There are no LGs under control of the sect, say Geidam, army •19 killed in Damaturu suicide bomb attack
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Top officers of the Nigerian military have called on the federal government to go after the sponsors of Boko Haram if it is serious about bringing the war against terror to a quick and successful end.
Concerned by the protracted nature of the insurgency, one senior officer who spoke to THISDAY said that the new security chiefs could only make substantial progress if they have the backing or strong political will on the part of the federal government to go after Boko Haram’s sponsors.
The officer, who preferred not to be named, said even though the new service chiefs are highly disciplined, efficient and professional, their roles in the ongoing counter-terrorism operation would be limited to the military aspect of the war.
“I would advise caution as it is too early in the day to speak about the new leaders because their choice of lieutenants would speak volumes about the direction they wish to go.
“Professionally, they are all up to the task. But the assignment they have been called upon to take is daunting, especially for a number of reasons: one is the military chiefs only represent the military angle to solving the insecurity.
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“But there are other angles to the problem of insecurity. These are economic empowerment, political will and social re-engineering amongst others,” he elaborated.
Speaking further, the top military official alleged that the federal government knows the sponsors of terrorism in the country and advised as a matter of urgency to go after them.
“Another angle is the federal government’s commitment to executing these other important angles in tandem with finding a military solution to the insecurity problem.
“The federal government by now knows the backers of the insurgency in Nigeria. Is it ready to go after them or they are sacred cows? Only then will we be talking about the real peace,” the officer claimed.
According to the senior officer, “With the resolve of the federal government to fight corruption and terrorism pari passu, which the moneybags who are the easy suspects of fuelling these crimes are morphing and recruiting foot soldiers to criticise the ‘slow pace’ of President Muhammadu Buhari in order to prevent the long arm of the law from reaching them, the government must brace up and know that the war is hydra-headed.
“And unless they play their part, even with 1,000 officers appointed into government will not solve the insurgency and corruption.”
Another officer also listed some of the challenges facing the Nigerian military, stating that the low remuneration of men of the armed forces, lack of professionalism, patriotism and commitment, as well as low morale had impeded the fight against Boko Haram.
“The salary is too small for the work we are being called up to do. Very few took the oath to sacrifice their lives for the motherland. The PMB government must do something to motivate the men of the armed forces because the morale is at its lowest ebb now.
“So I think military welfare is an area the government must look into,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has refuted the briefing provided by the secretariat of the National Economic Council (NEC), which attributed him and his Borno State counterpart, Kashim Shettima, as stating that five local government areas in the two states were still under the control of Boko Haram.
In a statement yesterday, the governor’s media aide, Abdullahi Bego, said: “These reports are misleading and totally out of the purview of the brief that Governor Gaidam gave to the National Economic Council regarding the security situation in Yobe State.
“While security is still a concern and more work needs to be done, there is not a single local government council in Yobe under the sway or control of the insurgent group Boko Haram.”
He said that in the course of his briefing to the council, Gaidam recalled a point in time when two out of the 17 local government areas of the state were under the control of Boko Haram.
“That was several months ago,” Gaidam, he said, informed NEC.
“Governor Gaidam has noted, however, that as a result of the gallant and salutary intervention of our nation’s armed forces and other security agencies, those two local government areas, namely, Gujba and Gulani, were freed and liberated from insurgent stranglehold.
“The governor did of course ask for additional troops and weaponry to be deployed to Yobe State. He made this request only within the context of the need to sustain the momentum against Boko Haram and ensure that terrorists and insurgents are denied a chance to further harm our people.
“Gaidam has said many times – and it bears repeating – that our armed forces and other security agents are doing a commendable job under very challenging circumstances. Their determination to root out Boko Haram and free our state from terrorists, insurgents and criminal activity is not in doubt.
“This determination is further reinforced by President Muhammadu Buhari with the recent changes he made to the military high command and the unprecedented weight that his administration has brought to bear in the fight against Boko Haram,” the statement said.
It added that the government and people of Yobe State would continue to support and partner the federal government and the security forces as they step up effort to restore peace and security in the state, the North-east and the country in general.
Similarly, the Nigerian army yesterday said there was no part of troubled Borno State under the occupation of the terrorist group.
The army also cleared the air on the controversy surrounding the recapturing of Dikwa last week.
Speaking to journalists in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, when it displayed arms and ammunition recovered from an encounter with the insurgents during its operations in Dikwa, the spokesman of 7 Division of the Nigeria Army with headquarters in the city, Col. Tukur Gusau, said last week’s recapture of Dikwa was the first time Nigerian troops made incursions into the town to liberate it.
Dikwa was among the 22 local governments of Borno State, which was captured by Boko Haram but was alleged to have been liberated before the general election by the Chadian military.
