Unending Deceits Sustaining Boko Haram, ISWAP

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true BY Yemi Adebowale

Phone 08054699539 Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

Immediately Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu and some soldiers were killed in an ambush last Saturday in Askira Uba, Borno State, the military reported that they had responded swiftly and killed 50 of the terrorists, including several commanders. Three fighter jets were said to have been deployed for heavy bombardment of the terrorists. The extremists “have been decimated” was the message from our security agents; meaning that the Nigerian state is firmly in charge of Askira Uba. A curfew was also imposed in the town.

But less than 48 hours after the “good news”, the “decimated” ISWAP terrorists were back in Askira Uba unhindered, and unleashed more pain. They burnt houses, looted many shops and carted away food. How can this happen after the clearance operation by the military? Our gallant soldiers are doing their best but some things are clearly not adding up in this war against Boko Haram and ISWAP.

For me, unending deceits by the federal government and the leadership of the military have been sustaining terrorism. For example, many of these gallant soldiers are tired because they have over-stayed on the war front. Replacements are not coming. This means Nigeria lacks enough men for this war. But commanders persistently give the impression that all is well on the war front. Those in charge of this war must admit that this country has challenges with field manpower and seek for help abroad.

Our gallant soldiers are also poorly equipped and poorly motivated. Modern war is about technology, equipment and quality manpower. How come terrorists are able to monitor the movement of our soldiers and our military can’t effectively monitor theirs? With technology, Nigerian soldiers should be the ones ambushing and killing these bastards. Unfortunately, the terrorists are the ones persistently ambushing and killing our gallant soldiers. That was what happened to General Zirkusu, the late Commanding officer of the 28 Task Force Brigade (Chibok) and his boys, while in Askira Uba. I will also never forget how our gallant soldiers were ambushed by Boko Haram in Gorgi, Borno State, March 2020, and scores killed. Unofficial sources said the figure could be above 70. The terrorists targeted a truck loaded with soldiers in Gorgi, unleashed RPGs and incinerated the vehicle, killing all on board. It was so painful; on this sad day, the terrorists, as usual, effectively monitored the movement of our gallant soldiers.

These ambushes indicate that the Nigerian military is deficient in the needed technology for efficient monitoring of opponents. The terrorists have been emboldened because of this. It also means that the leadership of the military has been economical with the truth in terms of the technological capacity of the Army and Air Force. It means the intelligence arm of the military needs external support.

On the military being poorly equipped, the story is still the same. Soldiers are struggling to be at their best. Videos of our soldiers lamenting about lack of basic things on the war front abound.

Commanders who complain about the poor working condition of our troops are usually dealt a solid blow by the leadership of the military. That was what happened to the former Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. General Olusegun Adeniyi. A video, in which Adeniyi was seen complaining about a lack of equipment to combat Boko Haram went viral. He also complained that terrorists were outgunning troops, noting that intelligence failure was responsible for an attack by insurgents that claimed dozens of soldiers. If the federal government wants an end to terrorism, it must committedly address issues raised by Adeniyi.

Nigerians were also told that thousands of Boko Haram fighters had surrendered to the military without the so-called fighters submitting arms and ammunition. There was no single weapon in all the videotapes shared by the military. We were even told some commanders surrendered without ordinary kitchen knife. What a country! I could not understand why the leadership of the military was celebrating terrorists capitulating without their weapons. They can’t be fighters in the real sense of it, without weapons.

Terror attacks of the last few weeks have confirmed my fears. The real terrorists are not submitting. This is the truth. The real Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, who obviously did not surrender, ambushed our gallant soldiers in Askira Uba. The so-called capitulation of terrorists is a farce. The terrorists have sleeper cells across the country which they trigger at will. They are still very much alive and kicking.

What about the ruse that “there is reasonable peace” in Borno State and that the IDPs should return home? The languid governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum propounds this. This same governor still visits troubled areas with massive security convoy. The IDPs will naturally leave Maiduguri and return to their homes if genuine peace returns to the troubled communities. Even a blind man would know when Boko Haram is genuinely eliminated. The truth is that the terrorists are still enjoying a free rein in many communities in Borno State.

What about the lies by our political leaders that Nigerian troops alone can do the job of eliminating the terrorists? That help from abroad would not be needed? President Muhammadu Buhari is in the forefront of this submission. This is a flawed position. Our gallant military evidently lacks the competence and equipment to actualise this. So, the service chiefs must pressure the President to approve the engagement of military contractors to assist Nigeria finish this war.

