In the aftetmath of the attack by insurgents on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele village, Abadan local government area of Borno State, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Military seem to be overcharged with double cracks in the bid to end the war against terror, GEORGE AGBA writes.
When President Muhammadu Buhari rose from a high level security meeting last Tuesday days after the November 18, 2018 Metele attack by insurgents on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele village, Abadan local government area of Borno State, it became clear that the counter-terrorism gear would change in the days ahead. It emerged that the Nigerian military, fighting off doubts about its reputation for routing the enemy, will do more than revenge and recrimination as a fitting answer to the loss of its gallant men.
The President literarily clutched his plans to his chest while assuring an anxious nation that the Armed Forces is committed to providing security and safety to Nigerians at every location in the country. But this was not after he had cautioned against possible politicisation of the tragedy. He then entered into extensive security meeting with the service chiefs and intelligence forces to review the entire counter-terrorism strategy, notwithstanding what was being widely speculated as a resurgence of insurgency. He embraced it as another opportunity to give assurance that Nigeria was indeed steadily prevailing over terrorism.
It was learnt that shortly after the Metele tragedy when the president summoned the meeting with the service chiefs to review the turn of events, his remarks at the meeting were measured and largely encouraging. He stressed the need for the security chiefs to collaborate more actively, noting that the synergy which the CDS had pursued should be strengthened for more impact. He was said to have assured them of his unconditional support always.
On the operational flank and as the entire nation grappled with the pains of the moment, the nation’s top military command under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin were working towards re-strategising and re-calibrating their next war plans.
Without haste, they picked their venue as Maimalari Cantonment, headquarters of the Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri where the 2018 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference 2018 had been shifted from Benin, its earlier venue. If all these actions by the military top brass were to indicate to the nation that they really meant business, the insurgents had other plans too. And so it emerged that the insurgents were not done yet.
On Thursday 18, 2018, just ten days after their attack on Metele came yet another attack on 118 Battalion Location at Arege village in the same Abadan local government of Borno State. The army said in its Twitter handle that the terrorists suffered several casualties while some fled in disarray as a result of its superior firepower.
It said that the troops, while repelling the attack, felled several of the insurgents and recovered high calibre arms and weapons, including one Anti-Aircraft Gun (AAG) plus 100 rounds, four AK47 rifles plus 54 rounds, one Light Machine Gun plus 185 rounds and one MOWAG Propeller.
“The terrorists were completely routed by the troops, neutralising many of them while others fled in disarray due to superior firepower. As a result, they hastily evacuated most of their corpses under the cover of darkness. However, during the exploitation of the general area at dawn, the gallant troops discovered four Boko Haram terrorists’ corpses and recovered weapons’’, the Army said.
The atmosphere at the Chief of Army Staff Conference which the President declared open with the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, General Olonisakin, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Alwal Kazir, among others, in attendance, was serious, frank and business-like. In his welcome address, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai said that the army had started to strategise to bring about a decisive end to insurgency in the North East.
“The fight against Boko Haram in the Northeast will continue unabatedly. The army is collaborating with Chad and Cameroon, and we are currently conducting joint operations in adjoining areas. It is incumbent on all commanders to know that we are involved in an asymmetrical warfare which calls for dynamism and flexibility’’, he said.
Before jetting off to Maiduguri, it became clear that President Buhari was going to fully utilise the strategic sub-regional partnership platform of the Summit of Heads and Governments of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) against the insurgents bearing in mind that this was the same policy initiative that he initiated and executed shortly after he assumed office in 2015. It proved to be an effective head-start because the strategy made a huge mileage in the counter-insurgency strategy of the military.
The president then despatched the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali to the Lake Chad Basin to commence arrangements to explore the advantage of the Council of Ministers of Defence of Chad, Niger and Cameroon which he currently chairs. This move was meant to prepare the ground and obtain their buy-ins considered necessary for a collective onslaught against the common Boko Haram monster.
