Upsurge in B’Haram Attacks Throw Military Off Balance as 14 Killed in Dikwa

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  •  UniMaid VC: Army only brought no rescued person, only five corpses
  • Army: Error not deliberate, search and rescue efforts on-going
  • NAF deploys special forces to N-East

Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri, Paul Obi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigerian military appear to have been thrown off balance with the recent upsurge in Boko Haram attacks, as fourteen persons were killed in a suicide attack on an accommodation housing newly returned internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dikwa town in Borno State.

The recent attacks, including the brutal killing of about 48 soldiers and University of Maidugiri staff members through an ambush laid by the Boko Haram insurgents, run contrary to the claim by the military authorities that Boko Haram has been ‘technically defeated.’

Head of the rapid response team of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (BOSEMA), Bello Dambatta said a female suicide on Friday night after detonating an explosive device on her body caused the death of 14 persons and injuries to 24 others.

He said the suicide bomber penetrated a building housing returnees in Dikwa, east of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, and detonated the explosive leading to the massive casualties.

Dambatta, said the suicide bombers sneaked into the building close to the 20 housing estate around 8:30pm and detonated the explosives strapped on her.

He said: “We have so far evacuated 38 victims comprising, 14 dead and 24 injured and brought them to the State Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri.”

Ali Ibrahim, a nurse with the State Specialist Hospital, who also confirmed the incident said: “The victims of the Dikwa attack have been brought into our medical facility”.

“We received victims of Dikwa bomb blast this morning (Saturday); there were fourteen brought in dead and twenty four injured who are presently receiving treatment”, Ibrahim added.

Babagana Musa, a youth volunteer who escorted the victims to Maiduguri from Dikwa, said communication challenges affected the immediacy of response to the distress call, and the fear of the unknown especially at night, made the security operatives decide that the victims be taken out in the morning. Musa lamented that, “There is no network in Dikwa that was why we could not communicate on time.”

Mamman Musa who was at the Maiduguri hospital to check on the injured, said: “There are no camps in Dikwa town as almost all returnees are in homes, so this incident comes as a very surprising thing to us.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army through its Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Clement Nwachukwu, confirmed the Dikwa attack to journalists. He said: “Yes, there was a suicide attack on Dikwa town and seven people died while six were injured”.
The Dikwa attack and others in the last two months have seemingly negated the views from the Presidency and Defence Headquarters (DHQ) that the end of insurgency in Nigeria was near.

On the fatal ambush, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman had told journalists and the public that “on receipt of the information, the Brigade mobilised and sent reinforcement, search and rescue party that include the Armed Forces Special Forces and guides that worked and pursued the terrorists throughout the night.”

Usman further disclosed that “they have rescued all the NNPC staff and recovered the corpses of the Officer, 8 soldiers and a civilian who have been evacuated to 7 Division Medical Services and Hospital.”

However, the Vice Chancellor of University of Maiduguri, Prof. Ibrahim Njodi has described as false a report by the Nigerian Army that some of the staff members of the institution who went on oil exploration with the NNPC team were rescued.
Njodi said instead of receiving any live person from the team, five of the university staff members on the exploration team were brought to the town dead.

He made the statement on Friday during the visit of Minister of State of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachukwu who led top management staff of the federal ministry of petroleum resources and NNPC delegation on a condolence visit to the university.

Njodi, whose brother was also reportedly murdered by the Boko Haram terrorists during the ambush, deplored the military’s attempt to conceal the real facts and figures about the attack. He took a swipe at the military over what he called deliberate attempt to mislead the public and poor handling of the security situation.

He said: “The military said it has rescued all the geologists working for NNPC. I wonder how the recovery of corpses can be referred to as being rescued. We are all at liberty to guess now as to whether security was provided or not.”

The Vice Chancellor lamented that in the course of contributing to national development and growth, nine staff members of the university died in the process. He said the institution that had been under insurgents’ suicide attacks has had to sacrifice the lives of his murdered staff members to make the nation great.

He lamented that “the military said they rescued five staff out of the nine staff involved in the incident but only five corpses instead of alive were brought.” He said the deceased included two lecturers, two technologists and a driver.

The VC said there are four outstanding staff members of the university involved in the oil exploration still missing and who are yet to be found by the security agents. He said the missing staff members include two lecturers, a technologist and a driver.

Njodi also noted that the university wants messages for the families of those missing to know the status of their loved ones, pointing out that, the university is expecting calls or reports about the four missing staff members, whether dead or alive.

He said the university has been in relationship with the ministry since 12 years ago when the oil exploration works started in the area, adding that: “Four vibrant and excellent academic staff lost their lives. None put less than 10 years in the service of the university. It will take the university time to make replacement of the lecturers. How to replace them is the highest problem to the university.”
He also requested the minister to give special scholarship award or programme for graduates of the deceased to train uptil second degree level.

“It is sad to everybody, although, it is a price that must be paid. Only God can prevent or stop death. I call on the minister to also help in the continuous search for the missing four staff. Let us know information about where they are and how they are.”

However, the VC said the geology department cannot be closed down but it cannot operate to full capacity without these lecturers.
He urged the minister to assist send some professionals from other places to come and help the students of the department academically as the university will continue to relate and support the ministry, while calling on the ministry not to leave the university alone.
Responding, the Minister State for Petroleum Resources, said he was full of sorrow and sadness as the university was in grief which informed his presence in Maiduguri

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) UniMaid Chapter through its Chairman, Danny Mamman told journalists that about four of its members are still missing.

Mamman said: “We were first elated when we heard that the military rescued the victims. But, to our dismay we discovered that they were all killed. Our initial hope to see them alive was dashed. The soldiers brought only dead bodies. Four other staff are still missing and we are seriously concerned about their safety, we do not know their whereabouts.”

