Against the backdrop of the multiple explosions that rocked Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the country is in the final phase of the ongoing fight against insecurity.
At least five persons, among them a 17year-old girl have, were said to have died, while 12 others sustained various degrees of injuries yesterday when suspected Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists fired mortar shells on Gomari Ayafe and Ajilari Cross communities of Maiduguri in Borno State 20 minutes to President Buhari’s visit to the state.
But defying the security situation in the state, Buhari in Maiduguri urged troops of Operation Hadin Kai to remain steadfast as they go into the final phase of the campaign against insurgency and other forms of criminalities.
The president, who addressed the troops at the Airforce Base in Maiduguri, said the entire nation remains grateful for the gallantry displayed in ensuring gradual return of peace to the North East.
Condoling with families that have lost loved ones and the wounded, Buhari said, “I urge you also to stay focused to achieve our strategic end-state which is the defeat of all adversaries and restoration of an economically viable North East Geo-political Zone and other parts of the Country where Nigerians are free to go about their activities without fear or harassment”.
He assured families of soldiers who paid the supreme price for the nation and the injured that the federal government will cater for their needs, recognizing their sacrifices for all Nigerians.
He noted: “I am delighted to be with you today and to convey my gratitude and that of the entire nation to you all, as you continuously strive to secure our dear country. Your career is like no other because it is a conscious commitment and preparedness to give your best for the sake of others.
“I am therefore here on behalf of a grateful nation to thank and commend you for your service and sacrifices. Let me start by commiserating with you all on the unfortunate loss of Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkushu and other personnel of 25 and 28 Task Force Brigades, who died on 13 November 2021.
“I do this mindful of the fact that we have lost others in this Theatre of Operation as well as other operational areas across the country. We pray for the repose of their souls and for the Almighty God to comfort the families that they left behind. The people of Borno State and indeed the entire country owe a debt of gratitude to our serving men in uniform for the huge sacrifices in the pursuit of peace”.
President Buhari said the government would continue to ensure that the widows and children of fallen heroes were well catered for, to help them fully realize their potentials.
He pointed out that the response exhibited across the theatre had shown extraordinary resilience and steadfastness in the face of adversity.
“That is the spirit, tenacity and resolve that the Nigerian Armed Forces is known for. Well done. Our country, just like all the others in the Sahel region, is faced with several security challenges that are largely characterized by the violent activities of non-state actors. This has necessitated several interventions aimed at ensuring the security of persons and property across the numerous hot spots.
“Further improvements in the security situation in Operation Hadin Kai have led to a corresponding rise in the confidence of our people who are now returning in significant numbers to their homes.
“Further to the reorganizations in the military leadership, concerted efforts are being made to improve your equipment holding. I am aware that you have started receiving some of the platforms procured by our administration while others would be received in the weeks ahead,” the president added.
While noting threats posed by criminals through the employment of Improvised Explosive Devices, he said substantial resources have also been directed at procuring equipment for explosive ordnance disposal.
According to President Buhari, similar attention is being given to Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Assets.
“These measures and the platforms being received would accord you the necessary reach, fire power and protection to project force across the Theatre and bring the fight to a logical and successful end,” he said.
President Buhari told the troops that at the onset of the administration he had emphasised the need to rejuvenate the Multinational Joint Task Force, which was in realisation of the fluid and transnational nature of current threats and their propensity to hibernate in neighbouring countries.
“I therefore urge you to continue to further strengthen your cooperation with the militaries of the other countries under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force in order to further optimize the mutual gains for our respective national security.
“As we step up the military efforts, our administration has remained conscious of the efficacy of the employments of other lines of effort in our drive to ensure the return of lasting peace to the North East Region.
“The North East Development Commission continues to make giant strides at improving the economic and social welfare of Nigerians in the region.
“I am also happy with the increased level of cooperation between the good people of Borno State, other stakeholders and the security agencies. I urge you to continue to cooperate with other security agencies with a view to ensuring a full return to normalcy.”
He assured that the administration would continue to work with all well-meaning stakeholders including friendly nations, civil society organizations as well as other credible non-governmental organizations to bring peace to all troubled areas across the nation.
President Buhari expressed deep appreciation to the government of Borno State for its continuous cooperation with the Federal Government in multiple spheres.
“I particularly commend Your Excellency, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, for your untiring commitment and cherished collaboration with my administration for the overall good of the people of Borno. Yours is a good example of the inherent benefits that are accruable from conscious positive interaction between the Federal Government and states.”
