Former Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, has said that hardcore elements should face justice as part of efforts to curtail banditry activities in some parts of the country.
Some north-western states have been ravaged by bandits who attack, steal and kidnap for ransom, thereby forcing some governors to shut down some schools in the region.
But speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Newsnight, Usman frowned at the idea of granting amnesty to bandits.
He said that many public assets have been destroyed by both terrorists and bandits in Monguno, Baga, as well as several lives, were lost, thereby leaving many people as orphans.
According to him, it is very difficult for the surviving families of the victims to accept the idea of reintegrating the repentant bandits and terrorists.
The retired general called for a system that will distinguish between those bandits that committed heinous crimes from those that were coerced into seeking repentance.
“There should be massive construction of engagement of the people so that they see the need that definitely we cannot go kinetic all the way. Now that non-kinetic efforts are paying the dividend, how do we integrate that into the society,” he said.
“You have to talk about justice for the victims, justice for even the perpetrators of the crimes. Remember that it is not everybody that is in Boko Haram that deliberately entered Boko Haram. In those days, they capture towns and coerce people into it.
“So the level of participation in their nefarious activities varies from one individual to another. Therefore, there should be a clear cut, system or process that will distinguish between those that committed heinous crimes and those that were coerced.”
Northwest and central Nigeria have for years been plagued by heavily-armed gangs called bandits who raid villages, kidnap residents and loot and burn homes.
Military operations are ongoing in the region, with the army saying it had “neutralised” scores of bandits, but attacks have continued.
Authorities suspended telecommunications last month in Zamfara, where most of the attacks take place, and parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states, to disrupt the criminal networks.
Since late last year, bandits have increasingly turned to mass kidnappings of school children.
Similarly, Boko Haram jihadists also launched an attack last month on the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants on the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, ISWAP’s bastion, seizing a strategic island, according to fishermen and a security source.
Since the death of Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau death in his Sambisa forest enclave, ISWAP has been fighting Boko Haram remnants who have refused to pay allegiance.
Hundreds of Boko Haram members have also since surrendered to the army along with families and children.
More than two million people have been displaced by Nigeria’s conflict since it began in 2009, and the violence has spread over the borders to Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya has said that modern battles are no longer fought only on land, sea and air, as warfare has been taken to the cyberspace.
He made the comment while inaugurating the maiden Digital Literacy Internet and Core Computing Certification Course (IC3) and the establishment of the Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare School (NACWS) Basic Cyber Laboratory on Friday in Abuja.
The COAS, who was represented by the Director General, Land Forces Simulation Centre, Major General Felix Omoigui, said this development has brought to the fore the need to properly defend the territorial integrity of the nation in the cyberspace hence, the establishment of the Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare Command (NACWC).
According to him, NACWC and other cyber-affiliated formations were established to combat cyber threats and cybercrimes within the Nigerian Army sphere of influence.
However, he said there is a need for requisite manpower to effectively operate in that space.
This, he further said, is necessary to build capacity that will enhance the proficiency of personnel to counter these threats. He noted that to this end, NACWS among other roles, was established to provide specialist training for cyber warriors, aimed at inducting trained cyber security specialists to the NACWC and other cyber-affiliated formations in support of Nigerian Army operations.
The Army Chief stated that the course was designed to equip the participants with basic competencies required to manipulate current and future Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure.
General Farouk added that the nation’s security dynamics imply that efforts must be re-doubled with needed cyber products and competencies to defeat all forms of cyber threats confronting the nation.
He charged personnel across the board to be resolute and patriotic in discharging their responsibilities in service to the nation and humanity.
The COAS commended the Commandant of the school, Brigadier General Adewale Adetoba for the establishment of the Basic Cyber Laboratory in the school, reiterating that it is a step in the right direction.
This, he said will lead to the actualization of the mandate of the school.
The Commandant, Brigadier General Adewale Adetoba while addressing the participants, disclosed that the course was the first of its kind, aimed at developing the capacity and improving the skills of Nigerian Army personnel on cyber-related activities, in line with the vision of the COAS in tackling various security challenges confronting the country.
The Commandant disclosed that the IC3 course had 30 students drawn from various units within Abuja, adding that it was a global benchmark for basic computer literacy and specialist certification. He implored the participants to take the course seriously, so as to imbibe the expertise that would improve their performances in their respective formations and units.
Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma has called on the Nigerian Army troops to target criminal elements in the state and ensure they are brought to justice.
Governor Uzodinma stated this while flagging-off exercise ‘Golden Dawn’ At 34 Artillery Brigade Forward Operation Base at Orlu, Imo State on Wednesday..
The governor noted that the Army, its sister services and other security agencies must continue to consolidate on the gains so far made in curbing the activities of criminals who are hell bent on causing pain and hardship on the people.
