Solomon Elusoji, Lagos
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, on Thursday said he is more at ease when visiting Maiduguri than Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, is closer to Nigeria’s insurgency war in the North-East.
The war has raged on for over a decade.
But Ndume, while speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today, said the insurgents have been kept away from the city and can only attack soft targets in other areas of Borno State.
“I live in Abuja and also live in Maiduguri,” he said. “Once I come to Maiduguri, I feel safer than in Abuja, because somebody can knock down your door with a gun. In Maiduguri, we don’t hear of that.
“It is outside Maiduguri where the insurgents are marauding around and attack intermittently. And that’s normal with insurgents, that’s why they are called insurgents, they do hit and run on soft targets.”
He stressed that “in every society, you can’t wipe out criminality completely. In America, there is school shooting. Our own is that we have known terrorists and the army is fighting them.”
Senator Ndume, who has repeatedly called for more funding for the army, said the situation seems to be improving with President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the welfare of the fighting troops.
“With the new budget, things will soon change,” he said.
A turning point
Senator Ndume was speaking on the heels of President Buhari’s visit to Borno earlier on Thursday.
The Senator described the visit as a boost to the morale of the Nigerian troops.
“The President went round for six hours – I was tired. He came in 10 o’clock and we were going to see various projects until four o’clock this evening before he left,” he said, praising President Buhari’s stamina.
Senator Ndume also commended President Buhari’s bold welfare plans for the state, including the decision to build 10,000 houses for displaced persons and the provision of financing for a power plant.
But he urged the federal government to “walk the talk” and fast-track its financing of army operations, especially the acquisition of improved fighting equipment.
“We should now walk the talk by accelerating the release of funds on time,” Senator Ndume said. “The army now has the numbers.”
A less hideous enemy
With the apparent death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, terrorist group ISWAP appears to have replaced Boko Haram as the new face of insurgency in the region.
“ISWAP is more deadly, more sophisticated, have international connection, access to military armament and the likes, but the other side of them is that they don’t kill civilians indiscriminately like the Boko Haram and in fact that was what ignited the fight between the ISWAP and the Shekau group,” Mr Ndume said.
“Now the Shekau group have been virtually eliminated, it means that our Nigerian troops are going to face what they know specifically.
“What was frustrating them most was the indiscriminate killing of civilians and other soft targets, destruction of public property by the Boko Haram.
“But now that the ISWAP is saying we are just going after the military or the armed forces or the security agencies. Our security agencies are up to the task; Our security agencies are up to the task and ready for them. They have engaged themselves and (ISWAP) have suffered serious casualties.”