By Kingsley Omonobi,Deputy Bureau Chief, Abuja
IN the last seven days, the Nigerian military has been recording series of victories against Boko Haram insurgents, recapturing towns after towns from the terrorists in the Northeastern part of the country.
The military has also stormed the dreaded Sambisa Forest base of the insurgents with ease attacking and decimating the terrorists, who are now scampering for safety in several directions.
The series of conquests are traceable to a number of factors,which hitherto encumbered the operations of the military.
The first is that the Nigerian Army and its Airforce which all along didn’t have the requisite weaponry to fight the type of guerrilla warfare that was visited on the country by Boko Haram have become properly equipped with the necessary military hardware.
The Nigerian Airforce were reinvigorated by the Federal Government’s procurement of 40 attack aircraft including helicopters with night vision equipment and capabilities for night operations.
Before now, the Boko Haram terrorists, aware of the shortcomings of the military, employed anti-aircraft guns with which some Airforce aircrafts were brought down. The noise level of such aircraft easily gave them out during attack missions but that has been addressed.
Many armoured personnel carriers were also demobilized by these anti-aircraft weapons as well as landmines planted on attack routes by Boko Haram.
But with the new acquisitions like mines-counter armoured personnel carriers such as the Cobras equipped with night vision, which can operate on any terrain; the High Velocity T55 armoured tanks with mine sweeping capabilities, Boko Haram terrorists now know they can never be a match for the Nigerian military. They are yet to understand what is hitting them.
Boko Haram’s attack on neighbouring countries
More importantly, the strategic plot that nailed the terrorists was their blunder in attacking neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Before now, these countries who shared common borders with Nigeria exhibited a ‘siddon look’ attitude because after several deadly attacks on Nigeria, the terrorists ran to these countries which served as safe havens.
In fact, after several looting spree in the Northeast, the scavengers assembled in these countries and shared the loot which in a way is beneficial to their economy hence they were looking the other way. However, the tide changed when the Boko Haram terrorists turned against them.
Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun, Niger partnership
It therefore easy for the military of the affected countries to strike a new partnership. Consequently, the Nigerian military in conjunction with troops from Cameroon, Chad and Niger flooded border communities in Northeastern parts of the country from where the terrorists operated across the borders.
In this wise, most of the troops contributed by the three countries to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) have been deployed to borders towns with Nigeria thereby ensuring a blockade for the terrorists. This was buttressed by DHQ which said recently that, “The Multinational Joint Task Force in which Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad have contingents is part of the ongoing onslaught against terrorists in this region. The countries that make up the Lake Chad Basin Commission also had some understanding, which now enables a massive move against terrorists from all angles.
‘’For instance Chadian forces have been deployed in Baga-Sola which is a Chadian territory. There have been some joint deployments and patrols around Kirawa, Ashgashiya and other locations in borders of Cameroun, Nigeria and Chad as part of these operations.
It is against this backdrop that the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh at a meeting to cement the relationship between the Chadian military led by the Chief of Defence Staff of Chad, Major General Ibrahim Said Mahamat and Nigeria military, stated that crushing the Boko Haram terrorism would have been a thing of the past if members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, comprising Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon had worked together in unison in the early stages of the insurgency.
He made disclosure even as he noted that Nigeria was sending “a force of 5000 military personnel while Chad is sending a force of another 2500 personnel totalling 7, 500 troops with which we intend to bring the Boko Haram nuisance to an end. Cameroon too is contributing troops but I cannot tell you the number for now. We also have an MOU with Niger. They will block their own side so that the Boko Haram or the enemies won’t have the opportunity to run into Niger to cause havoc for them”.
“I’ll like to state here that in the past, we had several meetings under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission towards eradicating the Boko Haram menace but because of the failure of the multi-lateral synergy or the inadequacies of the multi-lateral agreement, I and the Chief of Army Staff flew to Ndjamena on January 18 to hold talks with them. The result of the bilateral agreement we had, we are already seeing the results.”
Another pertinent action taken by the Nigerian military which has brought some level of sanity to the war against Boko Haram, is the arrest and trial of suspected saboteurs within the army, many of whom today are facing General Court Martial, some of whom have already gotten death sentences and others weeded out.
When the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh said last year that soldiers including senior officer were donating equipment to Boko Haram, many did not seem to understand where he was coming from. It was later exposed that most of the armoured tanks recovered from Boko Haram were actually Nigerian Army tanks as well as other weaponry.
On his path, a worried Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Keneth Minimah who has led Nigerian soldiers to several battle fronts even as a junior officer, like the Liberia and Sierra Leonean crisis could not fathom why soldiers were chickening out of a battle with rag tag insurgents in spite cushioning packages he put in place, hence he vowed that soldiers selling out and engaging in acts of sabotage will always face the music.
“As long as soldiers continue to misbehave and break the rules concerning conduct in battle against terrorists who are enemies of Nigeria, they will continue to face the consequences. Even if it means trying all the soldiers in the Nigerian army, I won’t mind. When that is done and I am the only one remaining, I will then try myself to find out what is wrong” he was quoted as saying at a meeting.
