The Nigerian military has received the backing of the federal government to streamline the activities of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and other vigilante groups in the North East into a more professional fighting force in the ongoing counter-terrorism operation against Boko Haram terrorists.
According to information obtained from military sources, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh had following the approval of the federal government, set up a high powered committee to work out modalities for regulating the activities of the vigilante groups.
It was gathered that despite the fact that the CJTF members have been very useful in the ongoing fight against the terrorists, some of them have been largely blamed for some serious human rights violations, prompting the government to approve the planned regulation of their mode of operations.
The Committee, which is headed by a two-star Army General with other equivalents from the Navy and Air Force and three nominees each from the three services “will have to work out a clear cut modalities for regulating the activities of the vigilantes and civilian volunteers otherwise known as the Civilian JTF in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.”
A security source explained that the advent of CJTF in the North East was considered a welcome development in the fight against terrorism, with the group doing well in the counter-insurgency activities “until recently when their operations started causing damages to the image of the Armed Forces, due to human rights violations and disobedience of simple instructions.”
The source added: “Do you know that despite their heroics activities, some elements amongst them have been causing trouble. We found out that they double deal with us and the terrorists; some have been found to be overzealous and get easily carried away by success and have started over-stepping their bounds.
“Some leak vital operational information and as well as give out wrong information to the media based on their own perspective of issues. We therefore don’t want them to constitute nuisance during and after the whole operations,” the source stated.
According to terms of reference, the Committee, amongst other things, will be expected to identify the various types of vigilante and civilian volunteers operating in the North East, examine their mode of operations and suggest the appropriate agency, other than the military, under whose control and authority they can be placed.
The source said: “It is believed that this will enable the Army concentrate more on its duties in the state of emergency and counter-terrorism operations in North East. The Committee has also been empowered to fashion out guidelines for effective management and control of the CJTF and other similar volunteer groups.”
THISDAY further gathered that the Committee, which has since commenced sitting was also tasked to identify similar groups or organisations operating in other parts of the country in order to provide comprehensive guidelines for regulating their excesses.
Concerning the possibility of some of them joining the armed forces, the source said in as much as the groups would be well screened to ensure that bad elements are weeded out, the military would not compromise the process and procedures of joining the professional armed services.