The renewed military onslaught against the Boko Haram insurgents has started to yield the desired results with the recapture of territories, earlier held by the insurgents.
In Adamawa State, all the communities that were hitherto captured by the terrorists have been retaken. The last town under the insurgents’ control, Madagali, the headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area, was retaken by the military on March 12.
While in Yobe State, the battle to dislodge the terrorists from Goneri — the only community still under the insurgents’ control — was successfully concluded on March 16, freeing the state from the clutches of the insurgents.
Similarly, the terrorists have been flushed out of Bama in Borno State, while the battle to dislodge the insurgents from other major towns of the state is ongoing.
As part of efforts to authenticate claims that the military has recorded a string of successes in the war against Boko Haram insurgents, the Defence Headquarters, which coordinates the military operations, recently took some journalists on a guided tour of some of the recovered territories.
The tour was aimed at facilitating media knowledge of the true situation of things in the campaign against the terrorists and, by extension, the public knowledge of the whole situation.
The communities that were visited during the tour, in which a few foreign journalists also participated, are located in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa — the three states under a state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2013, following the activities of the insurgents.
Specifically, the journalists visited Hong, Mubi and Michika in Adamawa, Gujba and Buni Yadi in Yobe, as well as Baga and Mongonu in Borno.
However, out of the seven communities visited in the three states, Michika in Adamawa, as well as Gujba and Buni Yadi in Yobe were mostly affected in terms of destruction of structures. The insurgents particularly wreaked havoc on the towns before retreating.
Nevertheless, the level of destruction in Hong, Mubi, Baga and Monguno appeared somewhat minimal.
At Michika, the local government secretariat, the general hospital, mosques, churches and markets were torched. Similarly, the court complex, the motor park, the emir’s palace, as well as several houses in Buni Yadi were razed.
From all indications, whenever the terrorists invaded any community, they embarked on a looting spree, and their major targets were banks, hospitals and pharmaceutical shops, where they carted away drugs for the medical care of their wounded or sick fighters.
They also confiscated choice houses in the neighbourhoods, either for the accommodation of their commanders or the safekeeping of their arms and ammunitions, while some houses were converted to hospitals.
Also, the insurgents reportedly engaged in wanton killings and conscription of youths into their fighting force, while others were drafted for forced labour.
All the same, the insurgents were forced to retreat because of heavy bombardment by troops but they vented their anger on the communities by setting the buildings ablaze. For instance, they reportedly burnt down over five banks in Mubi after looting them.
In all the towns visited by the journalists, only Mubi, perhaps, witnessed a substantial return of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs.
The Emir of Mubi, Alhaji Abubakar Ahmadu, who also fled the town, has also returned with a call on his subjects to return to their homes, following the restoration of peace.
Also, few returnees, mostly women, could be seen in towns such as Michika, Baga and Monguno.
Reports have it that while some of the men were afraid to return to their homes, others had, willingly or unwillingly, joined the insurgents.
A significant number of the IDPs have also returned to Hong where schools have resumed academic activities, while commercial activities have started to pick up, particularly in some parts of the town’s major market which was burnt.
However, in Michika, Baga and Monguno, a handful of fleeing residents have also returned, compared to Buni Yadi and Gujba in Yobe, which still remained deserted as at the time of the journalists’ visit.
A theatrical spectacle during the tour was when a suspected Boko Haram member, who was feigning madness, was sighted in one of the buildings by a roadside in Buni Yadi.
The “madman’’ disappeared into thin air when soldiers swooped on him but subsequent reports indicated that he had since been arrested.
In all the communities visited, there was a heavy presence of troops and military equipment such as Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, main battle tanks and artillery pieces, among others, but in spite of this, many of the IDPs have yet to return.
However, in Hong, Michika, Baga and Monguno, where a sizeable number of people have returned, the returnees were facing some challenges such as lack of shelter, food and medicine.
It is, however, pertinent to note that the soldiers who were providing security in the captured territories somewhat appeared overstretched.
This is because the troops, rather than concentrating their efforts on providing security, were also providing humanitarian services such as food, water and medicine for the returnees.
