Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, yesterday expressed disappointment over the inability of the military and security agencies to secure 20 kilometres from the state capital on the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway despite heavy investment made in the ongoing war against Boko Haram.
Zulum spoke against the background of last Friday’s abduction of about 35 commuters at Jakana village, about 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, by Boko Haram insurgents who laid an ambush on the Maiduguri-Damururu highway.
The governor, during a visit to the village to assess the situation, expressed anger over what has become routine attacks on travellers and villagers by Boko Haram.
The governor said it was disappointing that majority of the attacks within the last two years took place between Auno and Jakana, a distance of about 20 kilometres.
He said: “I have had occasions to defend the Nigerian military in order to boost the morale of commanders and their troops at the front lines because I know the true picture of things. However, I am really disappointed that despite all support from both the federal government and from us in Borno State, our military is failing to secure an area of 20 kilometres, which is the distance between Auno and Jakana. And incidentally, majority of Boko Haram’s attacks along this Maiduguri-Damaturu-Kano road keeps happening between Auno and Jakana.
“So, if the military cannot secure 20 kilometres, how can they keep us with the hope they will defeat the Boko Haram?”
He also berated the army and his own state government-established Rapid Response Squad, for lack of visibility along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road, which makes it possible for Boko Haram’s recurring attacks.
He said: “With all you (journalists) we drove from Maiduguri to here, Jakana. We did not see soldiers on the road, we did not see even our own Rapid Response Squad on this road and they were trained, employed, kitted and paid to protect all Nigerians within their areas of operation and these Nigerians include travellers plying this busy and important road.”
He added that this year alone, the insurgents had carried out many attacks along the Maiduguri-Damaturu-Kano road, including the one in February, in which over 30 persons were burnt to death.
Zulum, however, assured residents along the road that he would hold a security meeting and hopefully come up with more measures to secure the highway.
He also urged the residents to continually support the military by sharing information that would generate credible intelligence on the activities of the insurgents.
Reacting to the governor’s accusation, the military said in a statement yesterday that it was inappropriate for the governor to tag military personnel on checkpoint duty as extortionists.
It restated the commitment of the armed forces and other security agencies to contain insurgency and terrorism in the North-east.
A statement signed by the Coordinator of the Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said in a situation that extortion was detected, the armed forces has internal mechanism to checkmate and sanction erring personnel.
“The attention of the Nigerian military has been drawn to the accusation by the Executive Governor of Borno State that Nigerian Army personnel deployed at check points in Operation Lafiya Dole collect money from commuters.
“While the Nigerian military is in no way joining issues with the governor, it is necessary to clarify this generalised statement against the troops who without hesitation lay down their lives for all Nigerians,” it said.
“It is worthy of note that the Armed Forces of Nigeria have internal mechanism to checkmate and sanction appropriately its erring personnel.
“Additionally, reported cases from the public in this regard are investigated and given the desired attention. Thus, it will not be correct to rely on media or open air accusation to tag our gallant Nigerian Army personnel as extortionists at checkpoints in Borno State. All personnel of the Armed Forces are patriotic and focused on their call of duty,” the statement added.