But Gusau clarified: “This is the first time we entered Dikwa and liberated the town from Boko Haram. It is true there was information to the effect that Dikwa was once liberated but not by Nigerian troops. But this time around, we have recaptured the town and killed 20 Boko Haram terrorists during the battle.
“The military would never recapture any town or community and then leave. We won’t allow Boko Haram to seize the town again, never again. It won’t happen.”
He revealed that troops engaged the insurgents in a fierce battle to liberate Dikwa, insisting that no soldier died in action, but 20 insurgents were killed and a cache of arms recovered from the battleground.
“We met resistance from Boko Haram members and 20 were killed during battle. We recovered various weapons including one general purpose machine gun, six AK47 rifles, three magazines, one Tafor rifle, one PKM rifle, 12.7mm anti-aircraft ammunition and a 7.62mm special,” Gusau said.
He also disclosed that three SIM cards, a 4GB memory card and a cell phone were discovered, while some vehicles and motorcycles laden with IEDs were destroyed.
He solicited for the support of all Nigerians to defeat Boko Haram in the counter-insurgency operation in the three North-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
Gusau said as it presently stands, no Borno territory, which is under the area of operation of 7 Div, is under the control of Boko Haram, explaining further that the insurgents often resort to guerilla tactics characterised by hit and run tactics.
He said in a matter of time, the insurgency would be a thing of the past.
In furtherance of the effort to restore security in the North-east, the Nigerian military also said yesterday that several members of the sect were killed along the Dikwa-Maiduguri Road in Borno State.
A statement by PR Nigeria, a PR advisory for federal government security agencies, said: “In compliance with the directive of Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, Nigerian troops have increased the tempo of their offensive, resulting in the slaying of many terrorists during a recent combat operation along Dikwa-Maiduguri Road in Borno State.”
Buratai while renaming the counter-insurgency operation, ‘Operaton Zaman Lafiya Dole’, had urged the troops not to wait for Boko Haram to attack but to take the battle to the insurgents’ hideouts.
According to PR Nigeria, through a combined operation involving the ground troops and air force, the Nigerian military mercilessly dealt a devastating blow on the terrorists who could not escape during the encounter.
“Some of the items recovered from the terrorists included vehicles heavily laden with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), motorcycles, trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, general purpose machine guns, ammunition and rifles,” the statement said.
While the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sani Usman Kukasheka, was reluctant to give the exact number of casualties from the operation, he confirmed that recent military operations against the terrorists had been very successful as the terrorists were on the run, PR Nigeria stated.
“Colonel Kukasheka said that in one of the recent operations, the military attacked the terrorists’ logistics base where IEDs were planted with connected wires traced to a kingpin’s residence.
“He said due to recent concerted efforts, roads and towns hitherto held by Boko Haram terrorists and laced with mines such as Biu-Buni Yadi-Damaturu and Biu-Sabon Gari-Damboa roads were liberated and cleared of mines and made safe for public usage,” the statement added.
Despite the military’s claim to successes against the terrorists, 19 persons were killed in a suicide attack yesterday at a market in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, the state governor confirmed.
But the casualty figure given by the police was slightly lower than the one given by the state government, as the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of Yobe State Police Command, ASP Toyin Gbadegesin, who told journalists that the attack was carried out by a 10-year-old female suicide, said 15 persons were killed in the attack.
He said the minor detonated an IED at the main entrance of the market at 9.30am.
He said 15 people were killed while 47 others were rushed to the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital in Damaturu, having sustained injuries from the attack.
The PPRO also revealed that five undetonated IEDs were also recovered from the scene of the blast and cautioned people to be careful with people carrying bags, as the insurgents have resorted to using bags in conveying their explosive devices.
A source told THISDAY on the phone that a high security presence was noticed at the market after the incident.
He equally said a combined rescue team of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Red Cross, among other volunteers, was available to evacuate the dead as well as the injured to the hospital.
Geidam, in a statement by Bego described the attack as horrific.
Bego said the governor, “has been briefed about the horrific bomb attack in a market in Damaturu yesterday, in which 19 people were killed and many others injured”.
He said: “This is another sad day in our state in which innocent people were again the target of blood-thirsty terrorists.
“The governor’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and those who sustained injuries. The governor condemned the attack as callous, barbaric and unjustifiable.”
Bego added that the governor also called on security agencies in the state to step up their surveillance and for residents to remain very vigilant and report any suspicious persons or movements to the nearest security posts.
“The governor has also directed hospital authorities at the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital, where the injured have been taken for medical attention, to provide immediate and free medical services to victims,” said the governor’s media aide.
Yesterday’s blast came six days after suicide bombers in a Toyota Highlander SUV detonated an IED at a police checkpoint at the entrance of Damaturu.
The Yobe Police Command had within the week recovered several IED cylinders in the SUV, weapons in Gulani Local Government Area of the state, and arrested seven suspected armed robbers terrorising the Nguru-Kano Road in the northern part of the state.