they have that they are thinking of deploying them on the roads?

“How are we sure of the mindset of those people they are going to deploy? What is their position, how do we know those people are going to really protect us? Which of the roads do they want to deploy the troops?”

Some residents of the state also said the aerial surveillance had yet to be carried out in the forests in Ondo State.

The traditional ruler of Auga Akoko in Akoko North-East Local Government Area of the state, Oba Samuel Agunloye, said there were no troops on the highways in the area. He added that there was no aerial surveillance in the area.

He said the regular policemen were the only ones that occasionally patrolled the highways. The monarch stated, “We don’t have any troops here in this area. We have not seen any aerial surveillance here too. May-be they can start today or tomorrow; we don’t know, but for now nothing like that.”

The monarch of Osi Community in Akure North Local Government Area of the state, Oba David Olajide, said no aerial surveillance or troops had been working in the forest and the highways in the local government area.

He stated, “ We have not seen any troops here and no sign of aerial surveillance in our local government. Maybe the troops will come later but now they have not come here .”

However, a resident of Ore in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state, Mr. Oluwole Ogunro, who is a commercial motorcyclist, told our correspondent that troops were deployed in the Ore-Sagamu Expressway for some time but they were withdrawn later.

He said, “We saw soldiers on the Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway during the time the daughter of Pa Fasoranti was killed but after a week, we did not see them again.

“Also at that time we saw a helicopter moving round for few days but later we didn’t see it again. But as I am speaking with you now, there is no more helicopter and the soldiers too have gone, but we still have few checkpoints mounted by policemen on the expressway.”

Similarly, Mr. Olusegun Elegbe, who resides in Oniparaga in the Odigbo Local Government Area, also confirmed the presence of military men on the roads in the area, a few weeks ago, but said the soldiers had been redeployed from the area.

“About two weeks ago , we saw many soldiers at almost every 500 metres on our roads while helicopter too flew over our area here but now they are no more there.

Also, commuters on the Ilesha-Akure Expressway, which is prone to herdsmen attacks, said there was no special security on the road on Thursday.

In Osun State, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, in an interview with newsmen, said there was no new deployment of troops along the Osogbo-Iwo Road.

He urged the Federal Government of expedite action on the recommendations arrived at when the Vice-President visited the state.

A traveller along the Osogbo-Ife-Ibadan road on Thursday also said no deployment of troops along the route.

In Ogun State, investigations showed that there were neither troops nor aerial surveillance in any part of the state.

The Towulade of Akinale Owu in the Ewekoro Local Government Area of the state, Oba Olufemi Ogunleye, said there was nothing like troops and aerial surveillance in their villages.

Oba Ogunleye said the Federal Government must prevent incursion of the killers herdsmen to solve the problem.

He said, “There are no troops here. The Federal Government should do the needful, instead of combing the bushes. It should stop herdsmen incursion and give traditional rulers specific constitutional roles to play”.

The Olu of Alabata in the Odeda Local Government Area, Waheed Sanusi, said there were no troops and aerial surveillance in his communities.

Some farmers in various parts of the state who spoke with our correspondent, denied the presence of troops and aerial surveillance in the forests as promised by Osinbajo.

Also some motorists who spoke with newsmen said they did not observe the presence of the troops on the highway.

The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, said it had not observed increased police presence in the south-western states of Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Lagos, as promised by the police authorities in the aftermath of Olakunri’s death.

Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, explained that no troops had been dispatched to beef up security on the highways as promised by Osinbajo.

He said, “Are you referring to the statement by the Vice-President? Well, we have not seen troop deployment in the South-West. Maybe he didn’t get clearance before making the announcement?

“This clearly shows that the Federal Government does not have any commitment to the security of the region; This is the reason armed herdsmen are still freely carrying out killings and abductions in the region.”

On his part, the Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, asked the Federal Government to make real its promise to deploy troops in the South-West forests.

Olajide particularly told Osinbajo, whom he described as ‘our son’ to drum it to the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari, especially the need to make the Yorubaland safe for posterity’s sake.

Speaking with newsmen, Olajide also queried both governors of Ondo and Ekiti states, Rotimi Akeredolu and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on why they had yet to make drones available as they promised the people, few days ago.

He said, “I have been quite uncomfortable since the incident of the latest kidnap of a son of one of my junior colleagues, who was shot and kidnapped on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway by suspected herdsmen. It is an ominous sign that the siege on our land is real and has been further confirmed.

“We have heard of the impending surveillance of our forests by the government in the last four weeks and again, the VP, our son, came and promised us of troop deployment to fish out the criminals in the bush, yet nothing is on the ground.

“Governors of Ondo and Ekiti also promised us drones to flush the criminal elements. I am yet to see any drone or troops anywhere near the forests. The impression now is that we have been rounded up in the Southwest especially with the Tuesday’s kidnap incident on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

“We want to appeal again to Mr. President and the Vice president to flush out criminals in our forests; arrest the marauders and prosecute them accordingly.

“We are appealing to them to do the needful and make real their promises. The troops should be deployed immediately.

The Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, said there were no troops anywhere in the land, just as he appealed to the government to swing into action without further delay.

The Olubadan who spoke through his Director of Media, Adeola Oloko, said, “As I speak with you Kabiyesi has not seen or heard of the presence of troops as promised by the Federal Government.

“Olubadan will like a situation where the security of our people is adequately catered for as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic. For now there is no presence of troops anywhere, at least to the best of understanding of Kabiyesi,’’ Oloko said.  (NAN)

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