By Demebi Olan
The recent announcement by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai extending Operation Sahel Sanity for a further three months and expansion of coverage area to include states in North Central has elicited comments from stakeholders in states in North West and parts of North Central.
According to findings, it was observed that the news of the extension of the scope of Operation Sahel Sanity seems to have received the blessings of various community leaders, commentators, as well as religious bodies who have indeed commended the Chief of Army Staff for coming to their rescue in addressing the activities of bandits and other criminal elements terrorizing North-West Nigeria with their nefarious activities.
In close interactions with community leaders in parts of Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states, they were full of joy for the efforts of the Nigerian Army in the restoration of sanity in their communities. According to the district head of Ungwa Shanu in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina state, he stated that since the commencement of Operation Sahal Sanity in their locality, bandits and cattle rustlers have been having a hard time.
“We now go about our various activities without fear because the Army has restored hope in our community. Since then, we have not experienced any attack in recent times, and we are very grateful to the soldiers for the great work they have been doing”
This view was also corroborated by a cross-section of market women interviewed across communities who expressed delight in the recent announcement of the extension of Operation Sahel Sanity till December. According to them, this is the best news for them because they would continue to experience peace in their communities.
“We thank the soldiers as they have been very cooperative with us. They ensured that bandits do not attack those people bringing farm produce from the farms to the market, and this has made food items available and affordable.”
A cross-section of cattle farmers that was interviewed stated that operation Sahel Sanity had indeed given them a respite from cattle rustlers who almost ran them out of business. According to a leader of one of the groups interviewed, he stated that before the coming of Operation Sahel Sanity, most of their members were almost in penury because they lost all their cows to cattle rustlers.
“I can’t remember the last time we experienced incidences of cattle rustling amongst our members since the Army launched operation Sahel Sanity. I can say for sure that indeed normalcy has returned to North West Nigeria because the soldiers gave the cattle rustlers a tough time. They stepped in when our source of livelihood was about being taken from us because of cattle rustling.”
In Zamfara state, it was a show of appreciation in communities visited. The various communities visited were bustling with commercial activities, unlike in times past where bandits and other criminal gangs terrorized the people. People were seen going about their normal businesses and upon interaction that sang praises of soldiers to high heavens.
The case of Zamfara state was instructive in the sense that the activities of armed bandits were at its peak that resulted in the loss of lives and the disruption of economic activities that elicited nationwide concern. Some commentators at the time questioned the efforts of the government towards the restoration of law and order in the state that was almost ravaged by the activities of armed bandits.
Religious clerics in the state were full of praises for the efforts of troops of Operation Sahel Sanity in the restoration of peace in the state. They stated the extension granted by the Chief of Army Staff is indeed a welcome development in the sense that it would enable the final restoration of normalcy in the state and other parts of North-West Nigeria experiencing security challenges.
Also a foremost social commentator in one of the states in North West, who didn’t want his name in print stated that the intervention of the Nigerian Army through Operation Sahel Sanity was indeed a masterstroke against bandits and other criminal gangs that hitherto made life unbearable for the people.
“Without mincing words, Operation Sahel Sanity is indeed a huge success within a short period. For those of us conversant with the situation then and now would indeed agree that a lot has changed. With the recent extension, all stakeholders in the region must come to terms with the reality that the only option left is to be partners in progress with the Nigerian Army if we are desirous of long-lasting peace in the region. This extension is indeed a welcome development.”
The views from Sokoto state also emphasizes the invaluable role of Operation Sahel Sanity in tackling armed banditry, cattle rustling and other criminal activities in communities in the state. This sentiment was echoed from a wide audience that consists of farmers, traders, artisans and others whose lives were once affected by the activities of bandits and other criminal elements.
The jubilation that has occasioned the recent announcement by the Chief of Army Staff is unprecedented, and it indicates that Operation Sahel Sanity was indeed a timely intervention in the restoration of peace in states in the North West region.
The views from some stakeholders gathered in parts of North Central also indicate the willingness to see to the success of Operation Sahel Sanity in the region. Various community and religious leaders interviewed were excited about the new development and commended the Nigerian Army for extending Operation Sahel Sanity to their domains which is fast gaining notoriety.