These series of meetings have remarkably provided the solid ground for another round of decisive and definitive military offensive against the terrorists operating along the critical axis, a process that is widely seen as an urgent necessity considering the obvious successes of the Nigerian military in driving the insurgents out of the Nigerian territory.
In the coming weeks, the battle will be fought and won around the Lake Chad axis, including the Mandara Mountains where the terrorists had been a recurring decimal with huge expectations within the area that the days of the terrorists are numbered. This, perhaps, accounts for the sect’s desperation.
By last Friday when the round of strategic reviews, partnerships and reassurances were signed and sealed, it became clear that decisive justice was about to be delivered to Boko Haram. The high-level one-day consultative meeting of sub-regional leaders which President Muhammadu Buhari organised in N’djamena, the Chadian capital, in his capacity as chairman of the Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was a renewed call to arms. It was therefore not lost on the four regional leaders that strength thrives on number, especially where lives of the people matter.
In attendance at the consultation was the Chadian President, Idris Deby Itno, including President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, and the Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang, who represented President Paul Biya. At the meeting was called to address the recent upsurge in terrorist activities in the region, the Nigerian President rallied his colleagues from the contiguous countries to a fresh onslaught against insurgents, particularly the Boko Haram group.
Buhari said, “Times as these call for quick interventions and measures. As you are aware and have witnessed in recent times, there are new developments of security concern in our sub-region. The region in the recent past has witnessed increasing attacks, particularly on military formations by elements of the Boko Haram terrorists as well as the renewed kidnapping of people. These activities are aimed at weakening our collective resolve to eradicate them from the region.
“We must not cave in. The group’s renewed strategy of increasingly mining the general area as well as its recent deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance activities have proved to be critical factors in the resurgence of attacks in the region.”
Commending what he called the “untiring efforts” of the leadership of the LCBC, and officers and men of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), President Buhari noted that the efforts of those who strive to bring peace and stability to the region would never be forgotten.
“We are committed to ensuring that the ideals of restoring peace, stability and viability of the Lake Chad Region to its glorious state, for which some of you have paid the ultimate price is attained,” he vowed.
President Buhari, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, emphasised the need to drive strategic collaboration and coalition, saying: “We must not relent and allow the enemies of the region to succeed in their quest to destabilize the area. We must reinvigorate our collective will and commitment towards eradicating terrorism from our region.
“We must remain focused and true to ensuring sustainable development. To this end, I have requested that bilateral and multilateral platforms of engagements by member countries affected by the conflict be revamped to ensure collective actions towards stamping out the remnants of the terrorists from the region.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that the crisis is traceable to the twin menaces of poverty and the continued shrinkage of the Lake Chad, which have rendered the people of the region vulnerable to terrorist activities. Attention is drawn to the Lake and its resources, which have always been the source of livelihood for the millions of people that live within and around the basin.”
He charged the Presidents and Heads of Governments in attendance to make concerted efforts to ensure the actualisation of efforts to recharge the Lake, through Inter-Basin Water Transfer, from the Congo Basin.
President Buhari stressed that if meticulously pursued, the project had the capacity to unlock the economic potentials and provide solutions to the myriad of inter-related challenges confronting the region. He gave assurance of his commitment to providing the required leadership for the actualization of peace and security in the area while reiterating an earlier promise he made to troops fighting terrorism:
“We are committed to ensuring that you have the requisite and enabling equipment to optimally function. Your welfare is, and would continue to remain our priority. Together, we shall restore the Lake Chad Region to its glorious days.”
In a joint communique, the Heads of State and Governments, resolved to change modus operandi, collaborate more, and renew assault on all forms of terrorism and criminal acts, till wholesome peace was restored to the region.
Weighing in on the implications of the series of successful meetings and consultations by the president, his sub-regional counterparts and the resilience and readiness of the leadership of the military to do what they know to do best, a civil advocacy group, Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC) expressed support for the fresh initiative, predicting that the coming days and weeks will again turn the tide against the insurgents.
