President Muhammadu Buhari is seriously working on his plan to totally eliminate Boko Haram insurgents by relocating the military command centre to Maiduguri and rallying international support for the war against the group
| By Olu Ojewale | Jun 15, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari appears not to be taking anything for granted in his determination to win the war against Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, who have ravaged the country in the past five years. On his first official trip outside the country on Wednesday, June 3, Buhari visited Niger Republic and then Chad on Thursday, June 4, all in an effort to mobilise international cooperation in order to defeat the Boko Haram insurgence.
Speaking to reporters in Niamey, capital of Niger Republic, on Wednesday, June 3, President Buhari again vowed to destroy Boko Haram, saying “five years of the presence of the evil sect is enough.” The president who had a more than five-hour meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger said that the Nigerian Army which had earned a good reputation across the world, remains a virile fighting force to defeat the insurgents. I am four days in office today and we have already started the process of ending the insurgency”.
According to the president, the Nigerian army will now take a bigger role in the effort to crush Boko Haram, by taking over from soldiers from Niger in occupying towns liberated from Boko Haram. “On the issue of the Niger military positioned in cities of Nigeria … I think in the next four weeks we will be able to replace them with Nigerian forces so they can return to their country,” Buhari said.
Both Niger and Chad had played a leading role early in the year in driving the insurgents from Malam Fatori, Damasak and other Borno towns.
According to the two leaders, in the next few weeks, a new multinational force of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin would be established to combat the insurgency in the Lake Chad region. President Issoufou said his country was ready to “finish with Boko Haram and protect its borders, its people and their property.”
President Buhari said because of the peculiarities of terrorism, the movement of terrorists across borders and the unconventional nature of the war against terror, Nigeria would continue to seek the support of neighbouring countries in its bid to overcome Boko Haram.
Nigeria, he said, would also require the assistance of other nations and multi-lateral institutions to rebuild areas that had been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and rehabilitate displaced persons.
“My administration will bring new impetus and a renewed commitment to the efforts to wipe out the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents. As a first step, we have directed the relocation of the command post of the counter-insurgency operations to Maiduguri until such a time that the insurgency is completely defeated,” he said.
The president used the occasion to thank Niger for hosting as many as 150,000 refugees who fled insecurity in Nigeria to the country. “Our administration will work closely with governments of the affected states to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced persons and their host communities. The ultimate objective however, remains to end the insurgency and facilitate their return to their homes,” he said.
President Issoufou on his part commended the decision of the president to move the military command centre to Maiduguri, saying it “has further strengthened our conviction that the war against terrorism will soon come to an end.” He also assured Buhari that Niger would continue to support Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.
Before his trip, the president had, on Tuesday, June 2, received the Nigerian military chiefs including inspector-general of police at the Defence House, who briefed him on the security situation in the country. Vice-Admiral Usman Jibrin, chief of naval staff, who spoke to the press after the closed-door meeting, said it was the desire of the service chiefs to maintain the current tempo with a view to sustaining the successes so far recorded until insurgents were completely routed. Jibrin, however, appealed to all Nigerians to continue to support the military by providing operatives with the needed intelligence. The information, he said, should include suspicious movements around them.
“You know as we continue to put pressure on them in the Sambisa area, they will try to run away from there and then create further problems, using improvised explosive devices,” he said.
Even as daring as the insurgents had become in recent times, the Naval chief said: “Like I told you, we are sustaining the tempo and the successes we have recorded so far. We want to continue to maintain that and if there are any suggested solutions that require amendments or alteration of what we’re doing, why not? Most especially the more they give us the intelligence, the better.”
Jibrin also disclosed that the service chiefs had started working out the modalities for the relocation of military’s command centre to Maiduguri as directed by President Buhari in his inaugural speech on Friday, May 29. “On the relocation of the command centre, we are the ones to go back and work on it. Soon it will be carried out, it is a presidential directive, it must be carried out, and we must do that as quickly as possible,” he told journalists who wanted to know the details of the meeting held behind closed doors.
Others who attended the meeting were Alex Badeh, chief of Defence Staff; Kenneth Minimah, chief of Army Staff; Adesola Amosun, chief of Air Staff and Solomon Arase, inspector-general of Police.
While the military chiefs were still working on plans to eliminate them, Boko Haram insurgents were also flexing their muscles. On Tuesday morning there another bomb blast rocked Maiduguri, Borno State capital. Many people were killed and several others injured in the attack.
Barely 24 hours after the suicide bomb attack at Maiduguri abattoir in which about 20 people were killed, another Improvised Explosive Device, IED, exploded on Wednesday, June 3, at a market on Baga Road, Maiduguri killing 14 people while 19 others were injured.
The explosive, according to Audu Isa, an eyewitness, was planted at the entrance to the market opposite Ibrahim Taiwo Divisional Police Station and exploded at about 5.00 pm as traders and customers were rushing home to beat the 7:00pm curfew.
According to Isa, “this blast was devastating and shocking, as the explosion rocked Bolori, Ummarari, Jajeri, Federal low-cost housing estates and Pompomari axis, sending smoke into the air for 15 minutes, before the Nigerian Red Cross, NRC, and National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, rescue teams rushed to the scene to evacuate bodies and the injured ones.” Adding that at the time the rescue teams reached the market, he had counted 11 dismembered bodies with some of the limbs ripped off.
