50,000 soldiers involved in counter-terrorism, separatist operations nationwide – Lagbaja

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, said over 50,000 soldiers are presently involved in several peacekeeping operations across the country.

Lagbaja made this public on Tuesday, at a special luncheon, organised for frontline troops of 6 Division, Nigeria Army, Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

The internal security operations include: counter-terrorism efforts in the North East, separatist operations in the South East, and combating oil theft in the South South.

Represented by Major-General Kevin Aligbe, Commander, Training and Doctrine Command, Nigeria Army, Lagbaja said the troops had sacrificed their comfort for Nigerians to live peacefully.

Lagbaja revealed: “So, it is a fact that over 50,000 of our colleagues will miss wishing their families and loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in person this season.

“This is not because they do not want to but because they will be on duty across difficult-to-access towns, villages, and hamlets across the country and beyond.

“They (troops) are duty bound to stand guard while their families and other families rejoice and celebrate together. To these gallant warriors, I say thank you for your sacrifice.”

Lagbaja stated that 2024 would be a significantly improved year due to the various programs the Federal Government had launched for the Nigerian Army and the nation as a whole.

COAS said: “In the coming year, the Nigeria Army expects to take delivery of helicopters and other combat enablers that will see a better security environment develop across the country.

“Also, the Army Headquarters has initiated several welfare projects that will directly impact the lives of soldiers and their families.

“Troops’ wellbeing is of utmost importance, and we shall continue to work tirelessly to provide personnel with the necessary resources and support to carry out their duties effectively”.

The Army Chief said he was passionate about returning troops home to their families and had already begun taking actionable steps to ensure their safe return.

He said among the measures taken to safely withdraw soldiers from armed conflicts was the engagement of other security agencies to take over their constitutional role from the army.

Lagbaja said: “To this end, we look forward to creating a more stable condition that will allow for a drawdown in the strength of troops deployed on internal security operations across the country.

“We shall endeavour to help build capacity in statutory security agencies to take charge of our internal security effectively.

“Consequently, we hope to recalibrate our efforts towards our primary constitutional duty of ensuring our territorial integrity”.

Earlier, the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Nigeria Army, Major-General Jamaal Abdussalam said the COAS luncheon was organised to appreciate troops for their many sacrifices for the country.

He stated that the sacrifices made by troops in the ongoing oil theft and illegal bunkering operations in the Niger Delta had led to a persistent increase in oil production.

According to him, the division will continue to support the Federal Government to enable the country to realise its expected oil output target for 2024.

Abdussalam said: “I assure the Niger Delta people the division shall continue to conduct our operations in line with global best practices and adherence to the fundamental human rights.

“Our troops have been involved in various kinetic and non-kinetic activities that have considerably shaped the operating environment – with their attendant operational hazards.

“Key among the hazards is the loss of precious lives of our dear colleagues and the occasional loss and damage of our equipment”.

He assured that the gunmen who ambushed and shot dead four soldiers in Ahoada Council of the State would soon be apprehended and prosecuted.

Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers, was represented by his Deputy, Prof. Ngozi Ordu.

Fubara commended the Nigerian Army for their sacrifices and pledged the state government’s backing for security agencies in the State.

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