•2 soldiers killed; troops foil two suicide bomb attacks
•$1bn approved to fight insurgency hasn’t been released – Army
•IGP deploys 2,000 mobile policemen to North-East
•We can help you defeat Boko Haram – S’ West hunters
By Ola Ajayi, Ndahi Marama & Joseph Erunke
DAMATURU—The Army suffered another setback, weekend, as Boko Haram insurgents attacked and destroyed an armoured tank base of the Army at Buni Gari in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State. Two soldiers were killed in the attack in which the insurgents also suffered casualties.
This came as the Nigerian Army lamented that it was yet to get the $1 billion approved to fight insurgency and other security challenges in the country.
According to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, the $1billion insurgency fund was still being processed. He added that fake news not only pose threat to national security, but also make the ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the North-East more difficult.
To boost the war against insurgency, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has deployed additional 2,000 police personnel drawn from the Police Mobile Force, PMF, Counter -Terrorism Units, CTU and Sniffer Dog Sections to the North-East.
Two soldiers feared dead in attack
Boko Haram insurgents on Saturday night, in a fresh onslaught against the military, destroyed the armoured tank base of the Army at Buni Gari in Gujba, Yobe State. No fewer than two soldiers were killed in the attack, with many sustaining injuries.
Sources said the insurgents stormed the area in large numbers, invaded the community at about 5:30 p.m. and opened fire on the Military Base and some residential buildings, killing two soldiers, while the Military Base was set ablaze.
A source also revealed that some of the rampaging insurgents suffered casualties, following superior fire of the military forces in Buni Gari.
Buni Gari is home town of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate for the 2019 general elections in Yobe State and former National Secretary of the party, Mai Mala Buni.
It is about 70-kilometre drive from Damaturu, the state capital, located south along the only relatively safer road linking Buratai, the home town of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai.
The town was destroyed by terrorists in the past, only to be liberated by military in 2015, which led to massive return of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who resettled in the relatively peaceful community, which shares border with Borno and some parts of Sambisa Forest.
A senior security officer, who is not authorized to talk to the press, confirmed the latest attacks on the military formation and residents of Buni Gari, but insisted that both sides suffered casualties.
There was no official confirmation from the security operatives on their usual channels of communication.
The attack on the military base came on a day troops of Operation Lafiya Dole deployed around Muna axis of Maiduguri, Borno State, foiled a twin suicide bomb attack by two suicide bombers (male and female) on a mission to infiltrate Muna Gari located on the outskirts of Maiduguri, along Mafa-Dikwa-Gamboru Ngala road.
Vanguard gathered that the suicide bombers hurriedly detonated one of their suicide vests on sighting Nigerian troops of 195 Battalion on patrol at about 8pm on Saturday.
The patrol team quickly moved to the scene and discovered it was only the female suicide bombers’ vest that was detonated, killing herself and the male suicide bomber.
Unfortunately, five members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, on duty at a market were injured in the explosion.
Subsequently, the area was cordoned off and the Explosive Ordinance Device Team was drafted to defuse the other unexploded vest, while the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, and Red Cross evacuated the mutilated bodies of the suicide bomber.
Sources said the wounded persons were rushed to the 7 Division Hospital, Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri for medical attention.
Army yet to get $1 billion insurgency fund
In 2017, the National Economic Council, NEC, approved the request of the current administration to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, for the fight against insurgency.
However, till date, Buratai in an interview with newsmen in Maiduguri, yesterday, said the Army has not accessed its share of the fund.
He said: “You know the process of funding is another major issue. The bureaucracy is another issue. Approvals are given but to get the money out is another challenge. So, the people are talking or the media have been talking of one billion dollars that has been approved but I tell you, up till today the fund that is supposed to come from that amount to the Army in particular, is still in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“The Ministry of Defence is yet to access the fund, while people say the funds are with the military; no, it is still with the CBN. When the Ministry of Defence gets the fund, the process is on right now, they will get the right equipment for us as proposed.”
Also, fielding questions on Weekend File, a news programme on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Sani Usman, spokesman of the army, spoke in like manner.
His words: “People should understand also that this is a democratic system in which procurement and of course funding of defence related issues take such a long time. Take for instance, the issue of the $1 billion approved recently by Mr. President, up till now the process is ongoing. The Ministry of Defence is still pursuing the matter to the point that when it is done, the armed forces will definitely get more equipment, more arms and ammunition.”
In April, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said the president’s approval wasn’t final as a draft bill would be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.
Usman, however, said at the moment, what the armed forces have and what have been procured over the last two to three years is being used judiciously.
Recently, Boko Haram insurgents attacked military formations in the North-East, and many had blamed this on lack of sufficient equipment, but Usman said “to the best of our abilities, all the necessary equipment, ammunition and arms are being given.”
He expressed sadness over the recent killings of troops, and said legal action would be taken on those fabricating figures around the casualties.
“So sad and unfortunate that our troops came under enemy attack on the 18th of last month and we suffered casaulties as we mentioned. Sadly, we lost 23 gallant officers and men and of course some of them sustained injuries,” he said.
“In respect of the effort, we are trying as much as possible to make sure that first and foremost we give timely and accurate information on all our activities and operations bearing national security concern.
“Second, we have gone a notch further to identify where those fake news and fabricated stories are coming from, and definitely our legal department is taking step to make sure that all those involved would be taken to court.’’
