Some top military sources have confirmed that the withdrawal exercise of the military from various places hit by insurgency in northern states would begin in February.
They stated that in the first round of the exercise, the withdrawal would take place in the North-Western states of Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, and some parts of Kaduna.
Other states to join the list are some states in the North-Central region, including Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, some parts of Niger and a north-eastern state, Taraba.
According to the sources who spoke with ‘Punch,’ “the reason for the withdrawal was because relative calm had returned to the zones, especially the Middle Belt, and that troops deployed on special operations in some of the states might be trimmed.”
The news platform revealed that “The scheduled commencement of the exercise is in disregard of the appeals by some state governors to the Federal Government not to withdraw troops from their states.”
Standing on the belief that peace had returned to the region, one of the commanders noted that the North-West region, hitherto troubled by bandits and armed herdsmen, would be mostly affected by the troop withdrawal.
“The military authorities do not take orders from state governments. The states are channelling their plea to the wrong quarters. If the President and Commander-in-Chief has directed the military to withdraw troops, he’s the only one who can reverse that decision. However, we are going on with that plan and it may likely take off in February.”
The source noted that the withdrawal exercise is all for the good of the country stating that the troops have more pressing needs to attend to in other regions and they cannot be deployed to where peace had been restored.
“The North-West region, for example, had been relatively calm since the middle of last year till now and the banditry and kidnapping crises had gone down considerably,” he said.
However, he quickly added to clarify that “Nobody is saying the criminals have all been arrested, but the police and other security agencies can now continue from where the military stopped.”
Another commander from the North-West region said the withdrawal of troops was also to cut military expenses and save the country from financing troops and providing logistics in areas where calm had already been restored.
He added that “The withdrawal of troops has to go on because the Federal Government wants and has to save cost in this New Year. So, it is both a military and economic strategy. The states cannot stop it; only the President can. But apart from the North-East, there is hardly any region where the police and other security agencies cannot handle the situation.”
Meanwhile, a reliable military source from the North-Central said “there have been clashes between the army and other law enforcement agents, particularly the police, and there is need to avert such clashes like the one in Ibi, Taraba State, in August 2019. So, one of the strategies arrived at was the reduction of troops in these states and the giving of more visibility to the police.”