The ongoing intensive clearance operations of the Armed Forces conducted along other security and intelligence forces against menacing marauders and bandits may have totally altered the face of terror in the North West and North Central regions, GEORGE AGBA reports.
Feelers from the revamped fighting strategy of the nation’s Military High Command led by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, indicate that terror itself is in serious trouble.
Following the strategy meeting called by the CDS a fortnight ago after President Muhammadu Buhari’s marching orders, the service chiefs and their commanders have been re-mapping, re-drawing, re-strategising and recalibrating with series of simulation and tactical plans to set a new tone in the fight against criminality across the country.
Consequently, a huge military presence had amassed around forests contiguous to Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara States where armed bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers and other criminals had turned to axis of evil to inflict pain and havoc on the people.
The last one week, according to credible inside sources, has changed all that, no thanks to the sustained military air strikes which have continued to smoke out the criminals in the hard-hit places especially Katsina and Zamfara and the environs to the satisfaction of the people of the areas.
The reports were also officially confirmed at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) by the coordinator, Defence Media Operations (DMO), Major General John Enenche, who currently oversees the activities of the highly-successful rapid information outfit created by the CDS in March as the novel one-source mechanism to disseminate information on all military-led operations in the country.
The Enenche-led Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO) which also has Brigadier Gen Bernard Onyeuko as acting director and three Liaison officers, Colonel UM Aliyu (Army), Commander A Sani (Navy) and Squadron Leader AE Obidike (Air Force) at the weekend in Abuja expressed satisfaction that the operations had started to achieve their core objectives in furtherance of the strict compliance by the CDS-led team of service chiefs with President Buhari’s marching order to security agencies to stem the rising tide of insecurity across the country.
The DHQ’s spokesman further linked the successes of the military in ongoing operations to the fact that the recent High Command Strategy meeting of the CDS with the service chiefs, Police and heads of security and intelligence agencies thoroughly reviewed, revamped and re-strategized the military’s operational activities in collaboration with other security and intelligence agencies to fully carry out the directives of the president towards enhancing existing synergy among the agencies to address the lingering security challenges confronting the nation.
At the meeting which was held on Monday, June 22, 2020 were the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar and the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Muhammed.
Also in attendance were the Director General Department of State Service Yusuf Bichi, Director General Nigerian Intelligence Agency Ahmed Abubakar, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshall Muhammed Usman and the Commandant General Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Mohammad.
Of particular interest is the massive arms and personnel deployment to the North West as well as the physical relocation of the COAS, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai who, while launching a locally-produced Mine Resistant Ambush Protection (MRAP) equipment nick-named CONQUEROR also inaugurated Exercise SAHEL SANITY on July 6, 2020 to underscore Nigerian Army’s determination to curb and eliminate armed banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping in the region.
Before now, informed sources had painted a gory picture of events leading to increasing concerns over insecurity and the recently renewed military attention in the North West zone. Multiple sources said that while violent attacks on rural communities had recently dropped, farmers had difficulty in accessing their farms, complaining that the presence of the bandits around their communities was disturbing their peace.
A cross-section of farmers in Maru, Anka, Zurmi, Shinkafi and Tsafe local government areas said while the attacks were rife, the farmlands remained no-go areas due to the presence of the gangs who insisted they must pay before cultivating their lands.
“Farming in some areas is almost impossible’’, a resident, Bala YarGaladima, noted painfully, disclosing that the bandits displaced communities such as Chabi, Kalgo, Gazamba, Mai Doruwai, Kangon Haki, Tangaran, Dan Tudu, Babbar Gara, Magama, Fankash between Maru and Anka local government areas of Zamfara State.
There were also unconfirmed reports of complaints that different groups of bandits collected as much as between N300,000 and N400,000 in turns from communities such as Turke, Doka Zanoka, Akuzo in Anka Local Government Area and Kalale, Zaman Noma, Tasa, Kwana Biya, Kaci Gero in Maru Local Government Areas of the state
But the locals are unanimous in their commendation of the Chief of Army Staff whose physical presence they said had largely boosted the success of the ongoing military operations in Burkusuma area in Sokoto and Katsina where the armed groups have been severely dismantled including locations closer to communities in Shinkafi.
Also, a majority of residents in the adjoining communities believe that the military offensives in the Northwest had largely mounted great pressure on the armed groups which used to terrorize communities in the region.
Consequently, considerable peace has begun to return according to most of the residents of Zamfara State. A few farmers in Tsafe observed that the movement of escaping bandits from Faskari in Katsina State could have continued to hinder smooth farming if the military’s ongoing operations had not come to their rescue.
Analysts reckon that the past few weeks have recorded a huge impact owing to the gallantry of the combined teams of the military, the police and other security and intelligence agencies involved in the recently-inaugurated Exercise SAHEL SANITY which is ongoing simultaneously in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara States with appreciable level of success.
The troops have incrementally bombarded, by air and ground, the tactical and logistics bases of terrorists, bandits and criminals in compliance with the orders of the CDS to restore normalcy to the regions.
Currently, at the theatre of operation in Faskari, Katsina State is the acting director, Defence Media Operations, Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko who declined comments at the weekend when he was pressed to speak on the progress of the ongoing Exercise SAHEL SANITY for which he has been temporarily deployed. He referred the reporter to DMO’s Coordinator, Maj Gen Enenche and the outfit’s information and social media handles.
The DMO’s helmsman, in one of his press releases stated that troops of Nigerian Army Super Camp 4 Faskari Operation SAHEL SANITY on July 6, 2020 received a distress call of the invasion of armed bandits in Yar Gamji town in Batsari LGA.
