By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Armed Forces of Nigeria have been involved in a series of security operations to counter myriads of existing and emerging security challenges in different parts of the country.
Notable among these security challenges is the Boko Haram and Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) insurgents’ activities in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe as well as the banditry and kidnapping in the northwestern part of the country such as in Kaduna State, Katsina State, Sokoto State and Zamfara.
There have also been cases of farmer/herders and communal clashes in Benue, Nasarawa State and Taraba, kidnapping and armed robbery in the southeastern part as well as the cases of crude oil theft, bunkering, militancy, kidnapping and cultism in the south-south and south-west region.
In response to this, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and the various services, have launched different operations and exercises as well as deployed troops to all the affected states to contain these threats in the last couple of years.
Some of the DHQ led operations to include Operation Lafiya Dole fighting insurgency in the North East, Operation Hadarin Daji against banditry and kidnapping in North West, Operations Safe Haven, Whirl Stroke, Whirl Punch, Thunder Strike against farmer-herder/communal clashes, kidnapping and banditry in the North Central.
Others are the Operations Delta Safe and AWATSE to tackle economic sabotage such as crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and kidnapping, among other criminal activities in the South-South and South-West zones of the country.
During the year 2020, the military and other security agencies have had a lot to contend with in 2020 with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus globally known as COVID-19 coupled with the lockdown that accompanied the pandemic.
There were other security situations that emerged during the year such as the recent #EndSARS protest that broke out in October 2020.
All these challenges have gained the attention of the military, especially the Nigerian Army making efforts to restore peace and normalcy to different parts of the country.
It is therefore important to take a look at the high and low moments in the operations of the military across the country in 2020.
In the northeast, the theatre command of Operation Lafia Dole has recorded commendable successes in the fight against the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists in 2020 with sustained vigilance and offensive postures through the comprehensive ground and air operations.
During the year, a number of terrorists’ hideouts were identified and destroyed through both airstrikes and artillery bombardments around Sambisa forest and the fringes of Lake Chad in the northern part of Borno, where hundreds of terrorists have been killed.
There were also successful clearance operations along many routes that were, hitherto, in the control of the terrorists which is evident in the resettlement of some internally displaced persons in their communities by the Borno government in recent time.
One of the low moments was when a senior commander, the late Brig.-Gen. Dahiru Bako (died as a colonel) was ambushed and killed with some soldiers in September 2020 along Damboa road in Borno.
Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno has recently stated that the security situation in the state had improved during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in spite of the recent killing of at least 43 rice farmers in Zamarmari by the Boko Haram terrorists.
Zulum said that records from 2011 in the 27 local government areas of the state showed clearly that Buhari had performed better in the handling of Borno’s security challenges.
According to him, from state-wide statistics on affairs in the 27 local government areas since 2011, the fact is that despite the recent happenings in Borno, the security situation in the state and indeed that of the entire North-East sub-region is still far better under Buhari, and this is based on records.
“For instance, unlike the years before Buhari when a number of local government were no-go-areas, we now have citizens led by our traditional rulers, safely back to Bama, Gwoza, Askira-Uba, Dikwa, Ngala, Monguno, Kukawa, Damboa, Konduga, Mafa, all of which no one could visit not talk of living there. Our emirs were all in exile.
“Today, Bama is coming back to life and so are Askira-Uba, Damboa, Gwoza, and others. Life is even returning go Baga. This was impossible before Buhari.
“In fact, it was not possible to move a few kilometres out of Maiduguri. Insurgents were so bold to attack and take over military facilities like the army barrack at Monguno, Bama, Giwa Barrack and Multinational Joint Task Force Headquarters at Baga to mention just a few.
“There were daily attacks bomb blasts in many parts of Maiduguri, the most populated part of the state but all of these have stopped under Buhari. These are the records and no one can dispute these records,” he stated.
The governor, however, added that it was human nature to be more concerned about current realities than comparing the past to the present.
In the North West, the military made some commendable progress in nipping in the bud the challenges of banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other criminal activities in the region.
The troops of Operation Hadarin Daji and other subsidiary operations carried out several ground and air operations in many bandits’ hideouts in Katsina State and Zamfara forests leading to the killing of scores of bandits and arrest of others and their collaborators.
At the beginning of planting season, farmers in the zone lacked the courage to begin their farming activities due to the spate of bandits’ attacks on local communities and farmers.
With the establishment of Army Special Super Camp in Faskari, Katsina State and launch of Exercise Sahel Sanity by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, more personnel and equipment were deployed, thereby boosting the morale of the people to start their farming activities.
After one month of the commencement of Ex-Sahel Sanity, various stakeholders like the members of the National Assembly, governors of the affected states and the traditional rulers, scored the exercise high.
Another breakthrough during the year was the killing of the notorious Benue Militia leader, Terwase Akwaza, alias “Gana’’ in September.
The Defence Headquarters has also disclosed that the Headquarters of Operations Safe Haven and Whirl Stroke had continued to maintain peace in Plateau as well as Benue and Taraba with major successes during the years.
In South-South and South West, troops of Operations Delta Safe and WATSE, have sustained the fight against economic sabotage to secure critical oil infrastructure and other criminalities in the zones.
On the whole, records released by the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, as at Dec. 31, 2020, revealed that the Armed Forces of Nigeria had eliminated 2,403 criminal elements across the country between March 18 and Dec. 30, 2020, in addition to scores of other terrorists and armed bandits killed during airstrikes.
Enenche explained that a total of 1,805 terrorists were killed in the North-East while 598 bandits were killed in the North West and Central zone of the country as well as the arrest of 1,250 members and families of Darul Salam sect, 461 bandits in the North Central and 79 terrorists in the North East during the year.
He further disclosed that troops rescued a total of 864 kidnapped victims across the country, including the 344 abducted students of the Government Senior Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State and 455 other victims.
According to him, a total of 9,684,797 litres of stolen kerosene and 33,516,000 litres of diesel are recovered in the Southern zone while a total of 1,910 criminal elements are arrested and a large cache of arms, ammunition and equipment are also recovered during the period.
“Furthermore, a total of 46,581.8 barrels of stolen crude oil and 22,881,257 litres of stolen petrol were recovered by the troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
“Gleaning from the available information as I have just presented, there is no gainsaying the efforts of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies in 2020 yielded appreciable results.
“Our operational performance for the year is a show of our commitment, synergy and determination to lay down our lives to protect our great nation; we will continue to sustain the offensive and will not relent until peace is restored to every troubled zone in Nigeria,’’ he said. (NANFeatures)