In a statement jointly issued in Abuja yesterday by its Chief Media Strategist, Mr Emeka Nwankpa and the North East Regional Rapporteur, Malam Baba Al-Kasim, the group endorsed the moves with a prediction that finally, the days of Boko Haram are numbered.
The group maintained that time was fast running out on the sect and urged them to drop their arms, admonishing them to consider living the rest of their lives peacefully and more productively.
The civil advocacy group observed that the renewed global coalition against violent extremism being spear-headed by the United States indicated harder days ahead for all merchants of terror across the world.
It said that the advice to remnants of the sect was against the backdrop of a renewed resolution and agreement recently by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Summit of Heads and Governments of the LCBC as well as that of the Ministers and Chiefs of Defence Staff of the member-countries: Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, to eliminate insurgency and violent extremism and terrorism wherever it existed in their contiguous zone.
Nwankpa argued that the fate of the remnants of the sect had become compounded by the renewed will and readiness of the courageous and gallant Nigerian troops of Operation Lafiya Dole to finally exterminate Boko Haram in the North East.
“It is clear all that our troops have broken the back of Boko Haram. The capacity of the sect had steadily declined owing to the determination of our troops to quickly end this anti-terror war. The only option left for the remnants is to drop their arms and give up their evil fight against the nation. Further attacks by the sect are mere acts of desperation which amount to nothing in the final analysis. The cookies have since crumbled. They can only surrender now because the game is up,’’ Nwankpa said.
The group commended the military leadership for providing a platform such as Operation Safe Corridor for Boko Haram members who wish to repent, surrender and drop their arms to join the rest of the society, saying that the gesture has gone a long way to fast-track the peace process in the North-east.
It said that the anticipated success of the troops in the forth-coming operations would finally wipe out the sect from the nation’s memory in order to unlock the developmental potentials of the people of the North-east towards contributing to national growth and prosperity.
The group expressed confidence that the troops will complete the last phase of the anti-terror battle successfully considering the excellent records of members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in United Nations peace-keeping operations abroad, noting that the renewed gallantry and enthusiasm of the troop under the leadership of the CDS and the service chiefs has inspired hope that the days of terror in the North East are numbered.
CPC noted that notwithstanding the difficult situation, the Gen Olonisakin-led Nigerian military had been forced to task itself to devise creative, home-grown and fool-proof strategies anchored on its resolve and resilience to successfully protect the Nigerian sovereignty against territorial aggression such as attacks by terrorists and insurgents in the North East, militants in the Niger Delta region and other national security threats.
The group also expressed gratitude to the nation’s global and sub-regional partners in the African Union, the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States for their consistent support and solidarity.
It praised President Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief for leaving no stone unturned in demonstrating his trust and confidence in the will, capacity and readiness of the armed forces to deter and dislodge criminal elements threatening the security, stability, peace and unity of the country.
The CPC also lauded the president’s physical presence in Maiduguri, particularly his visit to the troops and the wounded currently undergoing varying degrees of medical attention, describing it as a morale-booster.
“Mr. President’s physical presence at the epicentre of the anti-terror battle has made a huge difference in the final series of the counter-terrorism strategy being aggressively driven by our military led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin. It came as a soothing balm on behalf of appreciative Nigerians to our gallant and courageous troops and their commanders whose pains, efforts and supreme sacrifices will never be in vain’’, Nwankpa said.
Also, officers in the military who spoke anonymously with LEADERSHIP Sunday at the weekend in Abuja noted that notwithstanding the increasing security challenges in the country since the coming on board of the service chiefs, the CDS-led top military high command sees in the president a Commander-in-Chief whose support, commitment and understanding has been most phenomenal, a factor that is believed to have further raised their zeal and resolve to defend the country and the Nigerian people with every fibre in them even at the risk of paying the supreme price at this critical time in history.