Military in victory mode against B’Haram
• We’ll recover all lost territories from insurgents, says Minimah
• Jonathan meets security chiefs
EVEN as they inch closer to total victory, Nigerian military men and officers fighting the war against the Boko Haram sect in the Northeast were in high spirits, as President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday met with Service Chiefs, heads of security agencies and the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, who gave brief update on the preparations for the forthcoming general elections.
Also in attendance at the meeting were Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, Chief of Air Staff, Marshal Adesola Amosu, and Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba.
The Director-General of the Directorate of State Services ((DSS), Ita Ekpeyong, National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Aminu Wali, and his Interior counterpart, Abba Moro, also attended the special meeting.
Jega, who emerged from the meeting after more than four hours, however, declined to give details of his interaction with the security body. He simply told State House correspondents that his presentations to the Council went well.
However, speaking to correspondents later, the Army Chief said the military was on top of the situation in its war against insurgents in the Northeast. But he would not discuss the political angle to the meeting, as he said he lacked the competence to do so.
According to him, the Council reviewed the Northeast operations, particularly in the last three weeks, and renewed its confidence in the Nigerian Armed Forces and commended them too.
His words: “You know that Yobe and Adamawa states have been liberated completely, and we look forward to the reinstatement of structures of government and governance. I am also sure you know that, in Borno State, out of the 27 local government areas, we have three local governments remaining in the hands of the insurgents. (They are) Abadam, Kalabalge and Gwoza, and we are optimistic that, with time, we will liberate those local government areas.”
Asked if election could safely take place in the affected areas, Minimah said he was not competent to speak on that, as INEC would have to do its re-assessment of the situation before any final decision could be taken. He added that the army is working to ensure the areas are completely liberated before the polls.
He said: “I am not competent to speak on that matter. INEC is still there, INEC has to re-assess the situation and evaluate, because the areas have been liberated. But I can also tell you that not all structures of governance have been reinstated – they will need to be reinstated so that citizens can go back to their areas; only then will the electorate be able to execute their rights as voters.
“But it is our wish, and we pray that God gives that to us; but war is war. War, sometimes, is not fought on some platforms of permutations.”
Answering questions on the missing Chibok schoolgirls, the Army chief said there was no news yet. “In all the liberated areas,” he said, “We have also made enquiries. But the truth is, when the terrorists are running away, they also run with their families, and those we have come in contact with have not made any comments suggesting that Chibok girls were there and taken away; but we are optimistic that, as the election comes closer, and the territory becomes more elusive to the terrorists, we will get further details on that.”
Minimah, was upbeat on Monday as he declared open a three-day conference he hosted for his top commanders in Abuja, to appraise the conduct of the war against the Boko Haram insurgency. He declared that the Nigerian Army “has turned the tide in the Northeast on behalf of the Nigerian State.”
Thanking patriotic citizens who kept on supporting the troops, despite some of the reverses in the war frontlines – that almost brought the Nigerian Army to its knees – Gen Minimah invited Nigerians to join “the battle cry of ‘Never Again,’ which is the mantra of the troops in the Northeast. This achievement would not have been possible without the sacrifice, commitment and devotion of our gallant troops, some of who paid the supreme sacrifice in the process.”
Stating that the Nigerian Army has continued to induct new equipment into its inventory and intensified training of its officers and soldiers on the equipment both within the country and overseas, Minimah noted that “these measures have added impetus to our operational posture and contributed immensely to our current exploits in the on-going military operations against Boko Haram terrorists in the North-Eastern part of the country, especially Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi and Gombe states.”
Later on the same day, Defence Headquarters announced that the Nigerian military had successfully routed Boko Haram insurgents from two of the three states – Adamawa and Yobe.
At the height of the Boko Haram menace, up till few weeks ago, the insurgents occupied about 20 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass, including controlling swathes of territory in the three states estimated at 50,000 square kilometres.
Defence Headquarters also noted that the Nigerian troops, assisted by allied regional partners – Chad, Niger and Cameroun – who are holding their own sides of the borders, now have their focus on the remaining bastion of Borno State, where Monday afternoon, they finally succeeded in routing terrorists from Bama. The mission to retake Bama was accomplished with massive casualty inflicted on the terrorists, with the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents fleeing into Chad. And as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Nigeria and Chad, the Chadian partners in the Multinational Joint Task Force have been mandated to undertake a pursuit of the terrorists, who are believed to be heading for the borders after being dislodged from Bama.
Defence spokesman, Maj. Gen Chris Olukolade, said in a statement that the “Nigerian troops are continuing with cordon and search of the town and surrounding. Arms and ammunition are being recovered as troops conduct aggressive patrol of the entire vicinity on the looking out for any terrorists who might be stranded or trying to operate elsewhere in the area.”
And to conclude the rout on Boko Haram from Yobe State, Goniri, the last major stronghold of the terrorists, was also on Monday morning taken over completely by Nigerian troops. Cordon-and-search is continuing in and around Goniri town, which is in same local government area with Buni Yadi, where a bomb-making facility was discovered in the course of a recent cordon-and-search.
This completes the clearing of Gujba local council, one of the two councils occupied by the terrorists in Yobe State. The other local government, Gulani, was finally cleared earlier in the month. This makes Yobe the second to be successfully cleared among the three states slated for the mission to dislodge terrorists’ bases. Also, Adamawa State was the first state under the state of emergency to have all its territory cleared of Boko Haram’s presence.
The comprehensive offensive aimed at clearing the terrorists from all parts of the mission area is continuing with coordinated air strikes on identified terrorists’ hideouts and enclaves along with ground assaults.
Also, on Monday, the tempo of activities towards continuing the successes in the frontlines increased with the Chiefs of Defence Staff of Nigeria, Chad and Niger holding a one-day meeting in Abuja which resolved to establish a structure for joint planning to enhance the operations and consolidate on the successes achieved in the mission to rout the Boko Haram insurgents. Underlining the urgency of their decision, the meeting stated that a Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH) be established and activated immediately.