The Minister of Defence, Brig-General Mansur Dan-Ali, (rtd), and top senior security officers have expressed their dismay over the alleged claim by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State that Generals from the Southern parts of the country are responsible for the return of peace in Borno State.
Shettima made the outburst during a town hall meeting of military and security agencies in Maiduguri.
He said he was disappointed to observe that the previous commanders, who are from the southern parts of Nigeria, did much better than the last occupants of the office who are from the North.
â€œSome of our greatest accomplishments in the current counter-insurgency efforts were recorded under army generals who are not from Borno and northern Nigeria. And what we have recorded in the last six weeks outweighs what was accomplished in the last three years.â€
He singled out the Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, a non-Muslim of Igbo stock for exhibiting leadership and professionalism in the fight against the Islamic extremists.
â€œSome of our greatest recent feats in the conflict were done by non-northerners and non-Muslims officers in the military. Most of the soldiers that sacrificed their lives are not of the Kanuri ethnic group,â€ he said.
He further disclosed that the Boko Haram insurgency regained momentum after 2016 because of the failure of command at the theatre of war.
In a swift reaction to the claim, Dan-Ali, who was visibly displeased by Shettimaâ€™s claim, said other senior security personnel were worthy to be mentioned when talking about the successes recorded.
Dan-Ali said Major General Ibrahim Yusuf, the present General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division of the army as well as other senior officers from the Nigerian Air Force Component have also played significant role to the successes.
The defence minister said: â€œThe recent changes in leadership of Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole and the serving brigade, donâ€™t forget we have the brigade commander who is also an indigene of this zone so you should also mention him. General Yusuf is one of the active General Officers Commanding (GOC), in this operation worthy to be mentioned.
â€œAlso the regular visit to the Theatre Command by the minister and the service chiefs have also given morale to the fighting troops hence recorded these successes. It is pertinent to state that the troops of Operation Lafiya Doleâ€™s in the ongoing Operation Deep Punch II have inflicted great damages to the insurgents and rooted them from their hideouts in Sambisa forest.â€
Shettimaâ€™s comments have generated outrage among military officers and security personnel working in various outfits in the state.
A military intelligence officer who claims anonymity told PRNigeria that Shettimaâ€™s comment was quite unprofessional and belittles his personality as Chief Security Officer of the state to use such foul and unguided utterances against other officers who have risked their lives to protect people of the state from Boko Haram insurgency.
The officer said: â€œWe are utterly dismay by the utterances of the governor against other officers from other part of the country. By claiming that the last six weeks outweighs what was accomplished in the last three years, the Governor is invariably attacking the Chief of Army Chief, General Buratai, the National Security Adviser, General Babagana Monguno who are also from Borno State of failure of their three years in the saddle and equally the Commander-in-Chief who put these people in the positions.
â€œWe must recall that it was during the tenure of the last Theatre Commander, General Ibrahim Attahiru, though from the North but not from Borno State that troops provided adequate security when the state hosted President Muhammadu Buhari to the Theatre during the occasion of Nigeriaâ€™s 57th Independence Anniversary and also the successful hosting of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during his visit to flag off the distribution of relief materials to displaced persons in the North-east.â€
Another visibly disturbed security officer said â€œInstead of the governor to concentrate on the issues related to the town hall meeting, he decided to utilised his remarks by promoting sectional divide and bigotry amongst military men and soldiers fighting Boko Haram.
â€œWe felt exasperated after hearing this insulting and provocative remarks from a number one citizen of a state who is also considered as one of the most active governors in this dispensation. He should note that the Nigerian military and security agencies have no religious sentiment, tribal and sectional affiliations.â€
The immediate past Theatre Commander, Major Ibrahim Attahiru, had disclosed during his handover after seven months on the helms of affairs, that he carried out a quick evaluation of the operational situation resulting in the elimination of five high profile Boko Haram commanders and hundreds of terrorists after a crucial and swift clearance operations that neutralised identified immediate threats posed by terrorists taking refuge in some remote areas within the theatre.
General Attahiru also established Fire Support Coordination Cell (FSCC) which were employed continuously to degrade the Boko Haram terrorists in their enclaves and staging areas. These FSCC carried out artillery and aerial bombardments in conjunction with the Air Component of Operation Lafiya Dole on isolated Boko Haram terrorists enclaves killing several Boko Haram terrorists and destroying their logistic base.
The creation of dugouts along Boko Haram terrorists crossing points also denied the group freedom of action and stem the conduct of their nefarious activities. The inauguration of Mobile Strike Teams (MSTs) reinforced the Mobile Brigade Concept (MBC), while he also set up a Special Forces In-theatre Training Team, for retraining and refreshing troops on the fundamental concepts and skills of marksmanship, convoy and anti-ambush drills among others.
The none kinetic operations conducted through coordinated media and information operations led to the surrender of over 100 Boko Haram terrorists, who were immediately inducted into Operation Safe Corridor. The Theatre Command equally facilitated enhanced security on the Lake Chad through continuous clearance of water weeds and patrol of the waterways resulting in lifting of ban on fishing activities in the Lake and the gradual restoration of economic activities thereby providing a lifeline and bringing succour to the indigenes.