Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Nigerian military has intercepted families of the Boko Haram terrorists escaping the onslaught and clearance operations in Sambisa forest towards the northern part of Borno State
This is coming as the troops of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), has launched Operation Gama Aiki, aimed at stopping the relocation of the terrorists towards the northern part of the state as well as flushing them out from the Lake Chad basin area bordering Chad and Niger Republic.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, in a statement wednesday, said that the troops of 81 Battalion and 251 Task Force Battalion deployed at an Observation Post, had in the early hours of Wednesday, sighted a group of persons approaching its Check Point at Liwanti village along Damboa-Bulabulin road, Borno State.
On arrival, Usman said, they were received and treated humanely based on International Humanitarian Laws and Rules of Engagement.
He however, said that on preliminary investigation, it was discovered that the 69 of them were indeed family members of Boko Haram terrorists escaping from Sambisa.
“Out of that number, seven of them are men, 18 women, seven grown up boys and 37 children,” he stated.
“At the initial state of interrogation, they claimed to have escaped from Boko Haram terrorists captivity at Ngwalimari village in Sambisa forest general area. But further interrogation revealed otherwise,” he noted.
Usman said that the troops recovered 15 bicycles, five Dane Guns and other personal effects from them.
He also said that further and thorough investigation is ongoing to ascertain other information from them.
In a related development, the Chief Military Public Information Officer, MNJTF, Col. Muhammad Dole, has stated the “firepower of Operation Lafiya Dole/Crackdown, has caused massive movement of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) escaping from Sambisa Forest towards Northern Borno state border with Niger Republic and Lake Chad Islands”.
According to Dole, the MNJTF in a concerted effort to keep up with its mandate, launched Operation Gama Aiki to clear all remnants of BHT in its general Area of Responsibility (AOR).
He stressed that the operation is aimed at ensuring that the terrorists are prevented from establishing another sanctuaries and hideouts in the Lake Chad region.
He revealed that Operation Gama Aiki involved the MNJTF troops and National Air and ground forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Niger Republics.
He said: “Since the launch of the Op GAMA AIKI, appreciable operational successes are being recorded in the frontlines.
“During some fierce encounters with the terrorists such as; Doran Nairi, Faide-Jimba, Yebi-Tasugia, Yebi-Jemi, Alli Kanori, Yebi Tumanba and Alagarno villages up to Doron Naira along Sector 3 (Nigeria) axis have been cleared.”
“Likewise, Littri, Madayi and some villages on the Lake Chad Island along Sector 2 axis hitherto infested by the insurgents were successfully cleared by Sector 2 (Chad)”.
Dole further stated that during these encounters, MNJTF troops neutralized 31 terrorists, seized and destroyed large quantity of equipment and cache of arms and ammunition.
He listed among the equipment captured by the troops to include a Hilux mounted with Shilka gun with 97 rounds of 21mm (AA), 14 AK 47 rifles, four RPG Bombs, six Mortar Bombs, two GPMG rifles, HK 24 MG, AKM MG and eight Bandoliers among others equipment destroyed in suit.
He however confirmed that MNJTF lost two soldiers and 12 others were wounded, who are currently receiving medical attention.
He said that the Commander, MNJTF, Major General Lamidi Adeosun,while addressing the troops of Sector 3 Baga at the Forward Edge of Battle Area (FEBA), charged them to remain focused and determined to flush out remnants of insurgents from the MNJTF AOR.
Adeosun, he said, used the medium to appeal to the civil populace within the operational areas to continue to cooperate with our gallant troops to enable the final defeat of the BHT.
“He equally urges the citizens living along the borders to be security conscious and watch out for fleeing BH elements during the operation and report all suspicious movements to the military and other security agents within the area,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has denied reports by International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) that it abandoned some its soldiers wounded in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, in a rejoinder yesterday, said the “allegation is not true”.
Usman said “the attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a 5 part campaign of calumny by “The Cable”, an online medium in which it serialized what they described as undercover story of how wounded soldiers were abandoned by the Nigerian Army, the government and the Nigerian society by reporters of ICIR”.
He noted that apart from questioning the motive of the medium, it is pertinent to state that most of narrations were outright falsehood and calculated attempt to cause disaffection amongst personnel and create an impression that they care about the well being of troops more than the Nigerian Army, the government and the nation.
According to him, this is far from the truth as the report failed to update their previous knowledge and impression about the Nigerian Army, neither did they avail themselves the benefit of the current and true situation of things in the Service.
He stressed that the Nigerian Army has given all organisations and individuals the opportunity to clear any doubt through the various Army Headquarters Department, formations and units and in particular, the Directorate of Army Public Relations and the Department of Civil Military Affairs.
Unfortunately, he said, these under cover agents failed to availed themselves with such opportunity.
He stated: “No country would tolerate the attitude of subversive elements such as the ICIR and its partner medium, The Cable, especially at the very critical national security situation. They want to demoralize and instigate the soldiers to reverse the gains made in the fight against terrorism and insurgency.
