Tobi Soniyi and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The top military hierarchy are currently engaged in serious discussions in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on best strategies to adopt in addressing the rising wave of suicide Boko Haram terrorist bombers. This followed deadly ambush attacks against troops involved in the operation Lafiya Dole in the North-east.
The meeting became expedient as the Military, according to sources, has expressed surprise at the sophisticated and well-coordinated terrorist attacks against the Nigerian troops, despite being greatly downgraded and decimated.
THISDAY gathered that both the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, and other leading commanders have met at the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC), Maiduguri, Borno State recently, to re-engineer an effective response to the elusive terrorist remnants.
An intelligent source informed THISDAY that the military were rattled by the chain of events culminating in the missing troops and especially the loss of the Commanding Officer of 272 Special Task Force Battalion, Lt-Col. Muhammad Abu Ali and six others in an ambush.
“The killing of Abu Ali and his team is only a wake-up call to the lapses in the present arrangement, in view of which the CoAS is currently in Maiduguri along with those that matter in the military to brainstorm on change of strategy vital to finishing of the terrorists,” a military source said.
The source noted that, while the troops had been effective in smoking out the terrorists from their strongholds in Sambisa forest, they still lacked surprise elements in their operational tactics. The officer explained that the strategy of waiting to repel attacks had not been effective against terrorist remnants that had mastered the terrain, favoured by the weather and dry season.
To this end, the senior officer said the military, security and intelligence team needed to constantly review their strategy if they are to be two steps ahead of ever evolving terrorists.
“One thing you should know all over the world, the fight against terrorism is a long term war. We are just experiencing ours. Resurgence is a normal thing when those in the fronts drop their guards and fail to constantly review their strategies. Again no war can be won if you maintain a habit of waiting to repel attacks.
“Remember that these criminals are not completely dumb. After every failed attack, they go back to restrategise and come back. They keep doing that till they get it right… What have we been doing to confuse and surprise them? In my view, not much,” the military source volunteered.
“In truth, the fight against the Boko Haram is largely won, despite all the media campaign which gives credit to a resurgence…indeed, that is what Boko Haram will have the whole world believe…it’s not true. They suffer very massive casualties on every attempted attack and are never successful…it is normal, in war, to record casualties on both sides and that is what is currently going…the media makes it sound like the entire region is under siege…
“In reality, the war is being fought in the bushes not in urban settlements. That is because they see that our troops are gradually closing in on their last camps and they are trying to slow down the progress of the troops by creating such distractions in the name of soft attacks on our own troops.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency has insisted that the federal government did not pay any ransom to secure the release of the abducted 21 Chibok Secondary School Girls.
A statement issued in Abuja by the Senior Special Assistant to the Presidency on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, said no money was budgeted for ransom and none was given.
The same position was held by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), which denied reports that ransom was paid by the government in exchange for the recently released of 21 of the abducted Chibok girls.
According to the Shehu “Over the past few days, some newspaper reports ascribing the recent terrorist attacks in Borno State to the government’s negotiation of the release of 21 Chibok girls, with a particular report alleging the exchange of $21 million for the girls are false and should be disregarded by members of the public. This loose talk is journalism at its most irresponsible and it’s most dismaying.
“As a responsible government that is run on the basis of the constitution and budgets duly appropriated by the National Assembly, we have no such money under any allocation to pay out this outrageous sum of money as ransom.”
He told those alleging that ransom was paid to prove the allegation. “Beyond the call of journalism, the newspaper making this charge as a national duty to point how and where this money was paid, and to supply leads as to where the “powerful weapons” were bought by the terrorists”, he added.
Shehu said from the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the media, local and international groups, had persistently pressured the government to do everything possible to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls.
According to him, during the election campaigns, “Buhari himself expressed commitment to this and also to bringing an end to terrorism in our country. We then wonder why anyone is turning the defeat of terror and return of the missing persons against the government.”
Shehu said as at the time the president came into power, Boko Haram occupied 80 per cent of Borno State, 40 per cent of Yobe, and a significant segment of Adamawa,” he noted, adding, however, that, “Today, the group does not control any territory.”