The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has deployed some of its air assets to give cover to ground troops currently on `Operation Python Dance II.
They are deployed to assist the Nigerian Army 115 Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt.
The Director of Public Relations and Information, NAF Headquarters, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya, said in a statement in Abuja.
Adesanya explained that it was in line with NAF’S commitment to national peace and security as well as providing the necessary air cover to the ground troops to enhance overall operational cohesion and efficiency.
He explained that the wide expanse of area which the exercise covers necessitated the request by the Nigerian Army (NA) for close air support.
“The exercise is aimed at combating security challenges in the region.
“The deployment of air assets in support of the NA is in fulfilment of one of the constitutional mandate of NAF,” he said.
The operation began officially on September 15, and was planned to cover the entire South- East region of the country.
Meanwhile, Ebonyi Government has declared support for the ongoing Nigerian Army exercise – “Egwu Eke’’, Python Dance II, in the South East zone.
Gov. David Umahi declared the support when he received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
He, however, urged the army to keep to its rules of engagement.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwu, Umahi noted that there was misconception of the exercise by some people in the region.
He said that the first phase of the exercise, which took place in the zone between November and December 2016, recorded success without any reported case of human rights abuse or molestation.
“We support the army; we support the exercise, but please dance by the rules of engagement; dance in the bush, not in the street,’’ the governor said.
On the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafa (IPOB), Umahi condemned the activities of the group, saying “we do not address perceived injustice through violence’’.
The governor said the state was enjoying relative peace in terms of security.
He called for army establishment of army formation in the border between Ebonyi and Cross River, to address recurring communal clashes in the area.
Earlier, the army chief restated that the exercise was designed to sharpen the skills of personnel to be able to deal with internal security issues.
Buratai stressed that Egwu Eke was carefully planned in the interest of the South East and not targeted at any group, saying that security was “key to development’’.
“We assure you that our troops will abide by rules of engagement and code of conduct,’’ he said.
He said that alongside the exercise, the army would render humanitarian services such as medical outreach and sanitation in various communities in the region and urged the people to show understanding. (NAN)