“Some of the stories being narrated by the medium could better be described as orchestrated campaign of calumny, otherwise how else could one describe their fabrication about the alleged abandonment of a soldier by his imaginary commander as stated in one of their narrations?”
“It is therefore safe to conclude that ICIR and The Cable have embarked on yet another round of subversive activities in order to portray the Nigerian Army and the nation as uncaring. This is in an effort to score cheap popularity or create an aura of a professional investigative journalists for themselves. They are far from that, rather they are bunch of fifth columnists that enhance the work of crisis merchants and terrorists.
“It is important to state that most of what they were alleging took place between 2012 and early 2015. This did not take into account the changes and progress recorded within the last one year especially with the coming on board of the present Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General TY Buratai in July 2015. Their embarrassing pieces did not also take into account the genuine and verifiable efforts made to rehabilitate our soldiers wounded in action in the North East and other theatre of operations. For anybody to state that the present government does not care about the plight of soldiers is to say the least, it is most uncharitable,” he added.
Usman further stated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has demonstrated most uncommon concern about our well being in terms of logistics, welfare and general administration.
He claimed that “the medium in their failed attempt to whip up sentiments, conjured facts and photographs to suit their selfish and condemnable objectives”.
“It is in this regards the Nigerian Army deemed it necessary to call their bluff and set the records straight with a view to portray the writers for what they are; cheap blackmailers. They have also declared themselves as enemies of the people as they do not wish the war against terrorism and insurgency to succeed hence their distractive and demoralizing lies.
“We are also constrained to release the attached video clip of one of our wounded colleague using the prosthesis which The Cable alleged was uncomfortable. Let the discerning minds be the judge. It is pertinent to state that this same type was given to the soldier they interviewed,” he remarked.
“With the title ‘Investigation Broken Limbs, Shattered Dreams, Forgotten Soldiers, Boko Haram War’ among other dubious and misleading titles, the medium is determined to demoralize the military and cause rancour. Unfortunately for them their allegations are concocted lies, otherwise how else could one believe the story of a soldier who alleged that he was shot while guarding his commander who did not come out despite the commotion. The question to ask is who sent in the reinforcement and who was the alleged commander, when and where exactly did that happen?,” he queried.
Usman insisted that “nobody has forgotten any soldier, least of all the Nigerian Army”, adding the “Army takes pride and joy in the current impressive performances of its soldiers”.
According to him, “it is out of place that it will ever neglect, let alone forget any of its soldiers especially at their hours of need after they have always given the nation all they had.
“The campaign fell flat as it has not taken into cognisance the casualty evacuation procedures and other welfare schemes or entitlements of troops”.
The Army Spokesman said that the “write up also failed to take into account that so much has been done to ameliorate the conditions of our wounded colleagues. Tremendous progress has been made since the assumption into office of the present Chief of Army Staff in July last year in that regard”.
“To say the least, the medium and the persons behind the piece were just trying to practice journalism through negativism and they have already failed. How could anyone call this investigative journalism? Unknown to them, more has been done by the Army to support our troops wounded in action especially in the last one year,” he disclosed.
For the avoidance of doubt, he clarified, no fewer than 17 officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army were issued with prosthesis including Gunner Nwibani Sorborinor, the soldier they interviewe.
The DAPR said that the soldier in question was just being unnecessarily obstinate simply because he was not taken to India for treatment unlike the others, adding; “this is not deliberate because as at that time, India could not grant visa to the injured soldiers for some inexplicable reasons hence to locally source for solution which turned out to be more apt and most appropriate”.
Usman revealed that from July 2015 to date, no fewer than 71 officers and soldiers with medical issues were medically evacuated to various countries such as India, UAE, Scotland and Germany by the Nigerian Army.
He noted that while some were treated abroad, others were treated here in Nigeria by specialists based on the severity of their cases.
“Those with prosthetic limbs made in India are 16 in number, while those with prosthetic limbs procured in Nigeria are 9 in number. The latter have benefitted from locally made prosthesis because it is better, most fitting and they are doing very well contrary to medium’s allegations. The attached video clip speaks for itself.
“It is interesting to also note that the prosthetics in Nigeria were procured from Roseline Medical Centre Lagos, which is one of the best and reputable in that field. One expect the so-called investigative journalists to visit India and Roseline Medical Centre and compare their products and interview other beneficiaries before being judgemental,” he further stated.
Usman assured that the Nigerian Army has nothing to hide, neither will it tolerate any infraction among its personnel especially when it comes to troops welfare.
He also requested members of the public “to discountenance the serial write ups by ICIR and The Cable Online medium as they are pure fabrications aimed at distracting the Nigerian Army from succeeding in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists by demoralizing the troops”.
He said that “such write ups are therefore unacceptable, inaccurate and exist only in the writers’ fertile imagination”.