By Abuchi Onwumelu
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General T.Y. Buratai, says the newly unveiled Exercise Atilogwu Udo I Dance in Southeastern Nigeria is not targeted at any individual, group or race, but to ensure that the people of the Southeast Geopolitical Zone enjoy a society devoid of communal clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, arson, and all forms of crime and criminality.
Abuchi Onwumelu who covered the 2-Day Summit at 82 Division, Enugu, reports that the exercise was flagged off on Friday, 1st November, 2019 in Umuahia, Abia State.
The Chief of Army Staff stated this while declaring open a 2-Day Civil-Media-Military Relations Summit for the Southeast, with the Theme: “Galvanizing Citizens’ Support for Military Operations in Nigeria through the Media”.
The COAS who was represented by the Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Army, Major General E.O. Udoh, said the vision of the Army Chief was to have a professionally responsive Nigeria Army that would discharge its constitutional roles without sentiments or bias.
He said the summit was intended to improve civil/media/military relationship, noting that he hoped the media would help to publicize and educate the general public on the need to support the exercise. This was even as he disclosed that the exercise would go on simultaneously in the North Central, North East, North West, Southwest, Southeast and South South, under different code names, though with same mission. He said this was aimed at combating identified security threats in the areas.
‘The exercise will help the army to engage in many things that will help in fostering hope, love and peace. Igbo in the diaspora, in the past, usually dreaded coming home because of crimes, especially kidnapping for ransom, and this is part of the targets of this exercise.
‘It was the incessant kidnapping and armed robbery in the Zone that led to the introduction of Exercise Egwu Eke I, II and 111 which transmuted into Exercise Atilogwu Udo 1. The Exercise will allow Ndigbo to come home and celebrate once again,’ he stated.
Burutai commended the Governor of Enugu State, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for his support and presence, describing him as a good host. He assured that all the suggestions made by the participants would be implemented when necessary.
Earlier in a remark, the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, expressed delight with the turnout of participants. He corroborated the COAS’ statement by saying that the exercise was not targeted at any individual or group, noting that it was meant for the public and for the good of all Nigerians.
‘It is intended to further cement the cordial relationship between the army and the people. Exercise Atilogwu Udo I is for the good of every Nigerian. We are not targeting any individual. Operation Python Dance took place in 2017 and 2018. It is to ensure, peace and security.
‘We want people to be actively aware and know what the Army is doing. I thank the Army Chief for his support and for approving the conduct of the seminar,’ Musa concluded.
For his part, the General Officer Commanding, 82 Division, Major General Lasisi Adegboye, thanked journalists from Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Cross River States, for their prompt, balanced and objective reportage, urging them to maintain the tempo, just as he thanked the Governor of Enugu State for his support.
Musa said the Summit was organized by COAS to bring stakeholders together and share ideas on how best to tackle security challenges in the Southeast, noting that It would provide other sister agencies the opportunity to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently.
Addressing the participants, the Governor of Enugu State called for accurate and objective reportage, especially at this time of insecurity and tension.
Gov. Ugwuanyi who was represented by the Secretary to the Enugu Government (SSG) Professor Simon Otuanya expressed gratitude to God for what he said God was using the state to do and called on the media to help with accurate and positive reportage of the Atilogwu Udo I Dance.
He said the workshop would improve the synergy between Civil/Media and Army relationship, describing the army’s operations as a delicate one, even as he warned that any negative report would change the perception of the populace.
He urged the media to eschew bias and sentiments, even as he commended the Nigerian Army for the initiative, expressing confidence that the seminar would achieve its set objective.
Prof. Sunny Udeze and Dr Ifeanyi Didiugwu, in a paper entitled, ”The Military, Media Security and National Development: Exercise Atilogwu Udo I in Perspective called for concerted efforts in nipping in the bud crime and criminality in Nigeria.
The seminar attracted heads of security agencies, media practitioners, civil society organizations, among others. Prominent traditional rulers, religious leaders and elder statesmen also attended the summit.