Concerned observers, therefore, call on relevant government authorities at local, state and federal levels, as well as non-governmental organisations to move into the recaptured communities to tackle all the emerging challenges facing the residents.
They point at the stench oozing out of some areas in the communities as sickening, underscoring the need to urgently to fumigate the towns so as to check an outbreak of diseases.
Besides, there is a need to undertake massive reconstruction works in the communities, as many houses and public structures had been destroyed by the fleeing terrorists. The returnees also need a lot of rehabilitation.
However, one remarkable relic of the “occupation force’’ — Boko Haram insurgents — in all the liberated communities was the Arabic inscriptions they inscribed on various signposts and houses.
The insurgents were apparently fond of hoisting their flags at road junctions and on the various masts which they had vandalised.
As the troops drove out the insurgents from the communities, they also confiscated a lot of arms and ammunition from them.
It was reliably gathered that the seized arms, however, include those weapons that were previously carted away by the insurgents from armouries, following their invasions or battles with security agencies.
The confiscated arms include grenades, anti-aircraft guns, submachine guns, general purpose guns, Armoured Personnel Carriers, battle tanks and a lot of deactivated Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs.
In one of the brigades visited by journalists, a sophisticated weapon which has yet to be classified, according to senior military officers, was also displayed as one of the seized arms.
So far, over 37 communities have been liberated from the clutches of the terrorists across the three states, while insurgents have been completely routed out from Adamawa State.
While Nigerian troops are intensifying their onslaught against Boko Haram insurgents in all fronts, troops from Chad, Cameroon and Niger are also pounding them at various border towns.
Analysts, however, hope that the protocols guiding the various regional cooperation and alliances will soon be formalised to facilitate the deployment of a 7,000-strong African force to fight terrorists across the continent.
They, nonetheless, attribute the recent successes recorded in the war against the Boko Haram insurgents to a number of factors.
Maj.-Gen. Fatai Alli, the General Commanding Officer, GOC 3 Division, who spoke in Yola, Adamawa, when he received journalists on tour of some of the recaptured territories, said that the insurgents had been substantially defeated.
He stressed that the Boko Haram insurgents had been considerably degraded because the flow of arms and ammunition to them had been drastically curtailed, while their financial support had been blocked via measures initiated by the international community.
The GOC also attributed the successes to recent acquisition of required weapons as well as better coordination, motivation and re-training of the soldiers.
Another perceptible factor behind the string of successes was the posting of senior officers, from the rank of colonel and above, as commanding officers of brigades, taskforces and battalions deployed to deal with the insurgency.
Maj.-Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 7 Division, who also addressed the visiting journalists in Maiduguri, vowed that the Boko Haram sect would never overcome the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He admitted that there had been initial reversals, referring to territories captured by the insurgents after their initial liberation by troops before the current onslaught.
“Terrorism will not define the Nigerian Army. The armed forces will define the space that is Nigeria; we will recover every inch of our territory and ensure that terrorism is defeated in our land.
“There has so much skepticism about the performance of the Nigerian Army in particular, and the Nigerian Armed Forces in general.
“The cynicism is based on the pedigree which we had before; the feats we have achieved in Nigeria, Africa and in some other parts of the world.
“We all know that there have been challenges everywhere but challenges are meant to be surmounted.
“We might have had one or two reasons for the reversals but those reversals are not going to define what Nigerian Army is,’’ he said.
Alli promised that the armed forces would continue to do the needful by using their wherewithal effectively in efforts to restore Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, has pledged that war against the Boko Haram insurgents would be won decisively.
Air Commodore Dayo Amao, Commander, 75 Strike Group, NAF headquarters in Yola, gave the pledge when he received journalists who were on a guided tour of the territories captured from Boko Haram insurgents.
He disclosed that the air force had flown over 1,600 sorties in aid of the ground troops since the campaign against the terrorists started. (A sortie is a mission by a combat aircraft).
He explained that the sorties were either for intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, air transport, close air support for ground troops and interdiction (preventing enemy forces from entering a location).
As the troops vow to resist and defeat all the internal and external forces undermining the territorial integrity of Nigeria, observers underscore the need for all Nigerians to be involved in the ongoing anti-insurgency campaign in a more patriotic and pragmatic manner. NAN