By KINGSLEY OMONOBI
President Goodluck Jonathan appears set to boost the strength of the military in the insurgency infested North-east after indications emerged that about 8,000 troops are being sent there.
The troops, according to security sources, will form the nucleus of an army division to be established in Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand at the weekend that the need to establish the new army division in the stronghold of the Boko Haram Islamist group is to firm up the successes recorded by special forces of the Joint Task Force (JTF) which have reportedly dislodged the insurgents from the forests and mountains of the North-east.
The move came to light barely 48 hours after the United States (US) said security efforts were necessary to protect innocent Nigerians, prevent Boko Haram’s acts of violence, capture and prosecute its leaders.
The US Under Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, who gave the recipe to ending the insurgency challenge in Nigeria on behalf of her home government, spoke in Abuja at the opening session of the US-Nigeria Bi-national Commission’s Regional Security Cooperation Working Group on Thursday.
Also yesterday, the Chairman of Police Service Commission (PSC), Mr Mike Okiro, advocated the establishment of a civil force to complement the efforts of security agencies at the grassroots to curb terrorism and other crimes.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the new army division to be domiciled in Maiduguri is tagged 7th Infantry Division and may have one General Etnan as the General Officer Commanding (GOC).
The 8,000 troops to be deployed there, according to sources, are made up of 7,000 troops from army headquarters brigade in Yola, Adamawa State, the army headquarters brigade (Mongonu) in Maiduguri, the battalion in Yobe and the army headquarters brigade in Sokoto as well as the about 1,000 troops recalled from operations in Mali.
Sunday Vanguard was told that the new army division will take over operations of securing the entire North-east and seal off the border axis between Nigeria and Niger, Chad and Cameroon where intelligence has shown that terrorists get their training and launch bombing attacks on Nigeria.
Before the establishment of the division which Sunday Vanguard gathered was on the recommendation of the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. General Oyeabor Azubuike Ihejirika, parts of the Area of Responsibility (AOR) were under the 1st Infantry Division of the army in Kaduna, which has Major General Garba Wahab as GOC and 3rd Armoured Division in Jos which has Major General Awala as GOC.
Asked about the fate of the Major General Ewansiha led JTF in Maiduguri, with the establishment of the new division, a source said the JTF will work hand in hand with the new division, adding, however, that it (JTF) is an interim force which most likely will be scaled down after the first phase (6 months) of the state of emergency had achieved its objectives.
Meanwhile, Sunday Vanguard gathered, also at the weekend, that the Nigerian Airforce Strike Group with headquarters in Yola, Adamawa State, where some attack aircraft of the Tactical Air Command are stationed, is to be upgraded with the injection of more fighter and patrol aircraft as well as helicopter gunships.
The upgrade became necessary, according to sources, to provide air cover and patrols over the vast and dense forests of the North-east where Boko Haram insurgents held sway for months, hoisting their flags, claiming territories and collecting taxes from Nigerians.
Towards this end, it was gathered that the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, has directed the relocation of some patrol and surveillance aircraft from the 81 Air Maritime Command in Benin, and the Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt to Yola. Some Alpha jets will also leave Kainji for Yola.
The PSC Chairman, Okiro, advocating the establishment of a civil force to complement the operations of security agencies, yesterday, believes the force, under the supervision of the police, will curtail terrorism and other criminal activities at the grassroots.
The former Inspector General of Police (IGP) spoke at the Corporate Council on Africa in Washington, US. The Corporate Council, which has on its membership Nigerians in diaspora, had invited him to deliver a lecture during a round table discussion on civil security in Nigeria.
Citing the civilian JTF in Borno State, he noted that “the positive impact of the youth civilian volunteer group in Borno State justifies such reasoning.”
Okiro based his belief on the principle of the American Homeland Security, stressing that the operation of the civil security force should be in line with Bahama and Sri-Lanka models, which are under the command of the police.