Chiemelie Ezeobi and Emma Okonji
Despite pockets of suicide bombings in the North East (NE), the Nigerian Army (NA), thursday maintained that the military have decimated the Boko Haram sect.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, said this during a telephonic press conference organised by the United States Mission, Nigeria to wrap up the African Land Forces Summit, 2018 organised in conjunction with the Acting Commander, US Army Africa, Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf.
This is just as he said plans have been concluded to reintegrate Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Northern Borno back to their communities.
He said the IDPs, who fled their residences following attacks from Boko Haram, would be returned home and protected by the military for four to five months.
When asked by this reporter on the military’s repeated assurances that Boko Haram has been defeated despite pockets of violence from the sect, he maintained his stance that they were on top of their game.
He said: “First, look at where we are coming from, where we are and where we are going to. Boko Haram as a formidable force used to move around freely across the country.
“Before 2015, they had reached Abuja, Lokoja, Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Bauchi and virtually across many parts of the country especially the northern and central parts.
“But since 2016, there was no major attack outside the North-East (NE). In 2017, there was no major attack in the NE. In this context, you will agree with me that Boko Haram has been defeated.
“Even within the NE, where we have suicide bombings and few isolated cases. Note that they use propaganda as one of their tactics.
“If you are in Maiduguri or any part of the Northeast, you will know Boko Haram has been defeated.
Boko Haram is restricted between very few isolated areas.
“They have been moving from one point to another and we have continued to pursue them. We were not in Sambisa forest about a year or two ago but today we are firmly rooted in the Sambisa forest.
“Along the border areas we have some attacks where they cross over from Cameroon to attack. With the combined efforts of all our forces, we are working together to get them contained.
“As far as I am concerned, the narrative is that Boko Haram has been defeated. We have gone further than that. Many of the residents have started moving back to their communities.
“The latest one is in Bama Local Government of Borno. The movement is still ongoing. Very soon people will return to all those areas where they were displaced and start their lives again.
“We have to apply all the necessary means available to provide essential amentities, like schools, hospital for them to be able to move around.
“The insurgents have not been able to hold any ground or move freely like before. Do not be carried away by the propaganda of the insurgents. People hardly pay attention to the efforts security forces are making.
“The whole of Nigerian Army is moving to Northern Borno State to bring back those who left and we would stay with them in the next four five months.”
Continuing, Buratai said there was need for Africa countries to work together to combat terrorism, adding that challenges of porous border, trans-border intrusion and other immigration concerns needed to be addressed.
He said: “So we also taking advantage of that to see that the right troops are mobilised to ensure that we degrade Boko Haram terrorists.
“Collaboration with our neighbouring countries is very important and crucial to complete eradication of the Boko Haram terrorist.
“You see that the effort of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) is most fundamental in the effect that there is need for us to continue to work together and this is being done right now with the bilateral as well as multilateral arrangement in place.
“As it is, our troops are working alongside each othe. Therefore, there is need for total cooperation. We need to put our forces on ground and for necessary gadgets to be put in place.
“We are working to ensure right direction and right political support is gotten in terms of road infrastructure, health facilities, schools.”
Explaining the use of armed drones by the military in the northeast, Buratai assured that NE were taken, adding that the drones were mainly deployed inside the Sambisa Forest.
He said, “The drones are used as force multipliers and they also provide us with intelligence on the movement of arms. We also them to monitor the movement of troops and also mark the insurgents. It helps us improve response time of our troops in any area.
“Some of our neighboring countries using these facilities will help us facilitate quick reactions before terrorists attack.”
Acting Commander, US Army Africa, Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf said the focus of the summit was to bring the armies of the region together in order to tackle security challenges.
He said, “It was to ensure protection, safer logistics cooperation among the African continent. To support African partners in security operations through training techniques. Insecurity is one of the major forces we are confronted with.”