A Boko Haram commander fleeing from the the Nigerian Army, after the fall of Sambisa Forest, has been captured in Lagos. This is coming at a time when the military has declared that Sambisa Forest will be converted to a training ground.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said in Maiduguri, Borno State, at the re-opening of two major roads closed since 2013 at the height of the activities of Boko Haram, that the top insurgent was arrested in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State.
Buratai said the commander was arrested on Saturday, in his hideout.
Meanwhile, Buratai has charged soldiers not to relent until all terrorists who had waged a war against Nigeria since 2009 were arrested. He told the troops: “You must maintain the momentum of the operation. We must pursue the terrorists wherever they are. We must not allow them to regroup.”
The army chief said in spite of the take-over of the terrorists’ last stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, as announced by President Muhammadu Buhari, “we have no time to waste.”
The Chief of Army Staff described the seven-year fight against Boko Haram as “quite sober and touchy,” saying that a number of officers and soldiers had lost their lives in the war.
He prayed for the repose of their souls and vowed that the army would recommit itself to the fight until “remnants’’ of the terrorists were cleared.
Maj-Gen. Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, had earlier said the North East had been secured. He also said insurgency had brought untold hardship on the people of Borno and the entire North East zone.
Irabor said the roads being reopened were closed three years ago to check the incursion of the insurgents, adding that the reopening of such roads was an indication that the terrorists had been defeated.
In a message, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, also charged the military to maintain the tempo of operation and ensure that terrorism was eliminated from the North-East. Represented by the Chief of Administration, Defence Headquarters, Rear Admiral A. A. Dacosta, Olonisakin restated the commitment of the military to defeating the terrorists.
In a related development, the military has said Sambas Forest will now serve as training ground.
Speaking in Damasak, a town in Borno, while celebrating Christmas with troops of 145 Battalion, Buratai said:
“I have already directed that we should conduct Nigerian Army small arms championship in that forest next year.”
He say the army was going to use Sambas Forest “to test fire our fighting vehicles, other key equipment and weapons that require testing whenever we want to induct new weapon and equipment into the Nigerian army inventory,” adding: “It will afford us very good ground for basic tactics and, indeed, advance tactics, including but not limited to tactics at the Platoon, company, battalion, Brigade and even division levels.
“We are going to make it more robust to make sure that these criminals do not come back to that forest again.”
… FG calls for vigilance
The Federal Government has called for increased vigilance among Nigerians, as Boko Haram escapees seek to integrate themselves into communities, after being dispossessed of their Sambisa fortress. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the call in a statement issued yesterday in Lagos, stressed that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.’’
“We urge Nigerians to keep our gallant and victorious troops in their prayers. “Nigerians should also imbibe the mantra of ‘if you see something, say something’ as a way of ensuring that no escaped terrorist is able to wreak havoc in their communities.
“It is also important to know that now that they have been dispossessed of their fortress, the Boko Haram escapees will intensify their cowardly attacks on vulnerable targets if only to maintain an illusion of terror. “There should be no panic because the worst is over,’’ he said.
The minister congratulated the gallant troops of the Nigerian military for finally seizing the Sambisa Forest from the Boko Haram terrorists and securing the North-East. He said the feat had paved the way for Sunday’s re-opening of two strategic roads in Borno.
Mohammed appealed to Nigerians to continue to support the troops as they clear the remnants of the terrorists who are now on the run. “We commend the military for the re-opening of the Maiduguri-Gubio-Damasak road and the Maiduguri-Mungono-Baga road, which link Nigeria with neighbouring countries.
“The Federal Government also commends Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, for his unwavering support for the military and his administration’s determination to quickly restore normalcy across the state,’’ he said.
The minister said it was in recognition and celebration of the great feat by the military that he decided to lead over 30 Nigerian and international journalists to join the Minister of Defence, the Service Chiefs and Borno Governor at the opening of the roads.
“Unfortunately, due to bad weather, our flight to Maiduguri from Abuja was cancelled after several hours of waiting at the airport in Abuja. “However, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, accompanied by the top brass of the military, re-opened the two arterial roads.
“This is very significant because the two major roads, which were closed due to the activities of the terrorists in the area, are of strategic importance to the economy of the Lake Chad Region,’’ he said. The minister noted that the exceptional leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari provided the much-needed impetus for the military’s victory in the North-east.
He urged Nigerians to continue to give their unalloyed support to the President in his untiring efforts to restore peace and security across the country and also revamp the economy.