Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), yesterday put the number of local government areas that were liberated in Borno State since the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015 at 22.
The minister, who spoke during his ongoing tour of military formations in the North-east, was, however, silent on the identities of the LGAs and the Nigerian Army spokesman, Col. Musa Sagir, did not respond when contacted by THISDAY to disclose the names of the liberated areas.
THISDAY, however, gathered that shortly before the 2015 general election, 22 out of the 27 LGAs in Borno State were partially or fully under Boko Haram’s suzerainty.
These are Jere, Kaga, Kala/Balge, Konduga, Kukawa, Mafa, Magumeri, Maiduguri, Marte, Mobbar, Monguno, Ngala, Nganzai, Abadam, Askira/Uba, Bama, Chibok, Damboa, Dikwa, Gubio, Guzamala, and Gwoza.
However, all these LGAs were fully liberated before the elections but some were recaptured before the May 29 handover to the current administration.
Borno State Governor, Professor Gulum Babagana, had recently criticised the army over its strategy, which he said was not effective.
According to the governor, the Super Camp strategy, had rather opened some areas of the state to insurgents, who had ramped up attacks, overrunning Gubio and Magumeri LGAs.
Also Borno communities had written President Muhammadu Buhari, saying they had lost confidence in the military following incessant attacks by terrorists.
The minister’s declaration is coming as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) said it conducted air strikes that killed scores of insurgents in Tumbum Rego area of the Lake Chad region.
Addressing troops in Gubio community, the minister charged them to apply the Super Camp strategy with utmost dedication and loyalty.
Gubio, 85 kilometres north of Maiduguri, the state capital, was attacked twice last month.
He said: “You are to carry out the Super Camp operations on wheels with the utmost professionalism, efficiency and loyalty to succeed.
“I am here on behalf of the president to let you know that we appreciate you. We also love you and let you know that nobody has abandoned you in the front lines.
“What we have now compared to 2015 is an indication that a lot has been achieved by liberating 22 Local Government Areas in Borno State.”
He commended the troops for their gallantry in the battle against insurgents and assured them of government’s commitment to end the insurgency.
“I wish you a safe environment; I wish you successful operations so that in no distant time, we will end this menace.
“We will give you the best and we expect the best from you,” he added.
Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, assured the minister that Maiduguri and other parts of the state would not fall to Boko Haram.
He pledged the unflinching loyalty of troops to the president as demanded by the 1999 Constitution.
“We are ready and willing to implement the directive of the commander-in-chief. I want to dissociate the theatre command from cowardly information on social media.
“Maiduguri is not falling. Magumeri, Gubio are not falling and are not going to fall.
“The theatre command is in charge of the North-east and we are going to continue to be strong,” he said.
Meanwhile, MNJTF said scores of insurgents were killed at the weekend while weapons, ammunition and other assets of the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP), were destroyed by air strikes.
A statement signed by spokesman of MNJTF, Col Timothy Antigha, said: “ISWAP terrorists and equipment, including weapons, ammunition and logistics, were destroyed in Tumbum Rego over the weekend.
“Air interdictions conducted by MNJTF and national Air Task Forces successfully attacked and killed several fighters and knocked out equipment as they prepared to launch an offensive on troops location.
“Battle damage assessment has indicated that the air interdiction had a devastating impact, as pockets of ISWAP build up and logistics hidden under trees in Tumbum Rego have been ruined.”
Also, ISWAP assets in Mallam Zuberu and Alagarno were also targeted and neutralised while troops discovered and defused improvised explosive devices planted by the insurgents in Layi Koura area of Nguigmi in Niger Republic.