He also commended the Minister of Defence as well as the Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs and the heads of all other security agencies for forging a common front of collaboration and cooperation which continues to enhance operations.
“To my dear troops, as your Commander in Chief, I am mindful of your selfless sacrifices which in some cases have entailed paying the supreme price. The nation owes you a debt of gratitude for your commitment, dedication and unalloyed loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Our government will continue to work with your respective heads to ensure that your welfare receives priority attention and that our wounded comrades are given the best medical care possible,” he further assured.
The president said the manpower challenges which have limited the rotation of some units from the Theatre would be addressed by concerted efforts to increase recruitment and ensure that the remaining units due for rotation were relieved as soon as practicable.
President Buhari also said his administration will keep giving its best for the development of the country until May 2023, reiterating that he will handover in 2023 as stipulated by the constitution.
The president stated this after the commissioning of Oriental Energies Resource Ltd Hanger, Muhammadu Indimi Distance Learning Centre and an International Conference Centre donated to the University of Maiduguri by business mogul, Alhaji Muhammadu Indimi.
President Buhari also commissioned the Tijjani Bolori Memorial Secondary School and the first fly-over in Borno State, Custom Roundabout (3.5km) with a stretch of 10 km Gamboru Ngala Road constructed by the state government.
He said, “I know I swore by the Constitution, and I will leave in 17 months. I pray that the person that will take over from us will also follow the targets of securing the country and building the economy. Without securing the country, you cannot grow the economy.”
President Buhari asked Nigerians to appraise the performance of the administration based on what the situation was on security, economy and corruption before he came in, and where it is now.
“We have a great country,” he said, “and we thank God for giving us so much resources. But we need to develop our resources.”
Shortly before the president’s arrival, five mortar shells were reportedly fired by terrorists, which landed and exploded on six separate houses, killing five persons, including a 17year-old girl, while 12 others sustained various degrees of injuries.
Speaking with our correspondent, a resident of Gomari Ayafe, one of the areas of the explosion where four deaths were recorded, about 300 metres away from the Nigerian Air Force Base and Staff quarters, said it was the second in two weeks that the terrorists would attack the area in such form.
The resident who did not want his name in print decried the insecure nature of the capital city, even as he wondered how the insurgents were comfortably operating from no distant location unchecked.
Husseni Garba, a motor mechanic at Baga road area of Maiduguri and the father of the 17-year-old Fati Garba who was shattered by the explosion at Ajilari Cross, said he left his daughter at home for work, but few meters away from his house he heard an explosion and by the time he returned back to his house, he saw the body of his daughter severed by the explosion.
He said, “I’m a mechanic at Baga Road. What has happened is the will of God. I left my house and a few hours after that I heard an explosion and on returning back I met the shattered body of my daughter.
“She was a 17-years-old student in Senior Secondary School at Liberty Standard School at Gomari Ayafe. My daughter’s ambition while she was alive was to be a nurse. Now that God has taken her, I am appealing to the government to assist me in rehabilitating my destroyed house.”
Corroborating Garba’s account of the incident, 40-year-old brother of the deceased’s mother, Shettima Hassan, said they heard a noise like an aircraft that had landed at their home, not knowing that it was a mortar bomb.
He said by the time they entered the house, they discovered the shattered body of the deceased.
“Although nothing can replace human life, we plead to the government to assist us in rebuilding the destroyed house,” he said.
The injured persons were taken to Umara Shehu Modern Hospital, while the remains of those who died were buried according to Islamic injunction.
When our correspondent visited the scene, mourners, mostly women, were in a sober mood awaiting the funeral prayer for the deceased by the Imam in the area.
The last mortar bomb that was fired by the terrorists in the same area over two weeks ago resulted in the death of a teenager.
Troops Kill 51 Terrorists, Police Rescue 48 Kidnap Victims In Kaduna
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said yesterday that troops of Operation HADIN KAI in the North East within two weeks neutralized 51 Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters during land and air operations in the theatre of war.
The acting director of Defence Media Operations, Brig Gen Benard Unyeuko, who disclosed this during an update on the operations of the military between December 9 and 23, 2021, said the troops also arrested 19 terrorists.
He revealed that 1,081 terrorists and their families comprising 187 males, 326 females and 568 children surrendered to troops at different locations of the theatre in the period under review.
He said the troops carried out several land and air operations in Bama, Mafa, Pulka, Konduga, Gwoza, Mobbar and Dikwa local government areas of Borno State as well as Madagali local government areas of Adamawa State that recorded significant results.
