Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Military High Command yesterday vowed to pursue the war against insurgency to a logical conclusion in view of recent successes recorded in its operations in the North-east and warned local and foreign interests to exhibit more commitment and restraint on issues of national security and avoid taking sides.
But residents of villages around Maiduguri-Damaturu Road said troops abandoned them after Governor Babagana Zulum accused the military of extorting money from motorists, saying insurgents had ramped up attacks in the area.
Also, a South-east-based human rights advocacy group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) accused the military of allegedly masterminding the massacre of 480 South-easterners in internal security operations since 2015.
Speaking on developments in the North-east, Buratai said the military was determined to pursue the insurgency war to a logical conclusion.
He said “the counter insurgency operations in the North East and indeed other ongoing operations against our common enemies across the country are still on course with current indicators revealing tremendous successes across the various theaters of operation.
“After a careful review of the Nigerian Army operations in the North East, it is pertinent to state that, Headquarters Nigerian Army has gladly observed the renewed zeal and determination by troops to take the counter insurgency operations to its logical conclusion”, he said, noting that it was “with outcomes favourable to Nigeria and Nigerians as evident in the recent decimation of many Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province criminals, including some of their top commanders amidst several arrests of the insurgents’ logistic suppliers and collaborators, numerous capture of the criminals’ arms and ammunition as well as rescue of many captives from the bondage of the insurgents”.
The Army chief warned that “all local and foreign interests are advised to exhibit more commitment and restraint on issues of our national security and avoid taking sides.
“Furthermore, all actions and utterances must be tailored towards supporting the national cause with a view to restoring peace and tranquility to our beloved country”.
Buratai assured troops that their sacrifices and that of other fallen colleagues would never be in vain and reiterated the unreserved commitment of the Nigerian Army to defend the country and her citizens no matter the prize or odds.
He said the recent moribund activity of Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province insurgents is synonymous with the kicks of a dying horse gasping for the last breath.
“The Chief of Army Staff also warned all enemies of Nigeria and Nigerians who take delight in the sufferings of our innocent citizens that the day of reckoning is at their door steps.
“All well-meaning Nigerians especially those in the North East and friends of Nigeria elsewhere are enjoined to fully support the counter insurgency operations as well as the fight against all forms of criminality across the nation”, an army statement said.
Meanwhile, residents of villages along Damaturu-Maiduguri road lamented that insurgents have ramped up attacks in the area without any response from troops.
Many of the residents were stranded since early January following attacks in the area and the convoy of a military commander.
Governor Babagana Zulum, had accused soldiers of extorting commuters on the road.
The residents reportedly said the attacks have been on the increase since the governor took a swipe on troops in the area.
“The soldiers have left and we on our own now,” a resident said.
Meanwhile, Intersociety said no fewer than 480 defenseless citizens were killed during military operations in the South-east in the past two years.
It said over 500 people were shot and wounded with scores disabled for life. in military operations in Eastern Nigeria in the past two years.
A statement issued by the group said killings, allegedly carried out by the military between August 2015 and September 2017 led to the loss of about N901 billion in a report entitled: “Updated Special Report on Military Massacre and Related Atrocities in Eastern Nigeria”.
“The Nigerian military atrocities included ‘industrial scale’ killing and maiming of street protesters and those in places of work, sleep or rest and leisure, church service, meeting, movement and residence, etcetera.
“There were also several reported cases of unlawful arrest and abduction or disappearances of unarmed and defenseless citizens both ‘the dead and the living’; sexual harassment, torture and other inhuman treatments or punishments as well as long detention without trial and trumped-up charges”, it said.
The group further stated that “the entire old Eastern Nigeria has also remained under military and police siege since August 2015.
“Accompanying the military massacre was large-scale disruption and militarisation of general economic activities in Eastern Nigeria particularly in the Southeast region, leading to direct and indirect loss of about N901b or $2.9billion since August 2015”.
Intersociety asserted that “the military massacre in Eastern Nigeria also promoted citizen militancy and gun culture; with high rise in street crimes, youth militancy, access to illicit arms and other social vices including street and roadway touting and violence”.