•JTF captures 65, takes over camps •24-hour curfew in parts of Maiduguri
•Northern governors ask army to play by the rules
By Senator Iroegbu, Michael Olugbode and Aisha Wakaso
As the troops deployed to enforce the emergency rule declared in some states in the North-east pounded Boko Haram strongholds, the Defence Headquarters said last night that the insurgents were in complete disarray and on the run.
THISDAY has, however, learnt that the military is considering bringing back Nigeria’s troops from Liberia to join efforts in stamping out the Boko Haram insurgency.
The military is said to be preparing for a prolonged war with the insurgents and as such is reviewing the Nigerian troops’ commitment all over the world with a view to bringing those who have accomplished their tasks back home to strengthen internal security.
But such would not affect the country’s troops in Mali and Darfur where the soldiers are engaged in fighting the same war against terror and the same line of enemy.
“We are reviewing our troops’ commitment all over the world and some of the troops, particularly the ones in Liberia, who have been there for over 20 years, are needed at home to strengthen internal security,” a top military officer told THISDAY. “We are going for a long drawn battle with Boko Haram insurgents to take them out completely.”
Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said the Boko Haram insurgents had deserted their enclaves after coming under serious bombardment.
Olukolade said about 65 of the Boko Haram members fleeing from their former hideouts into Maiduguri, Borno State capital, had been captured by the Joint Task Force (JTF).
In the meantime, JTF has imposed a 24-hour curfew on some black spots in the North-eastern city.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on Tuesday declared emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, in a bid to put and end to the insurgency.
Some of the residents in the affected states are also deserting their homes as troops bombard the cities.
Olukolade said in a statement: "A total of 11 vehicles, four tricycles and 24 handsets were also seized in the process. All the suspects are in custody of JTF and are currently being interrogated".
He added that the camps of the terrorists found deserted by the fleeing insurgents when troops of the Special Task Force stormed the localities had been occupied by troops.
Olukolade also disclosed that the country’s troops had engaged and dislodged insurgents groups who carried out attacks on the people of Gamboru Ward in Borno State on Friday.
He said at the end of the encounter, a total of 10 suspected terrorists were confirmed dead while weapons such as Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, assorted ammunition and rifle magazines were recovered.
He said: " The area is being combed to fish out any of the surviving insurgents.
"Also, some of the fleeing insurgents from various camps have been noted to be in search of fuel from neighbouring communities.
"Citizens are advised to report to JTF, any group of persons roaming around the local communities with large quantities of containers in search of fuel. The advance of troops is continuing in all fronts as scheduled".
In the Marte district, some residents have started fleeing east towards the border with Cameroon, less than 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) away.
"Fighter jets and helicopters kept hovering in the sky and we kept hearing huge explosions from afar," Buba Yawuri told AFP. Yawuri fled from his home in Kwalaram to the border town of Gomboru Ngala.
He said that as the air assaults began, the security forces told all residents to stay indoors, cutting off access to food and water.
The phone network in Borno State has all but collapsed but phone service from Cameroon has been sporadically available in border areas.
After leveling most of the camps of the Boko Haram sect situated in Borno State, there is an indication that the military is moving for the final onslaught on the insurgents with a house-to-house search on Maiduguri underway.
In order to make a success of this, JTF announced a total curfew on some parts of the town believed to be the hideouts of the sect.
The military said in a press statement by JTF Spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa that the curfew had become inevitable in order for the army to sustain the special operations in the face of recent Boko Haram attack in some areas within Maiduguri metropolis.
Musa said: "A 24-hour curfew is hereby imposed in the following wards and areas: Gamboru, Mairi Kuwait, Bakin Kogi, Kasuwan Shanu, Ruwan Zafi, 202 Quarters, Dikwa Quarters, Low-Cost Sinimari, 505 Housing Estate, Chad Basin Area, 303 Housing Estate and Baga Road areas with effect from Saturday, 18 May, 2013 (yesterday)".
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima went round Maiduguri in a convoy to monitor the situation in town.
Meanwhile, the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) has advised the military to respect the sanctity of human lives, especially civilians who are not involved in the crisis in the states where emergency rule is in place.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had also said on Friday that he was "deeply concerned about the fighting in North-eastern Nigeria" and urged the Nigerian security forces to "apply disciplined use of force in all operations".
The Chairman of the NSGF and Niger State Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, who made this known in a press statement by his Chief Press Secretary Danladi Ndayebo in Minna, urged all security agencies deployed in the affected states to operate by their rules of engagement.
The forum expressed support for the emergency rule imposed on the three states, while believing it would complement the offer of amnesty made to Boko Haram members to restore peace to the affected states.
While commending President Jonathan for taking the action, the forum appealed to members of the sect to accept government’s gesture of amnesty so that lasting peace will return to the region and Nigeria in general.
A regular meeting of the NSGF earlier scheduled to hold in Kaduna on Tuesday has been shifted to Tuesday, May 28 to allow governors of the affected states to monitor the take off of the emergency rule in their domains.
Top on the agenda of the meeting is deliberation on the report of the Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and Security submitted to the governors in Abuja last month.
The meeting will also discuss the proclamation of emergency rule on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states by the president