The withdrawal of personnel of the Nigerian military from hitherto troubled states now experiencing relative peace may commence in February, a report has revealed.
Although the military has not announced the states that will be affected, military sources have indicated that the planned withdrawal will begin with the north-western states of Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa and some parts of Kaduna, the Punch reports.
Also to be affected are the North-Central states of Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, some parts of Niger and the North-Eastern state of Taraba.
Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, the Chief of Naval Staff, had at the end of a security council meeting, presided over by the President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, told State House correspondents that the planned withdrawal in the first quarter of the year was to allow the military to focus on its primary duty of defending the nation against external aggression and to respond to new security challenges.
According to some military sources, the reason for the withdrawal was because relative calm had returned to the zones, especially the Middle Belt.
The troops deployed on special operations in some of the states, it was learnt, might be trimmed despite the pleas by some state governors to the Federal Government not to withdraw troops from their states.
“The military authorities do not take orders from state governments. The states are channeling 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,” a military commander from the North-West said.
“It’s all for the good of the country. 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.
“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 military source said: “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.”