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Crime fighting: Beyond operational names



Crime fighting: Beyond operational names

It’s like the new fad that has caught on amongst Nigerian officials is the giving of names to whatever programme or plan they have come up with. Thus we have been regaled with “Operation Python Dance”, which was the code name coined by the Nigeria Army in its efforts to get a grip on rising cases of criminal activities like armed robbery and kidnapping in the South East. First launched in 2016, it was given a makeover the following year becoming ‘Exercise Egwu Eke II’ or ‘Operation Python Dance II’.


However, the exercise, used as training for troops, gained widespread notoriety after soldiers of the Nigerian Army were involved in well-publicised clashes with members of separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and its controversial leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Soon after the commencement of the exercise in 2017, soldiers publicly clashed with IPOB members with the group alleging that dozens of its members were killed in a crackdown that lasted over a week and ended in the disappearance of Kanu before he later resurfaced in 2018.


And late year, the Army brass said ‘Operation Python Dance III’ would be continuing in 2019 but would now be a nationwide exercise. Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai, who disclosed in Maiduguri on Friday, December 28, 2018, said that it is meant to tackle “challenges coupled with other security threats across the country, such as terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and banditry.”


The Army said then that the nationwide Exercise Python Dance III is to take the “success” of this operation (which was deployed in the South-East in 2016 and 2017) to all states of the Federation during this period of campaigns and elections to secure the country from those allegedly planning violence.


But we are all witnesses to what transpired during the last elections, leaving many wondering what affect the presence of armed soldiers on security duty had on those that were still able to commit mayhem during the exercise in which more than 100 people were killed in trying to exercise their civic duties.


Of course quite a lot of peopled kicked against handing over security to the army rather than leaving it with the police, but on the basis of this perhaps it can be argued that had they not been on the streets in force the causality figure would have been much higher. Not to be left out, the police hierarchy have also joined in giving “catchy” names to various plans they roll out in their attempt to battle crime across the land.


For instance on May 19, 2015, former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase launched 259 customized Patrol Vehicles to cover all 36 States and FCT in his “Operation Safer Highways” strategy.


According to him, the highly visibility policing strategy was designed to replace banned roadblocks.


The man that replaced Arase as police boss, Ibrahim Idris also tried to tinker with the performance of the men in uniform by changing the name of one of the most infamous units of the Force – the Special Antirobbery Squad (SARS) to Federal SARS (FSARS).


And late last month, newly confirmed Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu launched “Operation Puff Adder”, with the notorious the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway its first port of call. Adamu, said Operation Puff Adder (OPA) is a well thought out and major operation being launched by the Police. He said that OPA was aimed at re-dominating and reclaiming the public space from heinous criminal elements that are bent on threatening the nation’s internal security order. “To the criminal elements, let me sound this note of warning loud and clear: Give up your criminal activities, embrace other legitimate means of livelihood, or be prepared for the consequences of your criminality.


“The citizens and the Police are now united in their resolve to take the battle to your doorsteps and bring you to deserved justice,” Adamu said at its launch. OPA has since been launched in most states of the federation. Sadly though like many things we do in this country, the lofty names given to all these various operations have had very little or no impact on solving the problems they were setup to tackle. Rather than abating under all these various “operations” Nigerians are still being terrorised by armed robbers, bandits, insurgents and other anti-social elements.


In fact the menace is increasing at an alarming rate with no area of the country immune from the sorrow, tears and blood left behind by the men of the underworld. And the simple reason for this is that lofty, catchy phrases not backed up with a proper programme of enforcement will remain just that – a catchy phrase.


Like I have written before unless the government and her agencies really show that they are ready to tackle insecurity head-on then they can change names a millions times with nothing changing. When crime was getting out of hand in the US at the turn of the 19th Century, the government of then President Theodore Roosevelt decided to set up the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on July 26, 1908 with its main goals “to protect and defend the United States, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.”


Of course will the FBI has not been able to completely eradicate all federal crimes in the US, it has gone a long way in making the “bag guys” think twice before carrying out their nefarious activities. The FBI has been able to achieve this because of its ability to not only prevent crimes but also solve them and eventually bring the culprits to book.



During the height of the power of the famed Nostra Costa (more popularly known as Mafia), the fear of the “G-men, as the Mafia used to call FBI agents, was the beginning of wisdom. Please do not get me wrong, of course it is standard for names to be given to operations especially carried out by the military, like the 2003 invasion of Iraq which the US dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, or “Operation Just Cause”, which was the name given to the 1989 invasion of Panama; in both cases the operations were successful. In the case of Iraq, the former strongman of the Middle-East nation, Saddam Hussain was ousted, finally captured and then executed; while de facto Panamanian leader, military general and dictator, Manuel Noriega was deposed and president-elect Guillermo Endara sworn into office.


We also cannot forget “Operation Geronimo” carried out by US Special Forces on May 2, 2011, which took out the United States’ number one enemy – Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks which left more than 3000 dead in the US. In all these examples the common thread is that the operational names were all backed up with action! Until this happens in Nigeria, operational names will remain just catchy phrases for the populace and not instil the desired fear in the hearts of the “bad boys” making them change their ways.

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