By Abdulmumin Murtala, Kano
UNABLE to weather sustained attacks from the military against their activities, the Boko Haram insurgents have resorted to guerilla tactics and targeting Christians to cause confusion and chaos in the country, the Commander 7th Division of Nigeria Army in Maiduguri, Brig Gen Abdul Khalifa Ibrahim, has said.
In recent times many Christians had been killed by the insurgents leading to outcry by Christian elders and groups about plots against Christianity in the country.
On December 24, 2019, Boko Haram attacked a Christian village, Kwarangulum, 10 miles from Chibok on trucks and motorcycles and killed seven people, and burned homes and churches. Among Christians killed by the sect in recent time were Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Michika local government area of Adamawa State, and a Seminarian, Michael Nnadi, who was abducted in Kaduna and killed.
Shedding light on the progress the military has made in the fight against Boko Haram, the 7th Division Commander, in a telephone interview conducted in Hausa, said the sect is targeting Christians and similar groups to cause division in the country.
‘’Boko Haram used to fight like conventional military. They attacked and took over some towns. At that time it was very easy for us to simply attack them back, fight them and retrieve the towns from them. Now, they have changed their pattern, they engage in guerrilla attacks. Vehicles can come and pass and nothing will happen especially when the vehicles are many. But on some days when one or two cars come to pass you will see them coming out. They will stop a vehicle by the road side, deliberately bring out the Christians in the vehicle and kill them in order to instigate crises across the country. But by the grace of God we are taking steps to squash this also,’’ he said.
Apart from fighting the insurgents, he said the Army also engage in other developmental activities like road repairs, construction of bridges, provision of portable drinking water, especially in villages worse hit by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Asked the development projects embarked upon by the army, he said: ‘’Following an assault against the Boko Haram when they were pushed out of Bama and they retreated to areas around Gwoza, where they declared as their headquarters, the Boko Haram destroyed the bridge leading to Banki Junction. They bombed the bridge and it could not be accessed. It was the Nigerian Army engineers that reconstructed that bridge. The bridge is now used by both the military and civilians.
‘’More so, that road is an access road not only for Borno State. You can go through it to Gwoza as you are heading to Liman Kara and Madagali in Adamawa State, from where you can get to Michika and other places,’’ he said.
Brig Gen Abdul Ibrahim, who disclosed that he has also soldiers in Adamawa State continued: ‘’There are certain things that we soldiers do that a lot of Nigerians are not aware of. I will tell you today that when you leave Maiduguri and arrive Konduga, from Konduga to Bama, our men use bomb scanners along the road to detect possibly planted bombs by the Boko Haram. This is done to avert explosions that might affect both military and civilians. So we do that every morning to clear the road for use.
‘’We scan the road from Konduga to Bama to ensure that there are no bombs planted along the road. Also from Bama to Banki Junction and Pulka is taken care of by the Brigade at Bama which does the same. Then from Pulka to Gwoza is taken care of by the Battalion at Pulka and the Brigade does the same all along to Adamawa. It is when we finish that at 9:00am daily that we allow vehicular movement along the routes. If we had not embarked on this, a lot of lives would have been lost to planted bomb attacks along the roads.
‘’There is what we call the civil/military relationship or civil/military cooperation in which we work along with civilians to ensure that things are working in order. It is not just an issue of military attacks, is beyond that.
For instance in a place like Gwoza we have soldiers that teach in their schools. They assist them. We did that because there were not enough teachers in the school and if the children are left unattended they will end up becoming a nuisance to the public. That is why we introduced that. I must say that we are grateful that his Highness the Emir of Goza has expressed his appreciation of this and this is also a boost to us.
Because places like Fulka have problem of portable drinking water, although I have seen boreholes being constructed for them recently, but before that, we use to take water to them using water tankers to assist them or we contract NGOs to take water to them. These are some of the things we do apart from provision of school books. Just of recent, the Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Buratai, gave the order in Kaduna that books be provided to schools. We gave out 20,000 copies of text and exercise books to schools.’’
Told that in spite of the successes he claimed the military had achieved, the insurgents are still on the loose attacking villages and killing many people, especially Christians, the commander said: ‘’Boko Haram used to fight like conventional military. They attacked and took over some towns. At that time it was very easy for us to simply attack them back, fight them and retrieve the towns from them. Now, they have changed their pattern, they engage in guerrilla attacks. Vehicles can come and pass and nothing will happen especially when the vehicles are many.
But on some days when one or two cars come to pass you will see them coming out. They will stop a vehicle by the road side, deliberately bring out the Christians in the vehicle and kill them in order to instigate crises across the country. But by the grace of God we are taking steps to squash this also.’’