The Nigerian Army has announced the commencement of Exercise Egwu Eke III, otherwise known as Python Dance, in all parts of the country in preparation against security challenges anticipated before, during and after the 2019 General Elections.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. – Gen Tukur Buratai, who stated this at a flag-off ceremony in Maiduguri, Borno State, on Friday, said the military exercise would last from January 1, 2019 to February 28, which effectively covered the period of the 2019 elections.
The army chief said the exercise was necessary to tackle the “challenges coupled with other security threats across the country such as terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and banditry.”
Buratai said apart from the identified threats, the military was set to combat criminal groups and elements planning violence before, during and after the 2019 General Elections.
The COAS, who was represented by the Head of Army Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, said, “Egwu Eke, which is an Igbo phrase meaning ‘Python Dance,’ was first introduced in the South-East with Egwu Eke I and II exercises executed successfully in year 2016 and 2017, respectively.
He said, “It yielded positive results in checkmating the security challenges being witnessed in the South-East region then.
“Exercise Egwu Eke III is significant because for the first time it will be conducted simultaneously across the country. It is also a reassurance of the resolve of the Nigerian Army and indeed the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria as well as other security agencies to ensure that law and order are maintained as we approach the forthcoming 2019 General Elections.”
The army had the Python Dance I exercise in 2016 and the Python Dance II in 2017 which covered only the South-East and some parts of the South-South geo-political zones to tackle the incidence of kidnapping, armed robbery and violence reported in the areas.
The exercise had been greeted with widespread criticisms in the South-East, with insinuations that the army exercise was targeted at members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra.
The army chief said on Friday in Borno that the Python Dance would be conducted in the six geo-political zones of the country, adding that as the general elections approached, an upsurge in stockpiling of arms had been observed by the military.
Buratai added, “As the build-up to the 2019 general elections gathers momentum, an upsurge of security challenges such as stockpiling of arms by criminal groups, formation of ethnic militias and violence induced by political activities has been observed. 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."