AS the mop-up operation to clear terrorist elements from Sambisa Forest continues, the military yesterday claimed it has destroyed seven additional base camps inhabited by the insurgents and rescued more women and children. A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said despite the terrain laden by landmines, the troops were able to overcome the obstacles, killing the terrorists in the way, as they rescued about 25 women and children from the camps. It reads in part: “Seven additional terrorist camps were yesterday destroyed as more terrorists also died in the ongoing onslaught to flush them out of Sambisa forest. An additional 25 women and children were rescued in the process.” Olukolade said the destroyed camps have unsavory reputation for housing some of the most deadly members of the group and some of the weapons used in the course of perpetrating their acts against the nation. “The troops, who scaled series of land mines in continuation of the assault on the forest bases of the terrorists, captured camps which include the four notorious Alafa camps as well as those in Rogo Fulani, Laraga and others used as training camps in the forest. Various weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft guns and a number of vehicles were either captured or destroyed during the operation. Four soldiers were wounded and have been evacuated for treatment. “The operations is continuing with troops demonstrating high morale and fighting spirit as they search the forests for terrorists, arms and hostages”, the military further said. In another development, members of parliament in the House of Representatives yesterday commended the Nigerian armed forces for the success achieved in the ongoing operation in Sambisa Forest to combat Boko Haram insurgents. Also, a bill granting legal powers to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to effectively check the influx of illegal arms and ammunition as well as inflow of immigrants has been approved by the Senate. Adopting the prayers of a motion introduced on the floor by Friday Itula (PDP, Edo) under matters of urgent public importance, the Chamber also called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to take urgent steps to rehabilitate and re-integrate the over 1,000 men, women and children rescued by the troops during the operation. Earlier, while leading debate on the motion, Itula expressed the need for the House to prevail on NEMA to take steps towards providing rehabilitation to the rescued victims before re-integrating them into the society. He said: “Every one of us is aware of what has been going on in the Northeast with regard to the military operation in Sambisa forest. We have also been told that a very large number of women and children have been rescued. “A very large number of the women rescued are also said to be pregnant, something that should be viewed with all the seriousness it deserves as an emergency. “The House therefore should urge the Committee on Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness to liaise with NEMA with a view to rehabilitating and re-integrating them into the society and report back to the House within two weeks,” he submitted on the floor of the Chamber. Abdulrahman Terab, who represents some of the most ravaged constituencies in Borno State described the motion as timely. Supporting the motion, Terab described the issue of pregnancy among the victims as worrisome. “This motion is very apt at this time. And I’m also very glad that the mover is asking for federal intervention in areas of rehabilitation and integration of these people. “Because, as we speak, the situation remains a time bomb if urgent steps are not taken to counsel the victims and make them see the need to live a normal life,” he said. House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his contribution said, “We do know that beyond the physical injury and suffering that these people had been put through, we also should be mindful of the emotional and psychological trauma they must have been exposed to.” “So I would urge the mover of this motion to elaborate and convert this motion to a ‘Victims Rehabilitation Bill that would be speedily passed by this House so that the issue doesn’t fall on deaf ears due to the resolution that may arise from it,” Gbajabiamila said. The bill empowering the Nigeria Immigration Service, which was processed by the Senate Committee on Interior, was passed in the House of Representatives last year. The report concurs with the version earlier passed in the Green Chambers. The report makes several innovative provisions aimed at modernizing the NIS and repositioning it to be able to cope with migration challenges. The Immigration Bill when passed will strengthen the capacity of the Immigration Service to be able to police the country’s porous, expansive and extensive borders and tackle migration related problems including smuggling of migrants under the Palermo Protocol. Senate Majority leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, had in a motion to persuade his colleagues to pass the Bill enumerated its merits. He said: “In summary, the Immigration Bill seeks to achieve a balance between facilitation of migration for legitimate purposes and create a better platform for Nigeria to realize the developmental benefits of migration while effectively preventing and controlling irregular migration, including the attendant trans-border crimes. In most developed countries of the world, migration is usually mainstreamed into most national plans and policies as it plays fundamental role in elections, economic growth, labour administration and general public perception on matters of national security, investment policies as well as employment.” He added: “Migration is a trans-national phenomenon that presents policy and management challenges as well as opportunities for governments and other stakeholders in all the regions of the world. States have come to realize that nearly all states, including Nigeria, are simultaneously countries of origin, transit and destination and in order to effectively manage migration to the benefit of all, they need to shift from an isolated and uni-sectoral focus to more comprehensive approaches.”
IN view of the sharp drop in oil revenue, the Federal Government has advised state governors to borrow a leaf from its austerity measures and make salaries the priority in the scheme of things.
All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, who met with the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari at the Defence House, Abuja on Tuesday, had harped on salary arrears owed by states and the need for the incoming administration to address salient economic issues causing financial difficulties for the three tiers of government.
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who is also the Chairman of the APC Governors Forum, in his remarks, made allusions that the Federal Government had not paid salaries for the month of April.
But the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in a statement signed and electronically sent to The Guardian by her Special Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, refuted Okorocha’s claims, describing it as ‘incorrect.’
The minister specifically said that “staff salaries at the federal level are up to date; workers have received their April salaries.”
The statement reads in part: “This is to clarify the misinformation put forward by certain governors to the effect that Federal workers are being owed salaries…this is incorrect…”
On difficulties in salary payment, as noted by the governors, the Finance Minister said, “certain governors are trying to blame the Federal for their predicament. This is wrong.”
Okonjo-Iweala, stressed that the Federal Government, through the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), had advised the governors to prioritise salaries, an advice they ignored. According to her, rather than heed the advice to pay salaries as priority, many of the state governors “chose not to do so, hence the backlog that some states are experiencing.”
She explained that the 50 per cent drop in revenues due to the drop in the prices of international crude oil simply meant that “salaries should be prioritised.”
he, therefore, argued that “the Federal Government should not be blamed for avoidable mistakes made at state level.”