He noted: “Troops operational efforts in the locations in 2 weeks, cumulatively resulted in the neutralization of a total 51 and arrest of 19 terrorists.
“Also, a total of 122 assorted arms and 1,499 rounds of different calibres of ammunitions were recovered, while a total of eight gun trucks of the terrorists were destroyed.”
General Unyeuko said troops’ kinetic and non-kinetic operations have continued to drive the terrorists out of their camps into surrendering.
“Within this period in focus, a total of 1,081 terrorists and their families comprising 187 adult males, 326 adult females and 568 children surrounded to own troops at different locations of the theatre,” he said.
The director added that the surrendered terrorists were properly profiled and handed over to appropriate authorities for necessary actions.
In the North West, he said troops of Operation HADARIN DAJI sustained offensive operations against armed bandits and other criminal elements at different locations across the theatre.
He said the troops, with the support of the Air Component, launched deliberate attacks on identified bandits’ hideouts in Kaikazaka village in Sokoto State as well as Garbadu town and Saturi, Katanga, Badarawa and Tunga Na Yarchiga villages in Zamfara State.
He continued: “Cumulatively, a total of 33 armed bandits were neutralized, while 19 of them and their collaborators as well as armed herdsmen were arrested.
“Also, 37 assorted arms, including AK-47 rifles, PKT machine guns and GPMGs as well as 698 rounds of different calibres of ammunitions, 22 motorcycles and 899 rustled livestock among other items and vehicles were recovered; while 28 kidnapped civilians were rescued in the course of the operations.”
He said the troops also recovered 59 extra magazines of assorted arms and 21 motorcycles.
Unyeuko said troops of Operation Safe Haven, in their series of operations, arrested 15 criminals and rescued 12 kidnapped victims in the period under review.
“Cumulatively, a total of 15 criminal elements were arrested, 12 kidnapped civilians were rescued, while 118 livestock, 18 assorted arms and 112 different calibers of ammunition among other items were recovered in the course of the operations,” he said.
He further said troops of Operation WHIRL STROKE neutralized 12 criminals and arrested 26 criminal elements, including 16 migrant armed bandits from Niger Republic.
The troops recovered 16 different types of arms and 61 different calibres of ammunition while 13 kidnapped civilians were rescued within the period under review.
In the same vein, troops of Operation THUNDER STRIKE/WHIRL PUNCH killed four armed bandits, arrested six criminal elements and recovered 9 assorted arms, two extra AK-47 rifles magazines, 13 rounds of ammunition and six motorcycles.
On Operation Delta Safe, he said troops discovered and immobilized 14 illegal refining sites, 19 ovens, 13 cooking pots/boilers, 15 cooling systems, 15 reservoirs, 5 large dugout pits and 33 storage tanks in the Niger Delta Region.
The director said the troops recovered 896,500 litres and 70 polythene bags of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil in the process.
Other items recovered include 11,000 litres of illegally refined Dual Purpose Kerosene and 689,000 litres of stolen crude oil, 28 pieces of galvanized pipes, 3 tanker trucks and 12 wooden boats used for illegal oil bunkering activities.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna Police Command said it has rescued 48 traders among those that were kidnapped by bandits on Wednesday along Kaduna – Birnin Gwari highway.
Bandits carrying sophisticated weapons had on Wednesday attacked a convoy of more than 20 vehicles conveying traders along Birnin Gwari high and in the process kidnapped over 70 traders.
Confirming the rescue of the traders, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Muhammed Jalige, in a statement said, “On the 22nd December, 2021 at about 0930hrs a team of Policemen while on escorting a convoy of traders from Udawa village in Chikun LGA along Birnin Gwari to Kaduna came under heavy gunshots by armed bandits which led to the kidnap of a score of persons.
‘However, the escort team reinforced themselves and engaged the bandits in a tactical pursuit in order not to harm the victims. Thus, the precision of approach exhibited by the Officers forced the bandits to retreat, abandoning their victims and scampered with bloody gunshot wounds.
“The operatives succeeded in rescuing forty eight people to safety. They were profiled and subsequently escorted to their destination safely. It is equally important to note that information available to the Command has it that one woman is yet to be accounted”.
Jalige however said effort is being intensified to ensure her safe return, while additional manpower is being mobilised to the area to safeguard lives and properties of civilian population in the area.
He noted that the state commissioner of Police commended the officers for their resilience in the face of danger, while serving their fatherland.