The commander of the Special Task Force
on the Jos crisis, Hassan Umaru, at the weekend, spoke to journalists
about the challenges facing the task force in crisis-torn Plateau State
despite the heavy deployment of security forces across the state. Mr.
Umaru said that there was already improvement in surveillance and
monitoring by his officers, pointing out that a more robust border
patrol had helped to reduce cross-border brigandage. The military
officer also commended the efforts of the state government and
described the ‘Operation Rainbow’ surveillance outfit put together by
the state as “a welcome idea”.

“They are trying to recruit some youth
by way of neighborhood watch. These are people who know the land. They
can give us tidbits of what is happening right there. And with good
cooperation, we would be able to track down these attackers coming into
the villages,” he said.

He, however, posited that the security policy should be spread across the state.

“It should not be limited to Barkin
Ladi or these other areas where we have been having these attacks. It
should be extended to all nooks and crannies of the state,” he said.
“Security is not in the hands of one individual. It involves every
person, including you”, he said.

Mr. Umaru also pointed out that the
task force has had a healthy working relationship with the police,
which he said has made the job of his officers easier.

“We need the police because we cannot
do everything when it comes to maintaining law and order. For instance,
we can arrest but we cannot prosecute. So we need the police,” he said.

The task force commander however
dismissed as ignorant, a recent media report that his officers went to
Bauchi State to arrest a medical doctor for allegedly treating a
suspected attacker in one of the villages in Barkin-Ladi.

“It is not possible,” he said. “Bauchi
State has a governor as the chief security officer, a commander of the
resident army battalion in the state, a police commissioner, head of
SSS and all. We cannot just go and make an arrest there and bypass all
these authorities. It is never done,” Mr. Umaru said.

Timebound operation

One of the problems with the peace
operation in Jos has been the people’s ambivalence towards the soldiers
and police. But Mr. Umaru said this could be a problem of perception.

“They do not understand the rudiments
of internal security operations. What we have to do is to make them
understand,” he said, assuring that his troops were impartial to any of
the warring groups.

He said that in spite of the intensity
of the operation, a time would come when the task force would wind up
its activities in the state. He said a restoration of cooperation and
understanding among the different communities in the state would be
crucial to the restoration of enduring peace in the state.

“At the appropriate time, the federal government will review the
peace and security situation in the state, and will determine whether
the STF should continue or when and how to withdraw it,” he said.