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Don’t sleep until peace returns to Borno, Jonathan tells Service Chiefs

  • As NAF bombards Sambisa forest for Boko Haram
  • Why security agencies can’t curtail insurgents’ upsurge

By  BEN AGANDE;  Kingsley Omonobi & Ndahi Marama

*Shekau and Jonathan
*Shekau and Jonathan

ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, decorated the new heads of the armed forces as well as the Chief of Defence Staff, with a charge not to sleep until the war on terror in the North-Eastern part of the country was won and Nigerians in Borno State were also able to sleep.

This came as the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, yesterday said that it had begun air strikes at the Sambisa Forest in Borno State where the Boko Haram insurgents have their cells.
Meantime, security agencies are being hampered by their inability to curtail the upsurge in ethnic and religious killings in some parts of the Middle Belt states of Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa states as well as Southern Kaduna, in Kaduna State.

The President, who was assisted by the Vice President and spouses of the security chiefs, told them that they could not afford to disappoint Nigerians at this critical time of the country’s history.
He said:  “Whenever I am decorating military officers, I commend their wives because it is not easy to be barrack-based and for you to rise to this limelight.  But for the service chiefs, I don’t know whether I should congratulate you or sympathise with you because of the circumstances of the moment.

”When I was in secondary school, I read one article written by late Dr. Tai Solarin and there is one clause where he said ‘I wish you what I wish myself every year. May your road be rough.’ So I think I will wish you what I wish myself every year and I say may we have enough hard time this period because none of us will sleep until Nigerians in Borno State can sleep.

”That is why I say, today is not a moment for major statements. We will be having frank talks from time to time, but definitely Nigerians will tell you what they expect from us, we must not fail this country. I believe this team will work together to be assisted by other intelligence services because the war against terror must be won in this country.

“I congratulate you all and your wives. I have worked with some of you in one way or the other and I am convinced that we selected the right team.”
Responding on behalf of the service chiefs, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, while thanking the President for considering them worthy of appointment and giving them the opportunity to be the first to be confirmed by Nigerians via the National Assembly, assured that the service chiefs would not fail him and the good people of Nigeria.

According to him, they will work in harmony to fight the scourge of terrorism, kidnapping and oil bunkering, adding that the military would continue to defend the nation’s territorial integrity and ensure security in the country.

NAF bombards Sambisa forest
The 79 Composite Group, NAF, in Maiduguri, Borno State has intensified its efforts in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists as its air operations have reportedly led to heavy casualties on the side of the insurgents living in their cells around the Sambisa forest.

The Group’s Public Relations Officer, Squadron Leader Chris Erondu said in a statement yesterday that “unperturbed by the incessant threats by the Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East, especially the insurgents’ recent attacks and sacking of many communities in Borno State, the NAF is increasingly committed in the current fight against terrorism not only in the state, but the country in general.

“Accordingly, in line with NAF’s task to restore normalcy in the city of Maiduguri, the 79 Composite Group had in the couple of weeks been providing air support to other sister security operatives of the ‘Operation Zaman Lafiya’ in the state.

”Based on intelligence reports on the excesses of the Boko Haram insurgents, our group in conjunction with the 75 Strike Group, NAF, Yola deployed air platforms which carry out air surveillance, interdiction and raid operations on identified Boko Haram hideouts located at Bullabulin, Yujiwa, Alagarno, Damboa axis of the state.

’’As a results of these air operations, we have made remarkable achievement as the insurgents, who are retreating to neighbouring countries, such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic, have suffered heavy casualties, after destroying their camps in the Sambisa forest.”

Why security agencies can’t curtail insurgents’ upsurge
Vanguard investigations showed that apart from the inability of security agencies to deploy personnel to the various communities so far attacked, lack of or non availability of equipment to assist in the tracking, monitoring and containment of the hoodlums, who carry out the attacks and disappear, was making efforts of the agencies herculean tasks.

The Boko Haram insurgents had been operating from the various porous borders of the North-East, especially in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States, killing scores of innocent Christians and Muslims, and fleeing the country without arrest, even as the military which was implementing the emergency laws had continued to take out those that strayed into their areas of operation.

Middle Belt states challenges
In the Middle Belt states of Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa and Southern Kaduna, Fulani herdsmen had also continued to attack, kill and main citizens while revenge attacks by citizens on ‘settlers’ have continued despite efforts of security personnel.

At the weekend, an Islamic cleric, Sheik Mohammed Albani was assassinated in Zaria for daring to question the wisdom in the attacks being carried out by the Boko Haram adherents, pointing out that there was nowhere in the Quran where their actions were justified by Islamic injunctions.

Some security agents who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Vanguard: “The hoodlums under whatever guise, when they want to carry out sinister acts, go to communities far off from the areas where troops and other security agencies were stationed.

“Another thing is that because of the remoteness of some of the communities, it is not possible to deploy our men to all the communities.”
Explaining that the way out was for government to acquire more equipment for the NAF and the army because of the terrain involved, the source said: “If the air force had enough aircraft, for instance, they would be carrying out air patrols, and then would be able to inform the ground troops to move in and checkmate the attacks.

Obsolete equipment
“But even when the air patrols are carried out, sometimes, the movement of troops to the scene of attack have been hampered by obsolete equipment that were available to the army.
“There have been instances where tyres’ of military vehicles like armoured tanks and other equipment had failed in times of urgent need because most of them were worn out and had not been replaced.”

The source noted that but for the determination and dexterity of officers of the armed services who, out of necessity carried out local rehabilitation and refitting of some of the equipment in use currently,  the story of terrorism activities and other cross border crimes, would have been unpalatable.

Disclosing that the budgetary process and the reluctance by relevant stakeholders in the release of resources for equipment acquisition especially modern military hardware which would have made the fight better handled was also a major setback, the source added: “Buying military equipment is not something you get off the shelf.

“The weaponry has to be built to specification and involve huge amount because they are denominated in foreign currencies. I bet you, if the equipment are available, even the Boko Haram insurgency people are talking about would have been drastically curtailed.”

Recalling that the last time the military were properly equipped was in the 1980’s during civil administrations, the top shot said: “It is now that it is dawning on the country what the past military administrations did to the military. They virtually demobilized the armed forces. If not for the rebuilding under this democracy, these hoodlums would have thoroughly embarrassed the armed forces and the country.

“If the armed forces and the police are properly equipped and insulated from politics, issues of procurement and acquisition of weaponry, terrorism and other attacks on communities would be checkmated.”




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