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Armed forces renew battle against insurgents, others

…As nation celebrates fallen, serving troops

On Friday, January 15, Nigeria celebrated the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day. It was another opportunity for servicemen, dead and living, retired or in active service, to be celebrated as well as to take stock of how the military has fared in securing the nation.

Indeed, in the past several years, insecurity has been a challenge in many parts of the country. Till now, many parts of the North, from Kaduna to Zamfara, are still witnessing attacks in the hands of bandits, kidnappers and insurgents who spread sorrow and tears from community to community. Many have called on the Federal Government to up its game and meet the expectation of citizens by protecting lives and property.

But the Nigerian Armed Forces have kept reassuring the citizens that there was no cause for alarm. The military authorities are insisting that gone are the days when terrorists and other criminal elements were sacking communities and freely unleashing mayhem on innocent Nigerians without reprisals.

In its own self-appraisal, the Defence Headquarters asserted that many battles have been won against all odds, noting that many officers have put their lives on the line so that other citizens could go about their normal activities unhindered.

Taking a cursory look at its achievements over the past year, the Defence headquarters, in a document, said between March 18 and December 30 last year, a total of 2, 403 criminal elements – terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, and cattle rustlers, among others – were neutralised across the country. It added that the troops also rescued 864 kidnapped victims in many states.

The military authorities said Nigerian troops arrested 1,910 criminal elements and recovered large cache of arms, ammunition and equipment during the period. This, they noted, was in addition to scores of other terrorists and armed bandits killed during air strikes. They stated that a total of 9, 684, 797 litres of stolen AGO and 33, 516, 000 litres of DPK were recovered, as well as 46, 581.8 barrels of stolen crude oil and 22, 881, 257 litres of stolen PMS.

Earlier this week, the military announced another victory over insurgents, asserting that they had regained a military base from the combined forces of Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram at the weekend.

The terrorists, said to be wielding machine guns reportedly mounted on trucks, seized Marte, a town 93 kilometres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and the military base located in the town last Friday night.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posted a statement on its Amaq news channel on Telegram claiming responsibility for the attack.

In the unconfirmed claims, it said seven persons were killed with one captured, adding that its fighters had seized weapons, ammunition and six four-wheel-drive vehicles and that it burnt down the army barracks.

But in a statement, the coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, stated that ground troops, in a swift reaction, backed by aerial support, ambushed the reinforcement team of the terrorists before dislodging them. He added that it eliminated scores of terrorists and destroyed their gun trucks.

He vowed that the Armed Forces would not relent until normalcy was restored not only in the Northeast but also in every other troubled part of our beloved country.

Said he: “After successfully repelling a Boko Haram/ Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists’ attack on Marte, with the destruction of seven gun trucks by the combined ground and air operations, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole has obliterated additional six gun trucks and eliminated scores of terrorists who were attempting to reinforce their colleagues in the attack.

“This occurred on the night of 15 January through to the early hours of January 16, 2021, as Nigerian Air Force (NAF) helicopter gunships engaged the convoy of ISWAP gun trucks as they approached Marte for reinforcement.

 “The Armed Forces of Nigeria, operating in concert with other security agencies and stakeholders, will sustain the offensive against the enemies of our great nation.”

On his part, Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, commended his forces for recapturing the military base and defending the nation.

He reiterated the Army’s commitment to decimate the insurgents and all other criminals that are hell-bent in distorting the peace and development of Nigeria.

He stated that the Federal Government was investing heavily in military hardware, including 23 new aircraft that have already been delivered and inducted into service, while another 18 manned aircraft and eight unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) are being awaited between now and next year. This, he said, was in addition to attack boats, patrol vessels, armoured tanks and other military hardware.

The Presidency has also maintained that Boko Haram was much weaker today than in 2015, as attested to by the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, on December 6, 2020.

The governor had noted that: “From statewide statistics on affairs in the 27 local government areas since 2011, the fact is that despite the recent happenings in Borno, the security situation 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 President Muhammadu Buhari when a number of local governments were no go-areas, we now have indigenes safely back to Gwoza, Askira Uba, Dikwa, Ngala, Monguno, Kukawa, Damboa, Konduga, Mafa and led by our traditional leaders, which no one could have visited not to talk of living there. Our Emirs were all in exile. Today, Bama is coming back to life and so is Askira Uba, Damboa, Gwoza and others.

