From all indications, the war against terrorism in the north-eastern part of Nigeria has assumed a re-assuring dimension, with the renewed verve and commitment from the military.
The game-changers are obviously the new weapons of soldiers and the recent synergy which saw the deployment of troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon at their contiguous areas with Nigeria. With the recent achievements, observers note that the confidence, morale and rating of the Nigerian military, which were beginning to wane, have somewhat been restored.
President Goodluck Jonathan, when he paid a courtesy visit to the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, recently, in Ilorin, Kwara State, disclosed that the Nigerian military would take delivery of some modern weapons with a view to stepping up the offensive against the Boko Haram insurgency. He expressed optimism that with the arrival of the new weapons, the onslaught would gather a new momentum and achieve the desired results.
“You have observed us for the past four years. Yes, we have security challenges relating to the Boko Haram saga, mainly in the North-East. Although their excesses extend to some parts of the North like Abuja, Sokoto, Gombe and Kano, it is mainly in the North-East. We are working hard and we shall surely bring it to a halt. As far as the military is concerned, even as we are talking, we are expecting more platforms this week and next week. I believe that in the next two weeks or so, we will be able to move faster than we are moving,” President Jonathan said then.
The president also pledged his administration’s determination to improve the military’s warfare capacity during the inauguration of some naval ships. He gave the assurance when he launched four Nigerian Navy ships – NNS Okpabana, NNS Centenary, NNS Sagbama and NNS Prosperity – at the Naval Dockyard in Victoria Island, Lagos. The president vowed that his administration would rout the Boko Haram insurgents and conduct the elections as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“So, Nigerians can see that the present administration is leaving no stone unturned in improving the capacity of our armed forces, not just the Navy but also the Army and the Air Force. We have built sufficient capacity. And let me also use this platform to promise good country men and women that we will rout Boko Haram,” Jonathan said.
Just recently, the Chief of Defence Staff of Chad Republic, Major-General Mahamat Ibrahim, visited his Nigerian counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja. Badeh said that several meetings had been held under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, as part of efforts to eradicate the insurgency. He said that the meeting with the Chadian CDS was a follow-up to the discussion held between him and Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff on January 18 in Ndjamena, Chad, where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed.
“We have just made an addendum to the MoU which we signed on the January 18 and as a result of the bilateral agreement we had, we are already seeing the benefits of the agreement,” he said.
Badeh said that Chadian soldiers were operating around Fotokol, Gamboru Ngala, while Nigerian troops were operating from the southern part, so that both forces “could meet somewhere in the middle and finish this once and for all.”
“We have been working with them; they came in now to clear some grey areas,’’ he added.
Cameroon and Niger have also sent troops to their borders with Nigeria and the troops’ deployment has facilitated the emergence of a compact fighting force to battle the insurgents.
Observers say that the military partnership has destabilised the Boko Haram insurgents, as successes are being recorded almost on a daily basis. The military said that a full-scale operation to flush out the Boko Haram insurgents, in collaboration with Chad and Cameroon forces, was underway.
The Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, said in a statement that the military synergy had been productive.
“There were contingents from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad in the operation, which allowed a massive move against the terrorists from all angles,” he said. Olukolade said that contrary to the impression created by some media, the Nigerian military, not the Chadian forces, planned and spearheaded the current onslaught against the terrorists. He said that troops of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had killed many Boko Haram insurgents, while liberating several communities. He listed some of the liberated communities as Monguno, Gabchari, Abba Jabari, Gajigana, Gajiram, Damakar, Kumaliwa, Bosso Wanti, Jeram and Kabrisungul.
Olukolade said that some of the terrorists were captured by the troops, while their weapons were seized.
“Five different types of armoured fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun, about 50 cases of packed bombs and eight different types of machine guns, five rocket-propelled grenade, 49 boxes of various types and calibres of ammunition, as well as 300 motorcycles were destroyed in the fighting. A total of six Hilux vehicles, including those mounted with anti-aircraft guns, were also destroyed,” he said.
Besides, Olukolade said that NAF jets bombarded the Sambisa forest hideout of the Boko Haram insurgents as well as Gwoza town, all in Borno State. The aerial bombardment, he said, inflicted heavy casualties on the terrorists and dislodged many of them.
He said that the training camps and logistics dumps of the sect, which were primary targets of the operations, were destroyed.
“A concerted air campaign by the Nigerian Air Force is ongoing, in furtherance of the mission to clear terrorists from all their enclaves. The air strikes, which targeted the training camps and logistics dumps of the terrorists in Sambisa forests and parts of Gwoza, have been highly successful, as they achieved the aims with required precision. The death of a large number of terrorists has been recorded, while many others are also scampering all over the forest and out of the struck bases,” he said.
Reports also have it the Chadian troops have made several gains, killing hundreds of the insurgents. More recently, Nigerian forces backed by air strikes seized the north-eastern border town of Baga, which is the headquarters of the multinational force of troops contributed by the four countries.
“We have secured Baga; we are now in full control. There are only mopping up exercises left to do. A large number of terrorists drowned in Lake Chad, while fleeing,” Olukolade said.
Nevertheless, some cynics still doubt the possibility of restoring peace and stability in the north-eastern part of the country before the March 28 elections, as envisaged by the National Security Adviser, retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki.
The Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Mr Frank Tiete, said that efforts of the multinational force to stamp out insurgency in the North East had yielded appreciable results. He, however, said that efforts to guarantee adequate security in the region before the coming elections might not be fruitful enough.
“Let us acknowledge that the intervention of neighbouring armies under the multinational task force has recorded so much progress in the last two weeks. Even though a lot of Boko Haram insurgents have been killed in the war which is still ongoing, it may not be quite easy to rout the insurgents in a few weeks before the elections. The campaign strategy of the insurgents involves lots of guerilla tactics; it is only when they want to carry out a coordinated attack that you see them fighting as an army. In this case, they may revert to targeted bombings,” he said
Tiete said that judging by the situation on the ground, there was no guarantee that elections could be safely held in the region despite the successes of the multinational force.
A social commentator, Mr Oraba Emeka, nonetheless stressed that the Nigerian military had been able to prove its mettle as a good fighting force, adding, however, that it would be a wrong notion to think that the insurgents would be routed within the coming weeks.
All the same, observers maintain that if the tempo of the ongoing military offensive against the insurgents is sustained, peace and tranquility will soon be restored to the North-East.