By Kingsley Omonobi
Outgoing Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, yesterday, insisted that Boko Haram had been defeated.
He noted that statement credited to Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State that the terrorists group was only decimated and not defeated was not applicable in military operations.
General Irabor supported his analogy of the defeat by disclosing that no single local government area or piece of territory in the North-East epicentre of the insurgency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states was in the hands of the terrorists group.
He said: “Boko Haram has been defeated. They no longer have the capacity to carry out the ferocious attacks on communities like they used to do in the past. Their logistics base has been taken out. They can no longer move in convoys and wreak havoc on communities.
“The governor could be looking at the situation from the fact that civil authority has been affected by displacements of the civil populace and people are yet to fully return to reclaimed communities, but it is a gradual process. That is understandable. If I were in his shoes, I would think the same way.”
On why troops were still being killed in battle when Boko Haram had reportedly been defeated, Irabor said: “The defeat of the terrorists and reclaiming of territories is not a guarantee that peace is absolute right now. Peace is a state that is futuristic.
‘’That is why we are still around carrying out clearance operations. It does not mean that the end has come completely.
“We also need other stakeholders to play their roles to reach the near absolute peace required. By this, I mean the citizens, returnee IDPs, the state government and others will make absolute peace possible.”
Commenting on the milestones made so far in clearance operations, the commander said: “We have made significant gains in terms of reducing the arsenals available to Boko Haram. Within the period, so many Chibok girls have been released, though through negotiation but I want to say they were released due to pressure of the military’s action closing in on them.”
Describing allegation of late payment of allowances to troops or in some cases, non-payment, as strange, General Irabor said he was not aware of anything of such, noting that in the past when such issues occurred, they were resolved.
He said issues of death benefits were being handled by the Army Department of Administration, saying there was procedure for such payments.
Troops rotation has commenced with 600 soldiers
Regarding complaints of non-rotation of troops, contrary to the operational guidelines of military operation, the theatre commander said: “We are making arrangement for that. Some of us have been here a long time. But rotation has started. As I am speaking, over 600 troops have been rotated in the last one month. Many troops will be inducted shortly into the operation”.
To win the hearts and minds of the citizens of the North East in the fight against Boko Haram, especially in the liberated communities, Irabor said the military frequently provided medical services for the people, teaching support to children, while also educating the citizens on their roles to understand personal security as well as assist the military in general.
“We also assist with some infrastructure, such as partial road construction, provision of water and we educate them on the effect of commercial activities that could be injurious to their well being and safety, especially if such commercial activities inadvertently helped in funding Boko Haram activities,” he said.