By Kingsley Nwezeh
The military has commenced massive deployment of troops in the North-east to crush Boko Haram fighters, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
THISDAY gathered that the military has also ordered fresh offensives to decimate the insurgents and capture its leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Military sources confirmed that more troops have been deployed in the North-east in the last two weeks as a follow-up to the strings of attacks against Boko Haram elements in recent weeks.
Apparently miffed by the calls for their sack and the recent threats by Shekau to attack President Muhammadu Buhari next time he visits Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and the hotbed of the insurgency war, military chiefs were said to have resolved to end Shekau’s intransigence by sustaining attacks on his group and cutting them off financial and logistical supports.
The apex military leadership is said to be particularly rattled by Shekau’s threats against the president which it considers “an insult.”
THISDAY gathered that Buhari, at a meeting with the service chiefs last week, had given clear directives that the insurgency war be brought to an end as quickly as possible to enable the government to focus on other critical issues of governance.
A source privy to the meeting told THISDAY that the president ordered the capture of Shekau dead or alive.
“He told the service chiefs to address the Shekau question,” the source told THISDAY.
According to him, in furtherance of the directive, top military officers from the Defence Headquarters and the Nigerian Army Headquarters have since relocated to Maiduguri.
THISDAY also learnt that there has been massive deployment of more troops in the war zone.
The service chiefs have also been shuttling between Abuja and the North-east in the past few days.
There were several claims by the military in the past that Shekau had been killed but these claims were later disproved by his videos that surfaced later to show that he was still alive.
Intelligence sources told THISDAY that Shekau is holed up around Lake Chad area close to the border where he surrounds himself with hostages as human shield and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
“His (Shekau’s ) position has always been known to us but we are in a Catch-22 situation. Though there are concrete steps in that direction, he has surrounded himself with hostages he is using as human shield. He also encircled himself with IEDs. So, the import is that if you have to take him out the lives of the hostages are at stake.
“He does not care if he dies. Terrorists are terrorists; their aim has always been to go down with as many people as possible but the task must be accomplished”, an intelligence source told THISDAY.
This position was in tandem with the position of the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), according to the Defence spokesman, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, who took a swipe at the leaders of the insurgents.
“Where they are is in the Lake Chad Basin where they have surrounded themselves with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mines. What they do is hit and run. They hit soft targets to project themselves as being virile and potent.
“The strategy is to make themselves unreachable. We can conduct ground offensives to dislodge them and take over the place of course but what will be the outcome, would be a lot of fatalities.
“They keep running in and out of the place, running across the border and running back. It is a hit and run kind of a thing.
“That was why I called Shekau a rat. He is running about, hiding himself in holes. He does not have what it takes to confront the armed forces of Nigeria,” Nwachukwu had told THISDAY.
THISDAY further gathered that the military is cashing in on the opportunity offered by the in-fighting going within the two terrorist groups that has led to the execution of some leaders and the emergence of new ones in the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP).
Investigation also revealed that the information elicited from insurgents that recently surrendered to troops also showed that there was growing disenchantment among the leaders and fighters of Boko Haram over Shekau’s highhandedness.
Some of the fighters had told troops that many of them were disillusioned and wandering in the jungle unable to surrender be killed by owing to fears that the troops might kill them.
“There is a tribe existing inside there made up of so many children, women, logistics providers, medical doctors and their own brand of religious teachers. Some years back, they had departments of virtually everything.
“With dwindling fortunes, paranoia set in and now those children are surrounded by IEDs and stand the risk of dying in the event of an invasion,” a military source said.
The military authorities are also working on dismantling Shekau’s IEDs.
Ground troops have encountered difficulties owing to the nature of the IEDs used by insurgents.
Conventional IED detectors are usually tailored towards normal explosives.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, met recently with the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Abhay Thakur, in Abuja, where the duo signed an MoU on the development of long range Improvised Explosive Devices detectors.
Olonisakin had said the detectors would give impetus to the ongoing counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, had recently decried the performance of IED detectors procured from Slovak Republic.
He said some anti-mine equipment procured from that country and deployed in the North-east were not meeting targets of tactical operations.
Speaking while receiving the Ambassador of Slovak Republic to Nigeria, Mr. Peter Kolasec, in his office, Buratai, who was represented by the Chief of Army Policy and Plans, Lt. General Lamidi Adeosun, said the military procured five consignments of arms and ammunition, including 127 mm KVA machine guns, prosena anti-mine equipment and other weapons which were deployed in the North-east.
He said the anti-mine equipment did not meet the expectations of army’s battle plans.
“The prosena anti-mine equipment is only good for removing mines where war has taken place. We are using it the best way we can but it is not working the way we want it to work. If it can’t detect mine from 50 meters, then we need new equipment.
“The way it is, it is not good for tactical operations so that we don’t waste resources”, he said, noting that insurgents deployed IEDs, which were poorly put together while maintaining that what was required was equipment that would detect and neutralise IEDS.
The recent National Security Strategy (NSS) document launched by the federal government said ungoverned spaces, especially around Nigeria’s international boundaries, forests and game reserves provide opportunities for criminal networks to fester and generate crime.
“They constitute a critical fragility in Nigeria’s national security and are antithetical to the nation’s security system,” it said.