Hamidu Ibrahim, a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, that had been patrolling the Baga-Bolori-Pompomari axis of Maiduguri metropolis, also claimed the explosive was hidden in a black polythene bag and planted in one of the entrances to the market and park before the suspected bomber detonated it at about 5:00pm. He said the rescue teams of NRC and NEMA evacuated 11 bodies with 19 injured persons to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital and State Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri. Some of the injured persons reportedly had burns on their backs and faces; many of them died before reaching hospital.
Baga Road where the incident happened is also a few metres from the headquarters of the 7 Division, Nigerian Army in the capital city. The 7th Division of the Nigerian Army was created by Azubuike Ihejirika retired lieutenant general and former chief of Army Staff, commanded by a general officer commanding. Prior to the explosion which occurred at the popular Kasuwan Shanu (or meat market), residents were shockingly woken up at about 12:45am on Monday, June 1, by gunshots that boomed in some parts of the city for almost two hours.
Although no official reason was given by the military authorities for the gunshots, many residents feared they were fired by advancing Boko Haram insurgents.
When businesses and other activities were peaking in the city, a bomb went off in the meat market, sending cattle rustlers, butchers, their customers and passersby scampering to safety.
While the News Agency of Nigeria quoted Aderemi Opadokun, commissioner of Police in the state, as saying that five people died in the blast. Opadokun said the suspect, “who was shouting “Sai Buhari,’’ danced close to an abattoir in the market, before detonating the bomb strapped to his body when people had gathered around him. ‘‘Five people, including himself, died, while eight others sustained injuries,’’ the Police boss said, adding that policemen were mobilised to the scene to evacuate the corpses and convey the injured to the hospital.
In its report of the same incident, Reuters, a foreign wireless medium, quoted a witness as claiming that “as many as 50 people were killed.’’ It claimed that Lawal Kawu, a paramedic, said 31 charred bodies were taken to a teaching hospital in Maiduguri.
AbdulKadir Ibrahim, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, North-East, claimed that 17 people were killed, while Umar Sadiq, his Red Cross counterpart in Borno State, said 13.
“Our men working to evacuate the dead corpses have revealed that no fewer than 17 persons were killed by the explosion. But I cannot give the number of those injured,” Ibrahim said. He said that officials of the NEMA and humanitarian agencies were “still taking the injured to Umaru Shehu General Hospital, Maiduguri.”
Speaking on the Monday morning raid, Jubrin Gunda, spokesman for the youth vigilante group, said it was apparent that the insurgents determined to invade Maiduguri, but they were repelled by the military. Gunda said: “As far as I am concerned, there was no casualty as the militants were successfully repelled. There was exchange of gunfire too but the insurgents quickly fled back when they saw that the military were on the alert.”
There were reports of two bomb attacks on the city at the weekend that killed at least 30 people.
To restore sanity in the North-Eastern part of the country, Buhari knows that he also need help outside the country. Shortly after his return from Chad, Buhari is also expected to attend the weekend’s G-7 summit in Germany, his first major international meeting as president of Nigeria. “The president has accepted the invitation to attend the G7 summit. He’s expected to depart Nigeria on Sunday (June 7) for the summit. It’s going to be a two-day trip,” Shehu Garba, senior assistant to the president on media and publicity, said.
David Cameron, prime minister of Britain, had through Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, encouraged President Buhari to attend the G-7 meeting with a “wish list.”
Buhari met Cameron for private talks in London, the week before his inauguration, where the British leader pledged help in a number of areas such as fighting extremism and African migration. Cameron also sought Buhari’s backing for “free trade” between the European Union and Africa, a suggestion which had the support of a number of countries, the president’s office said in a statement.
The meeting of G-7 World leaders is slated for Sunday and Monday. Members of the G-7, comprising the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, Japan and Germany invited President Buhari. The G-7 summit meeting will hold in German town of Schloss Elmau, south of Munich.
But as Buhari departs for Germany at the weekend, the unending attacks by Boko Haram will, no doubt, be uppermost on his mind and how to get international efforts to get rid of it. More especially, because he has promised Nigerians in his inaugural speech that the insurgence would soon be a thing of the past in the country.
Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Lagos, believes that as a former military general, Buhari has all it takes to root out the insurgents. He also commended the president for relocating the military command base to Maiduguri. “I see the relocation of the military command centre as right step in the right direction. That will encourage serving soldiers to be diligent because their bosses are there with them and they easily know their problems and how to resolve them. I think with determination of this president, we should expect something positive,” Ubani said.
Holding the same opinion is Abubakar Tsav, retired police commissioner. He told Realnews that he expected the military under the command of Buhari to succeed in the fight against Boko Haram. “As a retired officer, he has all he takes to succeed,” he said. Tsav said the Boko Haram was able to gain notoriety because the immediate past administration did not take the insurgency seriously when it first started. He said it was unfortunate that it took Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan girl education activist, to convince former President Goodluck Jonathan to believe that more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls were adopted. He said moving the command centre to Maiduguri would give the fighting soldiers the psychological boost that they are not abandoned to fight while their bosses are in Abuja wining and dining with politicians and that the proximity to their bosses would assure them their immediate requirements are attended to promptly. “They also must be given weapons, necessary incentives and encouragement,” Tsav admonished. “I trust Buhari to live up to his promise to eliminate Boko Haram once and for all. With everyone’s support, he can do it,” the former police boss said.
While commending the president to be on the right track in eliminating Boko Haram insurgents, he also advised Buhari not to lose sight of the spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, killings by cattle rustlers and the return of Niger Delta insurgents and MASOB militants by dealing with them before they become serious issues. In the meantime, what would interest everyone is how well he is able to fulfil his promise to crush the Boko Haram insurgency. That, indeed, will set a tone for how far Nigerians can repose faith in his government. The world is watching.