TERRORISM, DECEMBER DEADLINE: END IN SIGHT.
Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah was the brain behind the battle cry acronym ‘Never Again’ in the Boko Haram terrorism narrative in Nigeria following the reinvigorated approach of the Nigerian military to the war on terror which enabled the army he commanded to bounce back from slumber and its Special Forces fight to retake several communities hitherto captured by the marauding anti-Nigerian sect.
However, some important actors through whose efforts the revival of the army and the Nigerian Air force in particular that has laid the foundation for the new high level military capacity and capability to denigrate, decimate and obliterate all known acquisition, capacity and logistics holdings of the Boko Haram terrorists group, can never be wished away.
Irrespective of what some will say about the way he administered the country or the fall-outs of several of his policies during his tenure, former President Goodluck Jonathan did a yeoman’s job in reviving the pride and capacity of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian air force towards ensuring their re-invention.
Also, irrespective of the challenges he may be facing, former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) was miles ahead of most Nigerians including those who run sway today in the affairs of state when he convinced the former president and Nigerians who cared to listen then, that the 2015 elections needed to be shifted for six weeks to enable massive decapitation and dislodgement of Boko Haram for the nation’s territories especially the North East, so that elections would hold there.
The truth is now obvious that if not for that ‘patriotic’ action of the former NSA who also broke so many barriers to acquire arms and ammunition from countries other than our so called international partners and friends, Boko Haram with control of almost 50% of the communities and territories in the North East, would not only prevent election in that zone of the country, but were favourably emplaced to declare a republic.
Even after the change of baton both at the Central government level and in the security services level, leading to the appointments of General Gabriel Olonisakin as CDS, Lt. General Tukur Buratai as COAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar as CAS and Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas as CNS, Nigerians who hitherto viewed the Boko Haram debacle as an irritant incident government and security forces should just use a sledgehammer to hit and eradicate once and for all, are now becoming aware the challenge is not as easy as that.
It is against the backdrop that this piece spotlights the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the armed forces, to ensure that Boko Haram terrorism against Nigeria particularly their murderous and barbaric visitation on the socio-economic and infrastructural life of human, material and environmental of the North East.
Before now, Nigerian troops fighting the terrorists had issues to tell. There were issues with availability of arms and ammunition, there were issues with workability and adaptability of available arms and ammunition and there were issues with quantity as well as quality with arms and ammunition.
Also, many of the arms and related equipment paid for by the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan which was not things that could easily be picked off the shelf but had to take some time to be manufactured, had not yet arrived the country. Where some had arrived, they needed to be moved to locations to be utilized.
There were also issues of welfare for the troops, issues of morale and issues of motivation. However, in the Nigerian army which should rightly be categorized as the lead agency in the fight against terrorism, Lt. General Tukur Buratai quickly identified these issues as factors that will ensure that success of the military’s campaign to meet up with the Commander in Chief’s directive.
Hence his first port of call was to revisit the several court martial proclamations in which over 5000 soldiers who committed various offences ranging from failure to obey lawful orders, indiscipline, desertion, connivance with enemy forces, were either dismissed, sentenced to death or life imprisonment etc.
To many soldiers in the battlefield, many of the allegations preferred against their colleagues in the battle front which saw them arrested, tried, and sentenced, were not the sole making of the troops as there was real problem of inadequate arms and ammunition to fight. Logistics materials and effectiveness was poor and even the support needed from the Nigerian air force as at when due was not forthcoming.
Buratai therefore instituted the Major General Adeniyi Oyebade led panel that sat in Kaduna to take a second look at the verdict of the court martial and reappraise the appeal of the soldiers with a view to reviewing and recalling those with minor offences, bringing them back, retraining them and equipping them effectively to go back and redeemed their images.
At the end of the exercise, over 3000 soldiers were pardoned and retrained. This singular act of the Army Chief boosted morale as troops in the war zones became re-energized for combat. The thing about the military which many may not know is that when it comes to fighting a common enemy, soldiers irrespective of whether you are Ibo, Edo, Yoruba or Hausa, see themselves as brothers. Hence when many soldiers were court martialed, it really dampened morale. Buratai’s pardon was therefore a masterstroke.
In the area of equipment, arms and ammunition, a massive turnaround helped by the arrival of the weaponry ordered by the former administration, complemented by new ones recently bought, has breathed a new life into the fight. In this light, Nigerian soldiers are no longer afraid to go on patrols. Soldiers no long flee when they see terrorists because they run out of ammunition. There are enough magazines and Boko Haram terrorists knowing this, have continued to take to their heels.
Several other high caliber weaponry including the T-72 tanks, Artillery guns and have arrived the country and have been deployed for a final putsch. This explains why the army in recent times has issued several clarion calls on the remaining band of terrorists to surrender or lay down their arms; because by the time what is on ground is unleashed on the remaining suspected bunkers, hideouts and hills of the terrorists, never again would they dare to capture a Nigerian territory.
Also, the take-off of the Multi-national joint task force led by Nigerian Major General Illya Abba whose 8, 700 man strong troops component has commenced deployment in all the border areas of the Lake Chad basin Commission, and would consequently put a stop to cross border raids as well as remobilization by the terrorists, will further break the line of recruitment as well as supplies for the terrorists.
To show determination and resolve to make the MNJTF work unlike the past where members of the Lake Chad Commission played politics and paid lip service to the operations of the commission, Buhari on assumption of office, ordered the release of $21million out of what Nigeria pledge to make the MNJTF operational and this has contributed in no small measure in the fear of remnants of the terrorists group who are said looking for ways and means of escape.
A frontline arm of the armed forces that must claim significant credit for the successes so far recorded in the war on terror and on whose shoulders a great deal lies if the December deadline is to be achieved is the Nigerian Air force. The NAF has not only prevailed in the area of logistics by flying personnel, materials and equipment as well as embarking on medical evacuation flights, its surveillance flights have helped in locating camps, movement of terrorists, movement of their equipment as well as collaborators supplying them logistics, fuel and foodstuff.
But primarily, the Nigerian Air force leading the battle from the air, has inflicted the most damage on Boko Haram camps, hilly hideouts, taking out many of their armoury dumps, wiping out their logistics supply vehicles and striking the terrorists if they dare to come out en-mass to perpetrate their murderous activities.
This was truism was aptly captured by Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar when he said that between July and October 2015, NAF aircraft conducted a total of 1448 air sorties in support of the ongoing counter insurgency operation in the north east even as over 300 ground troops from its special forces are deployed to fight along with the Army in the field.
According to Abubakar such air component deployed in the counter insurgency operation include the F7NI Supersonic fighter jet, Alpha Jet, C-130 AC, Augusta 109 LUH, Mi-35, Mi-24 gunships, Mi-17, Supa Puma Helicopters, among others to carryout logistics support, reconnaissance and combat operations.
He continued, “Wherever the army is going in the battle field, we give them the air support, provide intelligence and clear the ground for them to operate optimally”.
“There are challenges no doubt but God willing, we will meet the expectations of the people and the deadline given by the Commander-in-Chief as the government is giving us necessary supports and encouragements.”