The Nigerian Army says it will conduct exercise “Egwu Eke III – Python Dance” nationwide, to tackle already “observed upsurge’’ in security challenges as the 2019 general elections draw nearer.
According to the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who announced this at a news conference on Friday in Maiduguri, said the exercise will be conducted from January 1 to February 28, 2019.
The 2019 general elections are due to commence with the presidential and National Assembly elections slated for February 16.
The Nigerian army has suffered a string of losses in its nine-year-old war against Boko Haram, amid an upsurge in insecurity nationwide.
Armed groups have also launched a deadly campaign in Zamfara state in the north west, killing hundreds of citizens.
Represented by Lamidi Adeosun, the Chief of Training and Operations, Mr. Buratai, a Lt.-Gen., identified those threats as stockpiling of arms by criminal groups, the formation of ethnic militia and violence induced by political activities.
The army had in 2016 and 2017 conducted exercise Egwu Eke I and II to address peculiar security challenges in the South- East geo-political zone.
“These challenges coupled with other security threats across the country such as terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and banditry portend that dissident groups and criminal elements could cash in on the situation to perpetrate large-scale violence before, during and after the 2019 general elections,’’ he said.
According to the army chief, Nigerian troops need to be prepared and equipped with requisite skills in order to professionally and effectively respond to these challenges and security threats in collaboration with the Nigerian Police and other para-military oganisations.
Responding to a question on why Egwu Eke III is being conducted nationwide and not restricted to the South-East in line with its code name, Mr Buratai’s representative said there is python everywhere.
“Even in the desert of Borno, don’t forget, the Lake Chad basin is there, python can also dance within the desert.
“In fact, we have desert python, so python will dance all over the country this time around,’’ he said.
The army chief explained that the success of the exercise Egwu Eke I and II in checkmating security threats in the South- East informed its implementation across the country now.
Mr Buratai called on Nigerians to provide the army and other security agencies with useful and timely information to enable them to deliver on the mandate of the planned exercise.
He reaffirmed the commitment of the army to fight against terrorism and insurgency in the country.