Nigeria News
Insurgency: Falana, Security Experts Hail Military’s Move to Streamline ‘Civilian JTF’ Activities


The former President of the West African Bar Association, Mr. Femi Falana, and other security experts have commended the move by the Nigerian military to streamline the activities of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and vigilante groups in the North-east.

According to the military, the idea is to mold the CJTF and other vigilante groups into a more disciplined fighting force to be able to cooperate and coordinate operations with the armed forces in the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operation against Boko Haram insurgents.

THISDAY in a recent exclusive report detailed how the military sought the federal government’s backing to ensure that the CJTF operations were well managed, monitored, controlled and coordinated in the ongoing fight against the insurgents.

To this end, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, through the approval of the federal government, had set up a high-powered committee to work out modalities on how to regulate the activities of the groups following recent disturbing reports of alleged human right violations by some of their men.

Responding to THISDAY inquiries on the issue, Falana said, “The civilian JTF has fought the war on terror with the conviction and determination to liberate their region.

“They know the terrain more than the soldiers. They also know the and weaknesses of the dreaded Boko Haram sect.”

According to him, the decision to streamline the activities of CJTF and offer more training is in line with section 220 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“The federation shall establish and maintain adequate facilities for providing compulsory military training or military service for citizens of Nigeria,” he said.
Also, one of the security experts, Mr. Max Gbanite, said the military took the right step is the right direction in trying to ensure that the “fruitful partnership is well managed to greater good of the whole operation.”

According to Gbanite, anywhere there have been vigilantes, if they are not properly managed, they are likely to constitute serious danger to individuals, the security system and the nation after the whole operation.

Therefore, he noted, discipline must be instilled in the vigilantes.
“If you are going to give them weapons for the fact that they live within the vicinity of the insurgency and they know the, terrain better than the army Geographers, then you have to put them in rank and file, it does not necessarily mean bringing them into the military, but you can bring them under a disciplined order.

“More importantly, if you are using to arm them because the guns I have seen as reported in the media that they are carrying is locally made guns and to a certain extent double barrel guns, which are only effective within close range rather than long range.

“You need to arm them but in doing so, the military must also look into the international best practices and be able to embed trackers in those weapons. So after we have succeeded in dealing with the insurgency, you can again begin to mop up and bring back the weapons in the hands of these people (vigilants)
“This helps to such extent that even when they hide it, for the fact that they are tracked, it will still give you the opportunity to see where are hidden,”  he explained.

The security analyst also advised that the mechanism must be put in place to ensure that the vigilantes are properly disarmed, demobilised, rehabilitated and re-integrated back into the society after they have finished their assignments.

“What you must also note,” he said:  “Is that vigilantes like the current CJTF are unprofessional force who are fighting purely on emotion unlike the military that Nigerian professionally trained and disciplined.

“So other than ensuring that these volunteers are disciplined, you must put DDR mechanism in place after the whole operation. That is Disarmament, Demobiliation and Re-integration (DDR).”

Speaking on the issue also, another security analyst and Chief Executive Officer, Acti-Tech Limited, Mr. Peter Madu, commended the armed forces for the way they have handled their cooperation with the CJTF.

“It definitely helps. These vigilantes or civilian JTF are no more than locals who know and understand the terrain, culture and even modus operandi of their tormentors like Boko Haram terrorists.

“We all know how much help the local ethnic groups provided the American troop during their Iraqi and Afghan operations. So if well managed with the necessary resources provided, then that will go a long way towards solving or mitigating this scourge of terror,” he said.

Also, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, while confirming THISDAY’s report on the military move to streamline the activities of the CJTF, said the aim was a pre-emptive measure to stop the vigilantes from constituting nuisance to the society.

Olukolade said their action should not be misconstrued as recruiting the vigilantes into the military as there are laid down procedures that must be fulfilled before any individual or group of individuals be conscripted into the armed forces.
He said that while CJTF had been very useful to the whole operation, the new measures would help maintain high level of discipline and greater control of their operations.

THISDAY had reported on Saturday that despite the fact that the CJTF has been very useful in the ongoing fight against the terrorists, some of their activities have been largely blamed for some serious human rights violations, prompting the government to sanction the planned regulation of their mode of operations with the setting up of the special committee by Badeh.

The committee, which is headed by a two-star army general with other equivalents from the Navy and Air Force and three nominees each from the three services will have to work out a clear cut modalities for regulating the activities of the vigilantes and civilian volunteers otherwise known as the “Civilian JTF” in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.

The security source who spoke to THISDAY on the issue, explained that the advent of CJTF in the North-east had been considered a welcome development in the fight against terrorism, with the group said to have been doing well in the counter-insurgency activities “until recent time when their operations alongside the military started causing damages to the image of the armed forces, due to  alleged human rights violations and disobedience to simple instructions.

According to terms of reference, the committee, among other things, will be expected to identify the various types of vigilantes and civilian volunteers operating in the North-east, examining their current mode of operations and suggest the appropriate agency, other than the military, whose control and authority they can be placed.

The source said: “It is believed that this will enable the Nigerian Army to concentrate more on its duties in the state of emergency and counter-terrorism operations in North-east.

“The thought also is that by placing the groups’ administration and management under another agency will prevent further damage to the reputation of the Nigerian military and also help prevent negative interference in the operations in Borno State and other affected states”.

The committee, added the source, has also been empowered to fashion out guidelines for effective management and control of the CJTF and other similar volunteer groups.

THISDAY further gathered that the committee, which has since commenced sitting was also tasked to identify the possibility of similar groups or organisations operating in other parts of the country, and their activities in order to providing comprehensive guidelines to curtail their excesses.

However, some security sources that claimed anonymity have also cautioned that what action that must be adopted should be in such a way as not to destroy the good working relationship with these groups.
“They have been extremely useful and we still need their services and so caution must be the watchword. In as much as we want to checkmate their excesses, their sacrificial and commendable efforts must be recognised and sustained”, a source said

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