President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have made numerous promises to Nigerians during their 2015 campaigns, but if there was one agenda in the Buhari manifesto that caught the attention of most Nigerians, it was the promise to promptly end Boko Haram insurgence.
For a nation that has known no peace for years, as a result of deadly activities of Boko Haram that has led to loss of thousands of lives and properties, a promise to end the killings and possibly bring the promoters and sponsors of the terror group to book, was an offer too precious to ignore. Besides, the fact that former president Goodluck Jonathan had been accused of treating the insurgents with kid gloves, further reinforced the quest to Buhari, a former army General, who had dealt with a similar invasion of the Northeast in the 1980s.
Soon after winning election in April, Buhari started talking tough against Boko Haram, including ordering the relocation of military command headquarters to Maiduguri, which is considered the centere stage of terrorists’ activities. Themed Operation Zaman Lafiya, the campaign was renamed to boost morale of the soldiers.
It would be recalled that on his first day in the office, Buhari had a crucial meeting with the service chiefs, where he was briefed on issues concerning national security, particularly on the fight against Boko Haram. Many had expected Mr. President to do away with the service chiefs, who were appointed by the former president, but the meeting was an indication that they might have been given some time to hand over.
However, after about five weeks, Buhari announced the sack of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) and other service chiefs, including Alex Badeh, Chief of Defence staff; Usman Jibrin, Chief of Naval Staff, Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Army Staff and Adesola Amosu, Chief of Air Staff. He, however, appointed Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin – Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T.Y. Buratai – Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas – Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar – Chief of Air Staff; Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan – Chief of Defence Intelligence; Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.) – National Security Adviser. While decorating the new service chiefs on Thursday, July 13, 2015, President Buhari gave them an ultimatum to end Boko Haram insurgency by December 2015.
Though, the military were confident of the December deadline, which was cheery news for most Nigerians, many, including former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, cautioned against setting deadline for non-conventional military warfare. He, however, urged Nigerians to use prayers as an alternative and effective weapon to defeat Boko Haram.
Notwithstanding, President Buhari was optimistic that by December 2015, Boko Haram’s ability to attack, seize, ravage and hold any Nigerian territory would have been completely obliterated.
Just as the deadline to eradicate the insurgents was set to expire, the group escalated their terror activities, an indication that the end was not yet sight. At least, 14 people were killed and several others injured by Boko Haram gunmen in a Christmas Day attack on Kimba, a village in the northeast.
Mounted on bicycles, the jihadists invaded the community in at around 10pm on Friday, opening fire on residents and torching their homes. Hundreds of Kimba residents reportedly fled to nearby Biu, where they were put up in a refugee camp already brimming with Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) running from Boko Haram.
The terror group, on Sunday evening of December 27, invaded Jiddari Polo, a Maiduguri outskirts at around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT), shooting and throwing explosives.
On the eve of the December deadline, about 50 more people were reported killed in Madagali, Adamawa State and Maiduguri on Monday, December 28 in bombs detonated by female suicide bombers of the sect, killing 30 persons, as they went to their mosques for the early morning prayers.
Weeks after government announced a technical victory over the group, at least seven people were reported killed in attacks blamed on Boko Haram terrorists. The attacks occurred near the Sambisa Forest, the group’s major hideout that is still active. Two people were killed in the Izgeki village and another five in Izghe, where a suicide bomber detonated explosives, witnesses told AFP.
On January 30, at least 50 people were feared killed when Boko Haram fighters armed with guns and explosives attacked Dalori, which is around 12km (seven miles) from Maiduguri, late on Saturday, burning down the village and sending residents fleeing into the bush.
Colonel Mustapha Anka, spokesperson for the army, said the assailants arrived “in two cars and on motorcycles, they opened fire then set light to homes.” Three female suicide bombers, who had initially tried to mingle with the villagers “were intercepted, then blew themselves up,” he said.
The assailants reportedly tried to penetrate a camp for people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency just outside the village, but were repelled by the Nigerian troops.
Again, more than 60 people were killed by a twin suicide bomb attacks on Tuesday, February 9, at an IDP camp in Dikwa town. The attack took place some 85 km (50 miles) outside Maiduguri and the attackers reportedly detonated their explosives, while the refugees were queuing to collect food rations.
On Thursday, February 11, four persons were killed as insurgents invaded Shuwari in Konduga local council, about 13 miles away from Maiduguri. They looted and carted away food items, as well as burnt down the village. However, some lucky villagers were able to flee to nearby Dalori Internally Displaced Persons’ camp and Maiduguri for safety.
ALL these attacks and killings occurred in spite of assurances by Mr. President; the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and the military that the sect had been incapacitated and no longer had the capacity to capture or sack villages.
Even as the Nigerian government and military officials have repeatedly insisted that the terrorists have been degraded and are unable to hold any more territory, some Nigerians, including Borno State Senator, Baba Kaka Garbai have said that, perhaps, Boko Haram is still active and should not be underrated.
Garbai, who represents the Borno Central Senatorial District, made the disclosure while speaking to the media on Saturday, February 6, 2016.
According to Garbai, Mobbar, Abadam and Kala Balge are still 100 per cent occupied by the insurgents. He noted that there are some local council areas that are partially occupied by insurgents, especially as the council secretariats have been liberated, but hinterlands communities are still controlled by the insurgents.
Though he confirmed that Gwoza town has been liberated, he, however said there still remain six wards in Gwoza that are occupied by the insurgents.
“From my count, only three local government are fully liberated, 21 local governments are partially occupied by insurgents, that is, there is still some level of Boko Haram occupation side by side the military or any other constituted authority. We should not live under the illusion that Boko Haram are decimated or weakened; these are not reality and neither a true reflection of the reality. The reality is that most of the local governments in Borno are partially occupied by Boko Haram,” Garbai alleged.
But Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State and the Nigerian Army have since disagreed with the Senator’s position. In fact, President Buhari also debunked claims that some Local Governments in the country are still under the control of the Boko Haram insurgents.
Buhari, at a joint briefing with the visiting German President, Mr. Joachim Guack at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, declared that none of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria was under the control of the terrorist group. He maintained that the senator’s position was incorrect.
Even as the EFCC has intensified effort at unraveling how monies meant for arms purchase were diverted, there have been accusations and counter between President Buhari’s camp and that of former president Jonathan over arms procurement for the fight against insurgency.
During a recent interview with France 24, Jonathan had said the current administration is prosecuting the war against the Boko Haram insurgency with the arms his administration procured, insisting that he laid a solid foundation for terrorism to be defeated. But in a counter statement, the Federal Government accused the former President’s administration of buying substandard weapons to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
Amid the brickbats, Boko Haram continues bombing, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians, with thousands currently rendered homeless in their own country.
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