Olukolade: We are fighting guerrilla terrorists
Sect slaughters 48 fish vendors near Lake Chad
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja with agency report
Despite the expiration of the state of emergency declared in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, the Nigerian military, while expressing hope that the politics that led to the impasse in the National Assembly is resolved, has said this shall not deter it from ensuring that the territorial integrity of Nigeria is preserved.
Speaking at the weekend on the activities lined up for the upcoming Chief of Army Staff (COAS) annual conference to be held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brigadier-General Olajide Laleye, expressed hope that the issue of emergency rule in the North-east states would be resolved amicably.
He added that the issue was political and that it was being handled by the relevant authorities, but the military, on the other hand, would only concern itself with ensuring that the territorial integrity of the country is preserved.
Similarly, a senior military officer confided in THISDAY that the Defence authorities are not overly concerned with the “constitutional baggage” surrounding emergency rule in the North-east, explaining that there is already an Anti-Terrorism Act in place that covers the military’s operations in the region.
On the war to quell the insurgency, a military source also revealed that with the reversal of fortunes of the terrorists in Adamawa, evident in the recapture of Mubi, Hong and Gombi towns, among others, the military is now poised to take on the Boko Haram Islamic sect in their stronghold of Borno State.
The source said since the military launched “Operation No Mercy”, which entails a more aggressive approach to counter-terrorism operations, the security forces have been on the ascendancy, other than the temporary setbacks recorded in Mubi and Hong.
“Currently there are still air and land patrols to secure and clear the recaptured towns off these terrorists. The troops are conducting searches in and around these and surrounding towns clearing them of terrorists and checkmating any possible infiltration.
“You know, as was reported recently, there is a highly coordinated Nigerian Air Force operation to support the troops’ movement and mop up operations in the mission areas, including Gombi, Pella, Hong, Fachi and Duma towns where these terrorists have been dislodged while our troops continue in their advance towards Borno,” the source explained.
Also speaking on the condition of anonymity, a top military source informed THISDAY that the attacks on Chibok in Borno State and Hong in Adamawa were merely temporary distractions by the sect from the planned assault against Boko Haram enclaves, especially in Sambisa forest, Gwoza and other surrounding areas still occupied by the sect.
According to the source, more attack helicopters and Alpha jets are on standby to commence air raids, in addition to increased reconnaissance flights in and around the target zones.
“What I can tell you for now is that those Special Forces from Jaji who were quickly redeployed for the Adamawa operation have returned, and more troops have joined them apart from the 1,000 stand-by force with additional aircraft. The troops are ready and aerial bombardment will begin in earnest,” the source said.
Further findings revealed that there are overt and covert military and intelligence operations going on to inflict the fatal blow on the terrorists with the ultimate prize being Sambisa Forest.
Similarly, Laleye, during the briefing on the COAS annual conference, confirmed that military operations in Borno and other states had been stepped up several notches to wipe out the insurgents from their comfort zone.
Laleye said several towns and communities had been liberated from the terrorists in recent times, but declined to disclose or name them for operational and tactical reasons.
He said: “Remarkable gains have been made in the North-east. It will not be possible at this time to start naming the towns and villages that are still in the hands of the terrorists.
“However, what I can tell you is that operations are on-going and no part of the territory of this nation will be left in the hands of these criminal elements.”
In a related development, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, has spoken of the importance of rescuing the country’s image abroad, especially in the area of defence and security.
Badeh made this charge at the weekend while speaking at the closing ceremony of the conference of defence attachés and advisers (DAs) organised by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Abuja.
He said the defence attachés must work closely with Nigerian ambassadors and diplomats in the countries where they have been assigned to project a positive image of the country.
According to the CDS, the emphasis should go “beyond the performance of your primary responsibilities as DAs, you have the added responsibility of working much more closely with your respective ambassadors to change the increasing negative perception of our dear country and the military in some of the countries in which you are serving.
“The need to continue to project a positive image of our country takes on an added importance due to the increasing activities of persons who do not wish our country well”.
Badeh also assured the DAs that the DIS in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence, Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and the three services’ headquarters, would do everything possible to ensure that they carry out their jobs effectively.
In the meantime, Nigeria’s defence spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, has appealed to the international community to be more objective by showing understanding for the peculiarity of Nigeria’s current security situation.
He particularly criticised the hard stance of some western countries over perceived negative human rights record of the Nigerian military, saying it was ill-informed and based on a wrong mind set.
Olukolade, who spoke while receiving the prestigious Alfred Daniel King Foundation Award as a distinguished military information expert in Atlanta Georgia, United States of America, said the Nigerian Armed Forces have always striven to operate in line with the global professional best practices.
Urging the world to recall that Nigeria has survived a civil war, social and political unrests, and several religious upheavals in the last 100 years of its existence as a nation, Olukolade said Nigerians could only look forward with a sense of pride to the next hundred years with renewed hope, vigour and certainty that the current travails would herald even greater prospects for Nigeria and her people.
