MUYIWA OYINLOLA in this report examines the feat achieved by the present administration in line with the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to wipe out Boko Haram insurgents which had almost taken over the entire North Eastern part of the country prior to his coming to power on 29 May, 2015.
While speaking Monday at the High-Level Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants” on the margins of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA71) in New York, United States, President Muhammadu Buhari spoke on the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the various intervention programmes his government has embarked upon.
Such programmes according to a statement by his special adviser on media, Femi Adesina include: the Presidential Intervention Committee on Rehabilitation of the North-East; the Victims Support Fund; the Safe Schools Initiative and the proposed North-East Development Commission currently undergoing legislative process.
Furthermore, the President said any discourse on refugees and migrants in the case of Nigeria, “will be incomplete without reference to our internally displaced persons, victims of Boko Haram’s terrible atrocities,” which also rendered 600,000 persons homeless in Nigeria’s neighbouring countries.
Before the advent of the Buhari-led administration, the Special Military Force, fighting to combat insurgency in the North-East was known as Operation Zaman lafiya, meaning, Let Peace Reign.
However, Nigerians knew little peace as the Boko Haram insurgents were on rampage, claiming terrirories, sacking military formations, capturing military hardware, and in fact, having more like a field day.
But with the appointment of Lt. General Tukur Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, he renamed it Operation Lafiya Dole, meaning, Peace at all Cost. That was in July 2015.
And to underscore the seriousness of the operation, the army did not only take the battle to the insurgents, Buratai and the Theatre Commanders, firstly Major-General Hassan Umaru and subsequently Major – General Leo Irabor (since March 2016), began leading the operations themselves, as against the previous practice where top military brass remained in Abuja to dish out orders, without properly equiping the soldiers on the field, let alone being on ground to lead operations.
So far, since coming on board, as the Chief of Army Staff, Buratai, is yet to spend any Sallah festivity in the comfort of his private home with his family members. Instead, he spends all festivities in the battle fields with officers and men of the army, at the war front. This gesture has helped in no small measure to boost the morale of the Nigerian soldiers and brought out the real fighting spirit for which they are known the world over.
In a matter of months, Nigerians began feeling the impact of the reinvigorated Nigerian army in its fight against Boko Haram insurgents, to the extent that all the Local Government Areas hitherto under the control of the insurgents, were liberated by the army.
As at the last count, displaced Nigerians, especially in Borno State, have began returning to their communities, following the flagging off of the return journey by the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shetttima, on Monday, September 5, 2016, in Maiduguri.
At the event, the Governor, who thanked the Nigerian army for liberating the affected communities, also called on Nigerians to give the army all the full support to finnish the war.
The IDPs, from Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State were the first of such IDPs, to commence their journey back home, two years after they were forced to flee by Boko Haram insurgents.
Commenting on the activities of the army so far in the fight against Boko Haram, a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, Save Borno Now, SABORN, also lauded the Operation Lafiya Dole’s successes in the war against insurgency.
The group, in a statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary respectively, Alhaji Kolo Maisandari and Bukar Tahir, also commended the COAS, Lt. Gen. Buratai for courageous leadership, and for ensuring that the decisive war against the insurgents were sustained, despite attempts by some Nigerians to undermine the successes so far recorded by the army.
Earlier, the Nigerian army had told Nigerians that it has killed the leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau as well as his impostor.
According to Leo Irabor, theatre commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, who spoke from Adamawa state recently , he described as “a façade” recent videos of Abubakar Shekau released by Boko Haram
“I can confirm to you that the original Shekau was killed, the second Shekau was killed, and the man presenting himself as Shekau, I can also confirm to you that few days ago, he was wounded. We are yet to confirm whether he is dead or not,” he said.
In his Sallah message, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, also gave a pat to the soldiers on the back, for sustaining the war against the insurgents, stressing that the war against insurgency and crime was beyond partisan politics because the terrorists and criminals do not consider party, religion, and ethnicity in their orgies of violence and blood-letting against the nation.
To underscore the successes of the Operations so far, SABORN again, issued another statement last week, barely 48 hours after the sallah celebration, to commend the Buratai – led soldiers, for ensuring what it termed a blast – free celebration possible, saying it was a new lease of life for residents of the people of North East.
In a statement signed by Chairman of SABORN, Alhaji Kolo Maisandari, and made available to newsmen last Friday , the group described the 2016 Eid-el Kabir celebration as “uncommonly peaceful”, and extolled the vigilance and sacrifices of the Nigerian military and security agencies, which it said, made the peace enjoyed by people of North East during Sallah, possible.
The group commended Governor Kashim Shettima and the federal government for efforts to ameliorate the plights of the Internally Displaced Persons and called on all Nigerians to support the government and international agencies working in the North East to raise their support to IDPs and those returning to their homes.
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