•Explains delay in rescuing Leah Sharibu, other hostages
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Damaturu
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday dismissed calls by the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, on the military to recapture some local governments in the state from insurgents.
The DHQ told reporters yesterday in Abuja that contrary to the governor’s claim, no Nigerian territory is under the control of terrorist groups – Boko Haram and Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP).
It also stated that the military was relentless but cautious in rescue operations to liberate Leah Sharibu and other hostages held by the terrorist organisations in order to ensure their safety.
However, the military and other security agencies got commendations from the Yobe State Governor, Mr. Mai-Mala Buni, for repelling Boko Haram’s attack on Damaturu on Sunday.
The terrorist group, which invaded the Yobe State capital on Sunday night was pushed back by the military and other security forces.
The Borno governor had last week said three local government areas in the state were still under the occupation of the Boko Haram insurgents.
The governor, who had listed the local governments as Marte, Kukawa and Abadam, had also appealed to the military to reclaim the seized territories from the insurgents.
The governor had also raised concerns over what he described as the rising wave,
especially in the wake of attacks on six villages within three weeks.
The insurgents had attacked Chul village early in the week after similar attacks on Rumirgo, Lassa, Mussa, Kufa and Gwandam in Askira-Uba.
But the DHQ spokesman, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, at a briefing in Abuja, countered the Borno State governor’s claim, saying that no inch of Nigeria’s territory is being controlled by the insurgents.
He said: “I will like to state categorically that given their mode of operations, Boko Haram is not in control of any inch of Nigeria’s territory.
“I want to make it very clear that Boko Haram has been pushed to the Tumbus, the islands within the neighbouring countries of Chad and Niger Republics where they are hibernating and from where they launch attacks on soft targets.
“Boko Haram is not controlling any inch of our territory. What they do is to watch out for soft targets.
“There was such intrusion on Sunday around Babandida area in Yobe State and they were severely dealt with.”
On efforts to rescue hostages held by insurgents, he said: “Abduction and kidnappings are some of those tactics used by terrorists, which they apply to raise funds for their illicit activities.
“It’s an international issue. Unfortunately , some persons very dear to our hearts, we still have Leah (Sharibu) there but I want to assure you that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole are relentless in ensuring that these people are rescued.
“We work round the clock on aggressive patrol and rescue missions are conducted almost on a daily basis.
“The fact remains that troops have to tread very cautiously because the people you are to rescue are already in the hands of terrorists and any careless move may result in annihilation of these people just to ward off troops.
“There are very complex and intricate operations that are being conducted there that require time. They are very sensitive operations.”
On its internal operations across the country, he said 266,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were returned to their ancestral home under Operation Whirl Stroke conducted in the North-central while 4, 201 rounds of ammunition were recovered from criminals in the last three months.
Yobe Gov Commends Military for Pushing Back Boko Haram
Meanwhile, Buni has commended the Nigerian military and other security agencies for chasing off Boko Haram insurgents who invaded Damaturu.
The group had invaded the Yobe State capital, Damaturu on Sunday night but was pushed back by the military and security forces.
A statement yesterday by the state Commissioner of Information, Home Affairs and Culture, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego, said: “Governor Mai Mala Buni has commended the army, the air force and other branches of the nation’s security forces for their gallantry and resolve in the wake of the attempt by Boko Haram insurgents to infiltrate Damaturu, the state capital yesterday (Sunday).
“The governor, who has been briefed on the incident, pays tribute to the security forces for the sustained onslaught against the insurgents, which denied them a chance to conduct their campaign of terrorist violence in Damaturu.
“His Excellency notes that the effort to prevent and thwart Boko Haram violence must remain sustained and deepened and must necessarily remain an all-hands-on-deck affair.”
Buni also urged the people to continue to support the efforts of the military and other security forces by providing any information on any suspicious movements or activities security agencies.