EXCLUSIVE: Nigerian Army plans major Boko Haram offensive to reclaim Nigerian territories
The Nigerian Army kicked off preparations for a massive campaign against Boko Haram fighters this week, military sources told Peoples Gazette, hoping the offensive would terminate the remaining insurgent command and control still holding vast swathes of Nigerian territory on the northeastern flank.
The counter-terrorism headquarters in Maiduguri issued a directive to all personnel on tour of duty in the Boko Haram-ravaged Northeast to remain at their bases and await additional instructions.
Those who have received passes to proceed on leave or attend to other personal or official concerns have been asked to return to the frontlines forthwith, our sources said.
The October 5 ordinance followed repeated attacks on Governor Babagana Zulum. His convoy was attacked last week, during which dozens of security forces were killed.
It also came despite repeated claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that Boko Haram was no longer holding Nigerian territories owing to his measures against the dreaded sect.
But the Gazette heard from military sources, who requested anonymity, that the military has admitted that the sect still controls local government areas and informed troops that an offensive to drive them out was near and imminent.
Military sources said Abadam, Kukawa and Marte are amongst the key northeast locations still under Boko Haram control. The locations lie on a lucrative trading route between Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, and have been in and out of jihadist control many times in the past.
Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai himself hinted at the military’s arrangement ahead of the showdown when he announced fresh combat equipment delivery at a ceremony on Tuesday in Maiduguri, officials said.
Major-General Felix Omoigui and other military brass hats involved in the planning have started encouraging battalion commanders to recognise the gravity of the upcoming campaign and be prepared.
While the development showed that Boko Haram still remains a major threat to Nigeria’s national security, that it is being planned bigger than past attempts underscored the tenacity of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in driving out the decade-long insurgency, defence experts said.
“This latest plan signals that the security forces have not given up on their desire to recovered all Nigerian territories,” defence security analyst Seyi Adebanjo said. “The military should be given all the support they need to finally pull this off.”
A military spokesman declined comments about the offensive, which officials say is imminent and fluid.
The latest offensive could be the biggest since early 2015 when Nigeria chased insurgents deep into the Sambisa Forest, military sources said.
Nigeria has lost thousands of soldiers and scores of officers since Boko Haram launched an all-out ideological war against the state in 2009. Since then the sect has divided into multiple factions, changed leaders and even turned to asymmetrical warfare.
The sect’s strategies continued to change even as support intensified for Nigeria from foreign countries and organisations, including the United States, European Union and Norway.
Thousands of citizens have been killed while millions have been displaced in the war, fuelling citizens’ anger and suspicion against the military.
“Many Nigerians believe the war should have ended long ago if not for the corruption within the security forces,” Mr. Adebanjo said. “You would be inclined to dismiss that as a conspiracy theory until you remember the numerous corruption scandals involving military generals.”
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