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Thu, Aug 31, 2023 12:30 AM

Bandits Infiltrating Forests and Communities in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba States

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Bandits Infiltrating Forests and Communities in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba States
The Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia, has revealed that bandits have been threatening the security in Joint Operation Areas (JOAs) in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba states. He stated that OPWS has taken measures to clear these areas, resulting in the neutralization and arrest of most of the bandits. This announcement was made during a stakeholders' meeting aimed at resolving the ongoing conflicts between farmers and herders in the three states.

Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia, the Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), has raised concerns about the increasing threats of bandits infiltrating forests and communities in the Joint Operation Areas (JOAs) of Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba states. However, he reassured the public that OPWS has taken decisive steps to address the situation and restore peace in the affected areas.

During a stakeholders' meeting organized by the headquarters of OPWS, General Igbinomwanhia disclosed that OPWS had already conducted clearance operations in the Akuver forest in Keana LGA of Nasarawa, as well as the Tse-Deva, Tse-Ikyue, Udei, and Ukohol communities in the Guma Local Government Area of Benue state. These operations led to the neutralization and arrest of a significant number of bandits.

The stakeholders' meeting, with the theme "Peace through dialogue in OPWS Joint Operation Areas," was attended by farmers, herders, and other relevant individuals from the three states. The primary objective of the gathering was to find lasting solutions to the persistent conflicts between farmers and herders and facilitate the safe return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes.

General Igbinomwanhia highlighted the main threats to security in the JOAs, including armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, communal clashes, and farmers/herders clashes. However, he emphasized that the overall security situation in the three states had significantly improved compared to late 2017 and early 2018.

While acknowledging the progress made in restoring normalcy, he expressed concerns about the fluid and unpredictable nature of the security landscape. He pointed out that recent reports indicated the potential infiltration of bandits into the joint operation areas. Specific areas at risk included the Akuver forest in Nasarawa, as well as the Tse-Deva, Tse-Ikyue, Udei, and Ukohol communities in Benue state.

Operation Whirl Stroke has responded to these threats by intensifying patrols, clearance operations, and air operations in the affected areas. The efforts have resulted in the neutralization and arrest of many bandits. Moreover, the criminal attacks and farmers/herders clashes that previously destabilized the joint operation areas have significantly reduced in recent times.

However, General Igbinomwanhia acknowledged the persistence of mistrust in some parts of the joint operation areas. He mentioned the recent clashes in Gwer West, Guma, and Logo LGAs of Benue state as examples of isolated incidents that call for continuous efforts towards building trust and promoting peaceful coexistence.

Recognizing the complexity of the security challenges, the Force Commander emphasized the need for a multi-faceted approach. He acknowledged the role of state actors in contributing to the security threats and identified the proliferation of small arms and light weapons as a major enabler of violence and banditry in the region. Cultism and armed robbery were also cited as concerns within the metropolises and highways.

General Igbinomwanhia assured the stakeholders that OPWS would continue to adapt and refine its strategies to effectively tackle these security challenges. The mission of OPWS is to end the recurring killings by armed herders, militia groups, and other criminal elements in the three states. This has been achieved through the deployment of troops in strategically located bases, reconnaissance, fighting patrols, raids, and the destruction of identified armed militia camps and hideouts.

To enhance the efficiency of information dissemination, Major General Igbinomwanhia announced the intention of OPWS to collaborate with communication service providers in providing toll-free numbers. This would enable the timely reporting of security incidents and facilitate swift responses by the security agencies.

In his address, the representative of the Benue State Governor, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, urged the participants to dig deep and address the root causes of the farmers/herders crisis. He expressed concerns about the sudden deterioration in the relationship between farmers and herders, leading to widespread violence and destruction of property.

Source of content: OOO News 2023-08-30 News

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