Army: Over 2m Captives Freed from Boko Haram

  • Report: 13,000 churches affected, 1,500 schools shut, 611 teachers killed

Paul Obi in Abuja

The Nigerian Army wednesday said over two million women, children including adult males held captives, have been freed from the hands of the Boko Haram sect.

The army explained that the progress was made following series of coordinated attacks and clearance operations conducted against the terrorist camps.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, stated this in Abuja at an event organised by the Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG) to mark the United Nations World Peace Day.

Buratai, represented by the Chief of Civil Military Relations, Major General Peter John Bojie, said the milestone could not have been achieved without the support of the federal government.
According to him, “The political will, clear presidential directives of President, Muhammadu Buhari and backing received from all the tiers of government was responsible for the morale boost witnessed in the military.

“On the whole, all the aforementsioned moderate achievements would not have been possible without the support of the government which has never been unwavering since Mr. President took over the mantle of leadership.

“Today, the story has changed, as the tide has turned against the insurgents. The Nigerian Army in synergy with other sister services and security agencies have liberated captured territories and rescued over 40,000 civilians.

“Over two million women, children including adult males held captives have been freed from the hands of terrorist group following series of coordinated attacks and clearance operations conducted against the Boko Haram camps.”

While speaking at the event, the President of the Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG), Etuk Bassey Williams, said given that “there is no substitute for peace, the commitment of all stakeholders especially the civil society organisations in the actualisation of peace is not negotiable.

The need for peace in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised considering the fact that the absence of it has led to the death of over two twenty thousand persons and displacement of over one million in the past seven years in the north east,” Williams said.

He maintained that “the several communal clashes, Boko Haram insurgency and the Niger-Delta militancy are but few of the security challenges that would have led to civil war in other climes but for the dogged commitment of the Nigerian military even in the face of glaring difficulties.”

Managing Director of Leadership Newspaper, Mr. Stanley Nkwocha, stated that though media and military are needed to ensure peace across board, the relationship has not been positive in some areas.

Nkwocha said: “Granted, as desirable as a cordial media-military relationship seems evidence suggests that it has been fraught with hostilities globally and locally.
He further called for a robust relationship between the media and military institutions to expand the frontiers of peace in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, over 14 million Nigerians are directly affected by humanitarian crises in the North-east region of the country, two international humanitarian groups have reported.
The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative from the United States and the Stefanus Foundation, based in Nigeria, gave the figure last Monday in Abuja.

Addressing journalists during a programme organised to highlight the challenges of terror victims in the country, Mark Lipdo, Executive Director of the Stefanus Foundation, said a research conducted by the groups revealed the figure.

“14.8 million Nigerians from North-east are directly impacted by the crisis. Officially, there are 2.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“Unofficially, there are five to seven million IDPs. Those in need of special assistance, are 2.5 million, comprising children under the age of five, pregnant women and nursing mothers,” he said.

Lipdo, according to an online news portal, Premium Times, said the menace of terrorism has had a wide range of casualties, which he listed to include: 611 teachers who died as a result of terrorism in the North-east; 19,000 teachers displaced, 1500 schools closed down, and 950,000 children denied the opportunity of accessing education.

Others include 13,000 churches abandoned, closed down or destroyed, 2,000 children abducted and 10,000 boys forced to join Boko Haram.

“Global Terrorism index shows that Boko Haram is the world’s most lethal terrorist group, followed by ISIS, while al-Qaeda ranks third and the Fulani militants mostly in the middle belt rank 4th,” Lipdo said.

Vice President of the 21st Wilberforce Initiative, Elijah Brown, added that in December 2015, the number of IDPs scattered around Nigeria alone were more than two million.
“As of December 2015, there were 2,152,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria – the third highest figure in Africa and the seventh in the world,” he said.
Brown said the activities of Fulani herdsmen were having a terrible effect on the middle belt and called for immediate action against the menace.

“Without intervention, the crisis in the Middle Belt will continue to escalate.
“This could affect other countries in West African region like the Republic of Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, and Niger,” said Brown
Co-organisers of the programme, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), pleaded with world leaders to respond to government’s call towards assisting Nigeria in addressing the issues of humanitarian crisis created by terrorist activities across the nation.

CAN president, Samson Ayokunle, said various reports in the past had indicated that the rate of humanitarian crisis affecting Nigerians as a result of terror were more than those of similar situations in most parts of the world.

“The situation is looked upon by international bodies as the biggest humanitarian disaster all over the world.

“A disturbing fact about the problem is that it has not received substantial humanitarian response from the world’s most powerful nations as other disasters of relatively smaller degrees in other parts of the world.

“I am therefore calling on the world’s powerful nations to come to the aid of Nigeria in seeing to the end of insurgency.

“Come to the aid of many victims of insurgency within and outside internally displaced people’s camps or homes; those who have been stripped naked, the jobless, the orphaned, those maimed and the widowed in Nigeria,” he said.