He dismissed the notion that the raging terrorists in the North-east had overwhelmed the military as not only ridiculous but utterly baseless and conspiratorial in nature.
According to him, it is important for critics to realise that the war against the terrorists is not conventional but purely a guerrilla warfare where terrorists fight sporadically and melt back into the social system.
Unfortunately, he said, some international interests have been desperate to portray Nigeria as a failed state; show the world that democratic governance is not good for Nigeria; ridicule the Nigerian armed forces and make them seem incapable of safeguarding the sovereignty of the Nigerian state.
The Defence spokesman said: “If with the sophistication of the global coalition, money and military resources so far deployed to fighting the Islamic State (IS), western powers are yet to dislodge ISIS from Iraq and Syria, then it is imperative that they show more understanding in respect of the Boko Haram war in Nigeria.”
He emphasised that the insurgency was a passing phase in the history of Nigeria, as very soon, with the concerted efforts of the Nigerian military, the support from the Nigerian government, more understanding from the international community and more importantly with the support of the Nigerian people, Boko Haram would be defeated.
Earlier while presenting the award, the chairperson of the foundation and widow of A.D. King, Mrs. Naomi Ruth Barber King, had expressed her delight in honouring the Nigerian military spokesperson for displaying excellence in defence leadership, information management and commitment to service, which she noted serves as a shining example that others could emulate.
She pointed out that the foundation had watched with keen interest and followed line-by-line, precept-by-precept Olukolade’s articulate dissemination of information that has changed the world’s conversation about Nigeria as a whole.
She added that through professional military activities, Olukolade had built the world’s confidence in the ability of the Nigerian nation and indeed the Nigerian armed forces to triumph in its overall mission of peace keeping, which has put the senior military officer in the bracket of change agents.
The A.D. King Foundation, a USA-based youth empowerment organisation, is a non-violent conflict-resolution entity formed to revolutionise the mindset, attitude and behaviour that promote violence and war with non-violent principles, methods and direct actions.
But as Olukolade basked in his new award and the military gave assurances to Nigerians and the international community on stopping the insurgency, suspected Boko Haram extremists killed 48 fish vendors after setting up a roadblock near Nigeria’s border with Chad, the head of their association said yesterday, in the latest violence to hit the country’s volatile North-east.
“Scores of Boko Haram fighters blocked a route linking Nigeria with Chad on the shores of Lake Chad on Thursday and killed a group of 48 fish traders on their way to Chad to buy fish,” said Abubakar Gamandi, head of the fish traders association.
Gamandi was reported by AFP as saying that the attackers set up a barricade in Borno State, and stopped a convoy of fish vendors around midday, slaughtering some of them and drowning others in the lake.
“The Boko Haram gunmen slit the throats of some of the men and tied the hands and legs of the others before throwing them into the lake to drown,” said Gamandi, speaking to AFP by telephone from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
It was unclear if the motive for the gruesome attack was robbery or if there were other reasons for the killings. Boko Haram has at times targeted residents seemingly indiscriminately in its deadly insurgency.
Doron Baga, 180 kilometres from Maiduguri, is the base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), comprising troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger fighting the Islamist group.
The MNJTF was formed in 1998 to fight trans-border crime but its mandate was expanded as part of efforts to tame the Boko Haram insurgency in the restive region.
Gamandi claimed the assailants killed all of their victims without using their guns.
“The attackers killed their victims silently without the use of the gun to avoid attracting attention from the multinational troops,” he said.
Kaloma Zarami, a fish vendor in Maiduguri, said he learned of the killings from other traders in Doron Baga.
“The news came to us late yesterday through some of our colleagues who came from Doron Baga to inform us of the incident because there is no telephone service in the area,” he said.
“We lost 48 people in the attack. Some were slaughtered and others were thrown into Lake Chad with their hands and legs tied and left to drown,” he added.
A military officer in Maiduguri confirmed the attack but said details were sketchy.
“We heard of the attack near Doron Baga but we don’t have the details because the area falls under the operational jurisdiction of the MNJTF,” the military officer said.
News of the attack was slow to emerge due to the destruction of mobile phone towers in the area by Boko Haram in previous attacks.
Incessant Boko Haram attacks have disrupted fishing and farming along the shores of Lake Chad. Fishermen from Doron Baga have been forced to abandon fishing and have turned to importing dried fish from neighbouring Chad.
Gamandi said the Dogon Fili route provided the safest passage for traders from Doron Baga to Chad as other routes are infested with Boko Haram gunmen who rob and kill travellers.
Last December, at least seven fishermen were killed when Boko Haram Islamists attacked Doron Baga in a night raid that left many homes burnt.
In August, the Islamists raided Dogon Baga and kidnapped 97 people after killing 28 villagers.
The hostages, including women and children, were loaded on speed boats and ferried across the lake into Chad.
Chadian troops rescued 85 of the hostages when they intercepted a convoy of buses transporting them from the shores.
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