Many will remember that the Americans shot down the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, from afar. They did not fly to Libya to do this. This is what is called modern warfare with precise drone attacks. We are in an era of fighting with drones. This is the edge foreign military contractors will give our gallant soldiers in the war against Boko Haram. The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, who is part of the deceit that the Nigerian military has the firepower and expertise to defeat Boko Haram without the services of mercenaries, should please shut up. Nigerians are weary of this deceit after over 12 years.

On the part of President Buhari, he persistently promises consequences for the terrorists without consequences in the real sense of it. The most recent was the threat to deal with those responsible for the massacre in Goronyo. We are still waiting for this to happen. Several weeks after terrorists downed Nigeria’s fighter jet in the Zamfara State forest, thus, threatening the sovereignty of this nation, there are still no consequences for the guerrillas. It’s so difficult to comprehend that several months after a Nigerian Air Force fighter jet was downed in Borno State, the military is still struggling to locate the crash spot. They can’t even account for the pilot and co-pilot on that crashed Alpha jet. In this country, a serving Major General Husseini Ahmed was last July killed along Lokoja-Abuja Road on his way to Abuja and there were no consequences. All these embolden the terrorists. In Nigeria, the government and leaders of our security agencies embolden terrorists with their lies and ineptitude.

Lagos #EndSARS Panel Submitted Social Media Tales
A disgraceful report by a disgraceful panel. For me, this sums up the report submitted this week by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other matters to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The report failed to resolve the issue of whether there was a “massacre” at the Lekki Tollgate during the protest or not.

This supposedly investigative panel simply reported allegations instead of investigating the allegations. It failed to do a dispassionate investigation required to support a conclusion. The panel published virtually all the allegations in the social media about the alleged massacre instead of conducting an inquiry.

No wonder it concluded that what transpired on the night in question “can be equated to a massacre in context.” To equate something to a massacre is not the same thing as a massacre. The panel was desperate to use the “massacre” narrative of the #EndSARS protesters. An investigative panel should be unflustered and assertive. Going by the definition of “massacre”, there is evidently no evidence of a massacre at the Lekki toll gate on the night of October 20, 2020.

The panel reported that nine protesters were confirmed dead. It reported further that four were “presumed dead,” instead of investigating if they are indeed dead. This means that the investigative panel could not say for certain the exact number of people killed. The families of those supposedly killed did not come forward? Those allegedly killed have no mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and family members. This is exactly what this panel is telling Nigerians. The fact that the panel listed Nathaniel Solomon, a man who is alive and granted video interview to a national newspaper, as among those killed at the Lekki Tollgate, has completely destroyed this report. The video interview of Solomon was used by the online edition of a national newspaper on September 11, 2021.

The panel also listed one of those killed simply as “Jide” without a surname. This is disgraceful. It could not even properly investigate and identify a man it claimed was killed at the toll gate. I’m surprised that the family of “Jide” did not come out to identify him. This panel obviously followed social media claims that “Jide was killed at the toll gate” and included it in its report.

Still reporting social media narratives about the alleged killings, the panel submitted: “It was alleged and corroborated that the soldiers had their vans parked at the Lekki tollgate and removed many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters, which they took away with their vans.” Who verified this? Was it not the same #EndSARS protesters? The panel did not claim the verification. It did not state that there was an independent verification. It did not list anybody as verifying this independently.

The panel continues with its speculative report thus: “The panel finds that the fact of lack of identity of some of the other 96 corpses on the list supplied by Prof Obafunwa would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki toll gate incident of October 20, 2020 or that some other unidentified corpses may have been removed by their families or the military, as claimed by the #EndSARS protesters, far and beyond the list tendered by Prof Obafunwa.”

The story about this is that Prof. John Obafunwa, a forensic pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, reported 96 other unclaimed corpses in the hospital. He did not say that they were brought from the Lekki toll gate. But surprisingly, the panel submitted that the lack of identity of the 96 corpses “would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki toll gate incident of October 20, 2020 or that some other unidentified corpses may have been removed by their families or the military, as claimed by the #EndSARS protesters.” This is outrageous. This panel just supported the claims of the protesters in the social media, even when the facts are not there.

The Lagos panel failed to lament the scores of policemen killed by #EndSARS protesters. I guess the policemen are not human beings to it. They don’t have wives and children. They have no families. They are inconsequential. That’s what this Lagos panel is telling us. The panel did not lament thousands of people whose shops or businesses were burnt or looted by the brigands called #EndSARS protesters. Most of these shop owners have not recovered and may never recover.

I am not sorry to say that the Lagos #EndSARS panel’s report is only fit for the dustbin.
In view of the #EndSARS report submitted, I will update the questions I have been asking for over one year regarding these alleged killings: Where are the families of those said to have been confirmed dead at the Lekki toll plaza on the night of October 20, 2020? This is food for thought for all of us today.