“In fact, it was not possible to move few kilometres out of Maiduguri. Insurgents were so bold to attack and take over military facilities, like the Army Barracks at Monguno, Bama, Giwa Barrack and Multinational Joint Task Force Headquarters at Baga, to mention just a few. There were daily bomb blast attacks in many parts of Maiduguri, the most populated part of the state. But all these have stopped. These are the records and no one can dispute them.”

To further give the criminals a bloody nose, the Nigeria Air Force said it had acquired land to be used for an operational base in Gwauruwa village, Funtua in Katsina State. The new base is expected to translate into increased security coverage and reduced response times for effective air operations against bandits in the area.

The force said that it commenced the construction of a base for its newly-established unit, the 203 Combat Renaissance Group (203 CRG}, in Gombe. The base will host some of the NAF’s newly-acquired armed drones (UCAVs).

The presidency also noted that activities of the military were not limited to a specific part of the country, noting that every region felt its impact in the past year and would feel even more impact this year.

Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity said in the North-West, 5, 281 livestock, 6, 951 rounds of ammunition and 120 assorted rifles were recovered from the armed bandits by the gallant troops in the Zone. He added that 455 kidnapped victims were rescued and 473 armed bandits killed. The presidency also stated that there were 461 arrests, including high profile armed bandits, gun runners and bandit’s collaborators, while a total cash of N6, 365, 550 was recovered from armed bandits and their informants.

“In the Northeast, 200 kidnapped victims were rescued by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole. 1, 385 rounds of ammunition, 45 grenades as well as 95 assorted rifles were recovered from BHT/ISWAP fighters. In addition, several gun trucks were captured, while some others were destroyed during air strikes. 1, 805 insurgents, including commanders were killed by the troops aside scores killed by air raids/attacks. Within the period, 79 arrests were made including high value targets.

“In the North-Central, troops of Operations Safe Haven, Whirl Stroke and Thunder Strike rescued 130 kidnapped victims, and 105 assorted rifles as well as 513 rounds of ammunition. Also, 1, 055 rustled cattle were recovered from armed bandits and other criminal elements in the zone. And 1, 250 criminals, including family members of the Darul Salam sect, were arrested within the period. Furthermore, troops neutralized a total of 125 armed bandits including militia gang leaders.

“Also in the South-West, troops of Operation Awatse, between March 18 and December 30, 2020 impounded a total of 10, 458,600 litres of PMS, 15, 345 barrels of stolen crude oil and 345, 000 litres of stolen AGO. Additionally, troops recovered 3, 594 rounds of ammunition and 14 assorted rifles. Also, within the period, 23 illegal refining sites were immobilized, while 15 boats and 23 trucks engaged in illegal activities were arrested. In the same vein, 35 kidnapped victims were rescued, while 48 arrests were made.

“A total of 8, 890,300 litres of stolen AGO and 33, 516, 00 litres of DPK were impounded by troops of Operation Delta Safe in the South-South. Troops immobilized 185 illegal refining sites, 85 dugout pits and 163 metal storage tanks within the period. The troops impounded 31, 236.8 barrels of stolen crude oil as well as 12, 272,652 litres of stolen PMS from oil thieves in the zone. Also, 47 kidnapped victims were rescued, 72 vandals and criminals were arrested, and 45 boats engaged in illegal activities were arrested. Troops also arrested a total of 53 pirates and 25 trucks as well as recovered 23 rifles, 65,330 rounds of ammunition and destroyed 23 sea pirate camps,” Mr Adesina added.

The military also said its quick intervention resulted in the prompt rescue of more than 334 schoolboys abducted from Kankara Government School in Katsina State in December 2020. Others, it recalled, were 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.

The Force headquarters added that as a result of efforts of troops, El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club returned to its home base in Maiduguri in April 2016, two years after relocating to Katsina because of the insurgency.

Prince Chukwudi Timothy Samuel

Prince Chukwudi Timothy Samuel is the Chairman / CEO, MicMiraSteph Communications and Chief Media Director, Apex Reporters

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