How military launched attacks
Starting with the Sambisa forests, Special Forces of the Nigerian military backed by attack aircraft of the Nigerian Air force, last weekend commenced their movement into the Sambisa Forests.
Saturday Vanguard was told that during the initial advance, six buffer camps of the terrorists which were positioned to stop the Nigerian military for gaining entrance into the forest were taken out and scores of Boko Haram fighters killed while several types of arms and ammunition including anti-aircraft weapons were recovered.
It also learned that scores of the terrorists who could not withstand the firepower of the Nigerian military, ran into the dense forest but had no place to hide as the exit points of the forest which fell on border communities were surrounded by Niger, Chad and Cameyroon.
As a way of diverting the military’s onslaught on Sambisa, another group of the terrorist’s lat Saturday struck at Gombe and attempted to overrun the city but a combination of air and ground operations repelled them.
Confirming their defeat, the Defence Headquarters said, “The terrorists attack on Gombe has been repelled. Troops are in pursuit. The terrorists are desperately seeking other places to set up camps as they are being pursued from their existing camps in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
“Some of the camps have been destroyed. And as they could no longer enter Cameroon and Niger so easily, they are moving southwards” sources told Saturday Vanguard.
Furthermore, on Tuesday, Special Forces of the Nigerian Military after a highly coordinated air and land assault completed their mission of clearing terrorists from Monguno and recapturing the army barracks as well as other adjourning communities.
During the ensuing battle, scores of terrorists were killed, while truckloads of rice, beans and other logistics meant for re-supply for the terrorist operating around Baga were captured in the course of the operation.
In furtherance of the fighting, Nigerian military as at Wednesday confirmed that 11 hitherto seized communities in Borno State had been liberated from Boko Haram control while troops were still advancing to retake other towns under their control.
In the ensuing battle to recapture the territories, over 300 Boko Haram fighters were been killed while casualty figure recorded on the side of Nigerian side showed 2 soldiers killed and 10 others seriously wounded.
A cache of arms and ammunition including 5 different types of armoured fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun, about 50 cases of packed bombs and 8 different types of Machine Guns, 5 Rocket Propelled Grenade, 49 boxes of various types and calibres of ammunition as well as 300 motorcycles destroyed in the fighting.
“A total of 6 Hilux jeeps including those mounted with anti-aircraft guns were also destroyed. However, 2 soldiers lost their lives while 10 others were wounded in the course of the operation.
“The cordon and search operations is continuing along with aggressive patrols by troops who are now dominating the cleared communities such as Monguno, Gabchari, Abba Jabari, Zuntur, Gajigana, Gajiram, Damakar, Kumaliwa, Bosso Wanti, Jeram and Kabrisungul.
In Adamawa state, the military onslaught led by attack aircraft of the Nigerian airforce have led to the liberation of seven local government areas out of the eight that hitherto had Boko Haram terrorist’s presence.
The local government areas fully liberated are Mubi North, Mubi South, Hong, Gombi , Maiha, Ganye and Michika local government area while the only local government yet to be fully liberated is Madagali local government area.
Some of displaced residents of the Local Government areas who have started returning, expressed appreciation to the military and the federal government for the restoration of peace in their communities and urged government to ensure sustainable security in the communities.
By Thursday, as the military advanced, Nigeria air force fighter aircraft pounded the Sambisa forest headquarters of the sect repeatedly even as Gwoza which had become their new training base was not spared.
As a result of the heavy pounding, scores of the terrorists met their waterloo while many were in disarray because it is obvious fact that running to the border areas of Cameroon, Niger and Chad would prove more disastrous for them.
It is against this background that recent verbal attacks by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who as a retired General who ought to appreciate the pains and challenges the military is facing but chose to play politics with a disciplined and neutral security apparatus, received stinging responses from the Military high Command.
In a statement posted on its blog www.defenceinfo.mil.ng, the military authorities said, “the military as an institution, is neither as inept in the discharge of its duties nor is it being misused for political ends in the manner the retired General Obasanjo who was also a former President has possibly been made to believe.
“His motive as usual remains unknown but it is certainly less than noble or well intentioned. We dare say again that Chief Obasanjo’s assertions are false. Much as the military desires to respect the old General and his views, it has become necessary to point out that his conduct and unguarded utterances of late has fallen short of the standard of discipline expected of an individual who has had the privilege of service in the military and risen to the status of a General.
“The behavior of retired General (Chief) Obasanjo has been so unbecoming and continues to constitute a serious embarrassment to the military before all who have reasonably and rightly adjudged the essence of military background in terms of the high value and standard it tends to contribute to statesmanship.
“We feel constrained to remind the old General that the world has moved beyond that parochial and self-adulating reasoning and mindset which he seems stuck to. Indeed, he needs to be told that by virtue of their better training, exposure, education, assessment and environment, the military personnel of today are already far beyond his level in their appreciation of democracy and it’s indispensability for the stable and prosperous society which Nigerians cherish.”