After Government’s announcement in December that it would withdraw troops from areas where peace had been restored, no fewer than 268 persons had been killed by bandits and Boko Haram terrorists since January 2020, as reported in Saturday PUNCH on February 22, 2020.

Apparently shocked by the spate of killings by the insurgents in recent times, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) had said when he received a delegation of Eminent and Respected Citizens of Niger State, led by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, to the State House, Abuja, that the recent activities of the terrorist group were surprising.

He had said, “During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising. It is not ethnicity or religion, rather it is one evil plan against the country. We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security.”

Meanwhile, about a week ago at the burial of the 18-year-old seminarian, Nnadi, killed by gunmen, renowned Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Matthew Kukah, had recalled Buhari’s promise during the 2015 electioneering when he stated while campaigning that if he was elected, the world would not have to worry about insecurity in Nigeria.

Kukah, however, pointed out that five years after Buhari had brought nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies.

Also, on Wednesday, Buhari’s convoy was booed in Maiduguri, in apparent protest against the level of insecurity in the state. Buhari had headed straight to Borno on his arrival from Ethiopia, where he attended the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

Meanwhile, there are fresh concerns that the Boko Haram insurgency may grow into a global crisis following the collaboration between groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to take control of territory “across a vast stretch of West Africa”.

Washington Post report on Saturday pointed out that the United States and local officials gave the hint. The report added that a coalition of al-Qaeda loyalists, called JNIM, had as many as 2,000 fighters in West Africa, citing a US report released this month.

The report quoted Secretary General of Mali’s Ministry of Defense, Ibrahim Fane, as saying, “This cancer will spread far beyond here if we don’t fight together to end it.”

According to the report, the warnings of an impending global crisis come as the Pentagon weighs withdrawing from West Africa, where about 1,400 troops provide intelligence and drone support, among other forms of military help.

On Friday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, expressed belief that the insurgency would soon end.

Troop deployment based on B’Haram threats –Military sources

Meanwhile, top military sources have faulted the call by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State for the Federal Government to recruit 100,000 soldiers to face the insurgents. It said deployment of troops in the North-East was based on “a threat analysis of the insurgents and not on a bogus number.”

The sources told one of our correspondents on Friday that the deployment of troops were done in relation to the strength, weapons and capacity of the enemies.

One of the sources said, “The armed forces conduct recruitment based on policies and needs and not on a state governor’s comments. The authorities have, however, heard the governor and if there is any need for recruitment, the Presidency can order such and the armed forces will comply.

“Only the governor knows how he arrived at the figure.

“The military strength deployed to any location is not done haphazardly. There must be a thorough analysis to determine the number of personnel you need in a location for any operation and not just a bogus number. You also look at the strength of the adversaries and their weapon system.

“Then, you look at the deployments of the adversaries. These are the things that determine the strength of the troops you are going to deploy.”

The Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, could not be reached for comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force said it had neutralised some key leaders of the Islamic State of West Africa Province at Jubillaram and Alinwa in the northern part of Borno, as they assembled for meetings.

NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, made the disclosure in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.

Daramola said the ISWAP leaders were neutralised in operations conducted on Thursday.

He said the airstrikes were carried out by the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole, under the auspices of Operation Rattle Snake III.

“The mission was executed on the heels of credible intelligence reports indicating that some key ISWAP leaders had assembled for meetings, which were being held simultaneously at two separate venues, at Jubillaram and Alinwa in Marte Local Government Area.

“Accordingly, the ATF scrambled its attack aircraft to engage both locations, damaging the meeting venues and neutralising the terrorists,’’ Daramola said.

He said NAF, operating in concert with surface forces, would sustain its air campaign to shape the battle space in the North-East for the effective conduct of further ground and air operations.

By: Success Nwogu, Olaleye Aluko, Tunde Ajaja and Omobola Sadiq

Copyright PUNCH.