Earlier attempts by THISDAY to speak with the Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche and Brig. Gen. Usman of Army Headquarters were unsuccessful.

However, a release issued late last night by the Director Army Public Relations, Usman titled ‘Update on Oil Exploration Team Ambush’ expressed regret and noted that the error in the earlier release issued by the Army was not deliberate and that the search for the missing persons was ongoing.

According to the Army release, “The incident of 25th July 2017 where some Boko Haram Terrorists ambushed our troops including members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) escorting some staff of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as that of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) on oil exploration in Borno Yesu District of Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno state is unfortunate and highly regrettable. Most regrettable also is my earlier release on the said incident about the rescue of all NNPC Staff. The error in the statement was not deliberate.

“The Nigerian Army in this present dispensation is reputed for timely dissemination of information on activities of our troops in all theatre of operations. We have strived to keep the public informed on our activities with no intention of distorting any fact. Our troops have doubled efforts in the pursuit of the Boko Haram terrorists while search and rescue is still on-going to secure the safe return of the remaining civilians.

“So far the search and rescue team has recovered additional bodies of 5 soldiers, 11 Civilian JTF and 5 members of the exploration team. Contrary to reports in some media, 6 members of exploration team out of 12 that went out are still missing, while one of the NNPC staff returned to base alive.

“On the other hand, our pursuit team also recovered 2 of our own Gun trucks and an additional Toyota Buffalo Gun truck from the insurgents. In addition, the team also made the following recoveries; 4 Rocket Propelled Grenade Bombs, 4 Rocket Propelled Grenade chargers, 6 AK-47 rifles, 1 Anti-Aircraft Gun, 1 General Purpose Machine Gun,1 Anti-Aircraft Gun Barrel, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tube, 4 Dane Guns, 8 Tyres and 2 Tyre Rims.

“Other items recovered include 1 Pumping Machine, 2 Tyre Jacks, 1 Super Battery, 5 Reflective Jackets, 3 Toyota Hilux, 4 Jerry cans filled with PMS, 1 Motorola Radio, 1 Geographical Positioning System (GPS), 21 empty Jerry cans, 2 Shovels and 3 Food Coolers. Troops also recovered 122 rounds of PKM ammunition, 213 rounds of 7.62mm NATO ammunition, 1255 Anti-Aircraft Guns ammunition, 4 boxes of API 12.7mm ammunition, 1 AK-47 Rifle Magazine, a Digger, 2 Bows and 13 Arrows, 2 LLG Bombs, assorted drugs and assorted working tools.
“The Nigerian Army condoles with the families of all that lost their loved ones in this unfortunate incident. Search and rescue efforts are on-going. We are counting on the goodwill and support of the populace in volunteering valuable information that could help in the search and rescue operation.

“What the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists are doing are pure criminal activities of kidnapping to gain funds. This has been noted and will be jointly addressed in conjunction with other Security Services. The Nigerian Army remains resolute in the fight against terrorism and would not relent in its effort to safe guard lives of citizens, properties and the territorial integrity of the country”, Usman added.

In response to the directive by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo that the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Buraita and NAF Chief of Air Force (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Abubakar Sadique should relocate their base to the North East, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) deployed more air power to the North East.

According to the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya, “NAF has introduced additional measures aimed at increasing its operational capability in the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the North East.
“The measures include the deployment of additional NAF Special Forces and personnel of the Regiment Specialty to reinforce Base security and also fight alongside the Nigerian Army troops and NAF Special Forces that were already on ground.”

Adesanya said: “In addition, the NAF has deployed thermal imaging cameras aimed at adding more value to the current efforts at detecting and checkmating the activities of suicide bombers before they carry out their suicide missions. This follows the spate of suicide bombings that have been recently recorded in Maiduguri.

The thermal imaging camera uses infrared and reads temperature differences up to an appreciable distance away and can identify a person at an acceptable distance. The cameras, which are mounted on NAF aircraft, can also penetrate obscurants such as smoke, fog and haze.
The NAF, in recent times, has stepped up its counter-insurgency operations to further decimate the ability of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the North East.

The focus has largely been the conduct of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions as well as interdiction missions on identified BHT targets.

‘This is in addition to range of other air operations and humanitarian intervention schemes aimed at winning the heart and minds of the populace in the conflict areas,” Adesanya submitted.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the Borno state government and security operatives tackling the insurgents in the North-east part of the country is most cordial, according to the Deputy Governor Usman Mamman Durkwa.

Durkwa, who stated this interview with journalists in Abuja on Friday, said since Governor Kashim Shettima’s assumption of duty as the governor of Borno State, no past or serving head of different military formations, commissioners of Police and directors of the Department of State Service spends as little as five minutes to see him “with or without prior appointments”.

Durkwa said Shettima has made a point of duty to support successive heads of security agencies in Borno State as part of the State government’s devotion to the fight against Boko Haram.

“I know that majority of Nigerians within and outside Borno State deeply appreciate the sincere efforts of Governor Kashim Shettima in fighting the Boko Haram, supporting internally displaced persons, rebuilding and resettling IDPs, but I am also worried that some mischievous politicians are doing everything within their powers to discredit the governor through all kinds of mischief.”
Durkwa who described as mischievious, attempts by some politicians to create bad blood between the security agencies and the state government, said the governor had always treated the operatives and their commanders well”

“I have been part of Governor Shettima’s administration since 2011 as Commissioner before I became Deputy Governor in 2015 and so can tell you without any fear of contradiction that in the last six years, no security chiefs whether past or present theater commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole, past or present Brigade Commanders, Air Force Commanders, Garrison Commanders, Commissioners of Police both past and present, Directors of SSS has ever spent up to five minutes in the Government House before having access to the Governor and most of the times they come without appointment,” he said.