*Says insurgents not better equipped than soldiers
*War against terrorists must be won — Senate
By Henry Umoru & JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
ABUJA—THE Presidency explained, yesterday, why the nation’s security forces have found it difficult to completely flush out from their hideouts, members of the Boko Haram sect, who have massacred innocent people and massively destroyed property in the North Eastern part of the country. It admitted that the situation was a complex one.
It said the security forces were constrained by international conventions which prevent them from pursuing terrorists to foreign countries, while the civilian settlements are also co-located within the vicinity of the insurgents’ hideouts, making selective engagement tenuous and difficult.
The Senate on its part, argued that the war on Boko Haram must be won by the security operatives.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, yesterday, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who was apparently reacting to the claim made by Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, that it was impossible for the military to defeat the terrorists, said that what is in place today is a guerrilla warfare and not a conventional one.
Okupe, who noted that it was not true that the insurgents were better armed than the Nigerian armed forces, however, accused the international community of fuelling the continued actions of the insurgents in some parts of the country, adding that it was wrong for anyone in the country to say that the country’s military cannot face the insurgents.
Soldiers equal to the task
Dispelling the notion, Okupe affirmed that the Nigerian armed forces were up to the task of fully containing the Boko Haram guerrilla warfare even though it has been constrained by international conventions.
It would be recalled that Governor Shettima, while answering questions from State House reporters after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, said that the terrorists were unstoppable as they have more sophisticated weapons than the military which he said enable them to operate at will. He, however, absolved the military of blame, insisting that it was a case of leadership failure.
Okupe called on all national leaders to co-operate with the government and the military in solving the problem.
According to Okupe: “We note the recent attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State and some comments about them in the media by some leading Nigerians. For the avoidance of doubt and with ample evidence on the ground, we state that the Nigerian Armed Forces and security agencies are on top of the situation.
“The orchestration of mayhem by the insurgents is the result of their dislodgment from their strongholds and hideouts in the mountainous forest areas of Borno State.
“In recent times, these areas have been heavily bombed aerially by the Nigerian Air Force and combed systematically by ground troops.
“If the insurgents have not been completely routed, it is due to the fact that our Armed Forces are severely constrained because of the fact that civilian settlements are also co-located in this vicinity making selective engagement tenuous and difficult if heavy civilian casualty is to be avoided.
“The public will note that following serious dislocation of the insurgents from their hideouts, the new trend is for them, after sporadic attacks, which are usually launched at night, to quickly cross over to neigbouring countries for safety.
“The Nigerian military is prevented from pursuing them into these foreign territories by law and international conventions and this obviously gives continuous respite to the insurgents.
“We must note that as far back as over 12 months ago, the fighting machinery of the insurgents had suffered major decapitation. They have, therefore, resorted almost exclusively, to attacking soft targets such as schools, women and children and sleeping communities in the early hours of the morning.
“Most of the villages attacked are those like Kauri, Izge and Konduga, which are generally situated along the foot of the Gwoza Mountains, which stretches from Nigeria to the Cameroon.
“The obvious location of these villages close to the mountains affords the insurgents opportunity and facility to launch strikes at night and sneak back across the border into neighbouring countries. But the Nigerian military and security agencies have taken up this challenge and, like every facet of this struggle, will put an end to these incursions in the shortest possible time.
It’s guerrilla war
“We are certainly not involved in conventional warfare but are rather engaged in guerrilla warfare with all its unpredictability. However, it is heartwarming that our military, which has participated in numerous international peace keeping operations where they helped to quell insurgencies, has acquired the sophistication and necessary capacity to adapt to the ever changing modus operandi of the insurgents.
“It is, therefore, wrong for anyone, Nigerian or foreigner, to assert that our armed forces cannot defeat the Boko Haram insurgents or to insinuate that the insurgents are better armed. We believe strongly that the statement made by the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima that the insurgents are better armed than our military is based purely on a civilian perception of the situation at hand. It is clear that Governor Shettima does not have the expertise to categorize or classify the effectiveness of any weapon.
“We state categorically that the Nigerian military is one of the best equipped in Africa and that in 2014, the Federal Government made budgetary provision in excess of N1 trillion for the military and other security agencies, an amount, which is about 22 per cent of our entire national budget for this year. This definitely belies the suggestion in certain quarters that the Federal Government is not doing the needful in prosecuting this war.
“The statement on low morale and lack of motivation is equally unfair and misplaced. Whereas insurgents are usually motivated by ideological fanaticism, on the contrary, well-disciplined militaries like ours are spurred by patriotic sense of duty, national pride and strict adherence to professionalism. Therefore, the morale of troops engaged in this war is high and ought not to be dampened by unsavoury and certainly untrue comments of low motivation.
“We enjoin all our national leaders and stakeholders across political and religious divides to close ranks with government and our valiant troops defending our territorial integrity and support the Federal Government to rout out the scourging menace of insurgency rather than speaking at cross purposes.
“We want to reassure Nigerians and members of the international community that though it is in the character of insurgents to create maximum fear, their sporadic attacks on soft targets is being contained and will be halted.
In conclusion, we state authoritatively without any fear or equivocation whatsoever that Nigeria is already winning the war against terror and the activities of the insurgents will be terminated within the shortest possible time.”
War on Boko Haram must be won—Senate
Meanwhile, Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, Senator George Sekibo has said that the war Boko Haram has declared on Nigerians must be won by the security operatives because “it is a mad war”.
Senator Sekibo, who was reacting to the recent killings by the insurgents in Borno State said that the Islamic sect was facing their darkest moment because of the bombardment of their camps by the military and while running away for safety, decided to carry reprisal attacks on innocent citizens.
He said that the Boko Haram members were running away because the country was after them, adding that with the appointment of new service chiefs, there were new strategies to flush them out of the country.
According to him, “I believe the military is putting together a new strategy to face it. The strategy being put in place now by the security agents is different from what they were doing before. Now they (insurgents) are on the run and when somebody is escaping, he wants to do what he can do to escape for safety.
“The military has carried out much bombardment on them, most of their camps are destroyed, I believe with the efforts they are putting together and the new Service Chiefs we have on ground, this war must be won.”