He said that the gallant troops who were recently inducted into the operation responded swiftly to the call and engaged the criminals thereby neutralizing 46 bandits in the encounter while others escaped with gunshot wounds. He said that the troops, presently in exploitation phase, were in control of the area with aggressive patrols.
Maj Gen Enenche further disclosed that the gallant troops through land and air offensives had successfully neutralized 392 bandits since the commencement of Operation KATSINA which, he noted, had seriously degraded the bandits and criminal elements in the two zones while bandits fleeing from the attacks to carry out reprisal attacks on civilian targets would be halted by Operation ACCORD which he noted was established on June 1, 2020 by the CDS as a preemptive joint operation involving the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies.
He disclosed that Operation ACCORD was a concomitant operation involving all the theatres of operations by land and air offensives in the North West and North Central regions which were targeted at clearing all identified hideouts and hibernations operated by armed bandits and other criminals in the regions.
On the operational successes, he disclosed that the Air Component of Operation Hadarin Daji killed key bandit leaders in Doumbourou Forest in Zamfara State in direct interdiction missions under the subsidiary Operation WUTAN DAJI which also destroyed two camps and a cave hideout of members of armed bandits’ gangs led by Hassan Tagwaye.
He disclosed that strikes launched by military fighter jets and gunships on June 25, 2020 neutralized and destroyed suspected high-value fighters and their weaponry, adding that NAF jets recorded direct hits on bunkers where some suspected bandits were later confirmed as Hassan Tagwaye and his twin brother Hussain among several other criminals neutralized and severely wounded.
He stated that the heavy air assaults attacked over ten bandits’ locations with significant air strikes at Dutsen Asolo, Birnin Kogo areas of Katsina State and Dogo Gede’s Camp in the Kwayanbana Forest area of Zamfara State
“At Dutsen Asolo, NAF jets dispatched by the Air Component attacked bandits’ cave hideout, destroying the main entry point and neutralizing some fighters with some surviving bandits tracked while escaping from the cave. On June 21, 2020 at the bandits’ enclave in the Kwayanbana Forest, an attack helicopter hit logistics hut which went in flames.
“On June 22, 2020 at Birnin Kogo, armed bandits who fled their camp dwellings to nearby bushes on hearing the sound of the attack aircraft were neutralized as the NAF fighter jets hit them at their hiding positions”.
He also disclosed that notable armed bandit leaders and many of their fighters suspected to have relocated with several rustled livestock from the Sokoto State side of the Forest and set up camp in the Zamfara State portion of the Forest were neutralized on July 9, 2020 in air strikes executed by the Air Component of Operation HADARIN DAJI in the Zamfara State section of the Kagara Forest.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) quickly dispatched its Air Component attack jets and helicopter gunships to the camp where some of the bandits and their leaders were seen fleeing towards the surrounding bushes. Consequently, the attack aircraft struck the area of vegetation taking out several of the bandits. Intelligence sources later confirmed that 8 bandit leaders and no fewer than a dozen of their fighters were killed in the devastating air strikes.
An impressed Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, commended the air component of Operation HADARIN DAJI for their professionalism and urged them to remain resolute in the conduct of air strikes whilst continuing to provide close air support for ongoing ground operations in order to eradicate all armed bandits towards accomplishing the directives of the CDS to restore normalcy in the North-West and North-Central Zones of the country.
Inside defence sources at the weekend maintained that the optics so far indicated that the CDS, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin-led armed forces, was totally poised to pull the full weight of the Armed Forces on enemies of the people of the Nigerian State based on the recalibrated and reinvigorated synergy existing among the respective organs.
Keen observers, commentators and advocacy groups have applauded the Nigerian military working in synergy with the police, other security and intelligence agencies for their various accomplishments especially in combating threats to national security and stability.
Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC) commended the Nigerian military and the other security agencies currently combating armed banditry and other criminality in the North West and North Central, saying that the efforts will soon put a decisive end to general insecurity in those parts of the country.
Chief media strategist of the advocacy group, Emeka Nwankpa , in a statement in Abuja particularly lauded what he described as the dynamic and charismatic leadership displayed by the CDS, General Olonisakin in the face of new security challenges in the country, noting that the operational principle of synergy and joint operations approach which he has nurtured and sustained has yielded amazing results.
CPC noted: The point is worth repeating that the CDS has pursued an workable approach that emphasizes operational jointness, cooperation and collaboration among the organs of the armed forces. Before now, they were operating in silos thereby causing unhelpful and unnecessary inter-agency rivalry which often made them work at cross-purposes. This approach is largely responsible for the current successes recorded in the ongoing Exercise SAHEL SANITY in Katsina and Zamfara.
“Events have shown that the Chief of Defence, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and the present crop of service chiefs and heads of the Police and security and intelligence agencies were selected by Mr. President for a time like this that the nation is at war on all fronts. We can attest to their courage, tenacity and resilience in the face of fast-changing security dynamics in the country”.
Also, a retired air vice marshal in the intelligence corps of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) who had thrice participated in air interdiction exercises in the North East praised the military high command for the remarkable successes in the various theatres of war, saying that ongoing operations against armed banditry and criminality in the North West and North Central regions will soon end.
He said, “We particularly commend President Buhari for diligently assembling the current team led by the CDS, General Abayomi Olonisakin. It has again shown that Mr. President’s trust and confidence in the ability and capacity of these war generals is not misplaced. They deserve our support and prayers.
“It is clear that the CDS has bonded well with the service chiefs and heads of other security and intelligence agencies. The chemistry of the crack team is incredible especially in the manner he has used synergy, intelligence and information-sharing to secure and stabilize the nation against terrorism, insurgency and other criminality. It speaks volumes for President Muhammadu Buhari’s diligence and thoroughness in selecting them”.
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