He added that Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, and the hierarchy of the Army had been going round to meet with the troops in different locations.
Fake news threatens national security operations — Buratai
Cautioning against fake news, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in an interview with newsmen in Maiduguri, urged Nigerians to be patriotic and wary of false information, and condemn those behind it.
“It is inimical to national security; it is inimical to the morale of the troops and by and large, it is one of the demoralising factors making the counter insurgency operation more difficult,” he said and urged those spreading fake news on the ongoing operations, including a section of the media to desist from such.
He stated that terrorists survive on propaganda to get attention, spread their ideology, create fear and the impression that they were “untouchable, invincible or have capacity that they do not possess. Nigerians must be very careful not to fall to their antics by condemning their actions and propaganda, and support the efforts of the military, especially the Nigerian army.’’
According to Buratai, the army, that is on the ground fighting the terrorists, bears the consequences of the fake news.
He recalled that after the recent attack on troops of 157 Task Force Battalion at Metele, many casualties on the part of the army were bandied.
“So many figures were bandied around that we are the victim of the unfortunate incident but this is far far from the figure. The figure so far has been 23, even if it is one, it is unfortunate, but to go out of the reality, to continue to spread false information is really unfortunate,” he said.
NAN reports that after the incident, various media reports at different times put the casualty figures at 44, 70, 100 and above until a few days ago when the Army confirmed 23 dead and 31 others wounded.
Buratai, however, said that the army was working to counter fake news being spread about it and its operations and exercises through its newly established Cyber Warfare Command.”
He said that was being done through quick responses to enquires and timely dissemination of information, noting that information through social media platforms “spreads like wild fire.”
“So far, we have been responding timely and timely response has been the major function of the Nigerian army cyber warfare command and we will continue to ensure that they respond appropriately,” he added.
IGP deploys 2,000 mobile police men in North-East
The deployed police personnel, according to a statement by the Force Headquarters spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, were moved to North East for purely military duties to fight Boko Haram insurgency under the Operation Lafiya Dole.
He said: “This new deployment is consistent with Section 4 of the Police Act and Regulations which specifies the general duties of the Nigeria Police Force as follows:
*The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of this or any other Act.
“The deployment is also to support the strength of the Military to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency.
‘’Before now, the Nigeria Police Force has on ground 47 PMF Units made up of 2961 in Borno State in addition to the Police Mobile Force Squadron in Borno State.
‘’Also, before the latest deployment, the Force, according to the statement, had 26 units Mobile Police made up of 1638 personnel on ground in Yobe State, in addition to the Police Mobile Force Squadron in Yobe State.
‘’Similarly,1134 personnel drawn from 18 units have been on ground in Adamawa State in addition to the Police Mobile Force Squadron in Adamawa State.
“The Counter Terrorism Units of the Force has deployments of over 1,250 specially trained Counter Terrorism Police personnel. The Police Anti-Bomb Squad has about 300 personnel while over Hundred Sniffer Dogs are working with the Military in the fight against Insurgency in the North East.
“It is of significant note that the Police Mobile Force (PMF) Personnel, Counter Terrorism Units (CTU), Anti-Bomb Squad (EOD), Sniffer Dog Sections, the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and conventional Police personnel have being fighting along with the Military in the front line against Boko Haram insurgency and also providing security for restoration of law and order in the North East, security for all the liberated towns and villages in the North-East, escort of Foreign and Local Humanitarian workers and relief materials, protection of IDP camps and security of public and private infrastructures.
“The Police Air-wing Surveillance Helicopters and crews are also deployed to support most of the operations of Operation Lafiya Dole throughout the North-East in the fight against insurgency in the North East.
“The Nigeria Police Force is fully committed to the fight against insurgency and will do all it takes in collaboration with the Military to bring a quick end to Boko Haram insurgency and crisis in the North East.”
We can help you defeat Boko Haram, S-West hunters claim
Meanwhile, Hunters Association in the South West zone of the country, yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to involve them in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the North East.
The call was made by the National President of Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria, Oba Nureni Ajijola Idris Anabi, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard.
The hunters, who flaunted local charms, said getting rid of the insurgents should not have been this difficult if they had been involved by the Federal Government.
Oba Ajijola said the incessant attacks on innocent people and soldiers in the North should not be left for the army or security agents alone but should be a combination of the security agents and local hunters.
Making particular reference to the recent attack by the insurgents which recorded heavy casualties on the side of the military, Ajijola maintained that the dimension the attack was assuming was too dangerous.
While acknowledging the significant achievements the President Buhari-led administration had made in pushing the insurgents far away, he said more achievements would be recorded if the hunters were empowered with vehicles and other logistics.
His words: “I want to tell you that we have charms that can demobilize armoured tanks and rifles of all kinds. Their weapons will just not work. When invited, we can also give the soldiers some protection that would not make them vulnerable to attacks.
“President Buhari has done tremendously well in the fight against Book Haram. Except for those who don’t want to face facts, this administration has given hope to ordinary Nigerians. The insecurity issue has been tackled though much still needs to be done.
“The president should just try us and see if we can help. But, I assure you that Nigerians, including the Army will see how much we can do. There are still charms that can render weapons of war of the insurgents useless and we will be catching them (Boko Haram) like chickens.
“We sympathise with the soldiers on the unnecessary attacks. The way we can contribute our quota is not only by sympathising with them. That’s why we are calling on the president to include us(south west hunters) in the fight against the insurgents.”