According to him, exercises such as this will greatly destabilize and end the activities of hoodlums, kidnappers, cultists among other criminal elements.
He assured that the state will continue to support the Army, sister services and other security agencies who strive to ensure that there is peace in Imo.
Uzodinma commended the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, the Commander 34 Artillery Brigade and his officers and soldiers for their sacrifices in ensuring a peaceful Imo.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander 34 Artillery Brigade, Brigadier General Raymond Utsaha explained that the ‘Golden Dawn’ is a Nigerian Army exercise aimed at emplacing measures to curb the activities of criminal elements during and after the Yuletide season to guarantee public safety and continuity of socio-economic activities.
The exercise is also geared towards consolidating the ongoing operations against proscribed groups within Imo State in particular and the South East in general.
The Nigerian Army has launched three field training exercises to tackle the security challenges in four geopolitical zones of the country.
These exercises – Still Water, Enduring Peace and Golden Dawn – are to be conducted simultaneously in South-East, South-South, South-West and North-Central regions.
“They will be conducted in collaboration with sister security agencies, including the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Air Force, Immigration, NDLEA, NSCDC, FRSC, Federal Fire Service, as well as other stakeholders who will provide the necessary support for the exercise,” said the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya.
Yahaya, who flagged off the exercises at an event on Monday in Enugu State, believes the exercises will confront the multifaceted and contemporary security challenges prevalent in different parts of the country.
The army chief explained that the aim of the exercises was to restore law and order in the affected regions, as well as create enabling environment for socio-economic activities to thrive.
He asked officers and soldiers to remain professional, steadfast and diligent in the discharge of their responsibilities in consonance with the objectives of the exercises.
Yahaya also urged troops to ensure the respect and protection of fundamental human rights of the people in line with the provisions of the Constitution as they discharge their responsibilities.
He called on the people to be law-abiding and cooperate with security agencies in order to restore law and order in the country.
The army chief stated that the exercises, which would later metamorphose into real operations, would witness collaboration with other security agencies in the area of exchange of ideas and sharing of intelligence.
In his remarks, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Taoreed Lagbaja, assured the army chief of the readiness of the Division to combat all security threats and crimes within the region.
He also warned all criminals within the area of responsibility to desist from their atrocious activities or get ready to face the wrath of the law.
Meanwhile, Yahaya presented a patrol vehicle to the 82 Division, saying the gesture was to empower Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSMs) of the army.
“This empowerment scheme will enable the RSMs to effectively carry out their duties as custodians of traditions and regimentation of the NA,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu.
The flag-off was witnessed by various commanders, heads, and representatives of other security agencies in Enugu state.
The Nigerian Army has confirmed the attack on Babangida town in Yobe State by Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, who disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday said the insurgents were prowling for logistics replenishment.
“The criminals made futile effort to infiltrate the town but were met with a fierce counter-attack from the vigilant troops, forcing them to retreat in disarray,” he said. “Further exploitation by the troops is still ongoing.”
According to the army spokesman, the insurgents were repelled by troops attached to Sector 2 Joint Task Force of Operation Hadin Kai.
He stated that during the counter-attack, the troops captured one gun truck, one Dushka anti-aircraft gun, two AK 47 rifles, and unprimed Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) from the fleeing terrorists.
“The dogged troops have been commended by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, for their vigilance and swiftness in countering the attack.
“He also encouraged them to remain focused and avoid any form of distraction from the terrorists, who are desperate to make face saving moves, having suffered enormous depletion in their ranks,” said Brigadier General Nwachukwu.
He assured the people of Yobe and the North East that the army was determined to rout completely Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists from their hideouts.
The army spokesman also urged them not to relent in supporting troops with actionable information that would enhance the speedy execution of ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the region.
Channels Television had reported the attack on Babangida town on Wednesday evening during which troops engage the insurgents in a firefight, leaving a soldier injured.
It is not clear if any of the insurgents was injured or killed, and Brigadier General Nwachukwu did not confirm this.
Babbangida is located 50 kilometres away from Dapchi where 110 students of the Government Girls Science Technical College were abducted in February 2018.
The Nigerian Army on Tuesday said it does not enlist former terrorists as speculated in some quarters.
This is according to a communique by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu.
The Army spokesman noted that the statement is a reaction to a video making the rounds on the internet which attempted to “draw a conclusion from the collapse of the Afghan military and tried very hard to relate it to the ongoing surrender by the Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists in Nigeria”.
But the Army said that although the situation in Afghanistan calls for concerns, the security agency is not desperate and won’t recruit former terrorists.
“There are teeming able-bodied Nigerians that are willing to join the NA and genuinely help in the fight against terrorism and other violent crimes,” the Army added.
“The NA, therefore, is not desperate for prospective recruits to stoop so low and engage the services of former terrorists. As a general rule, it is not even recommended to absorb former fighters into the services of a regular military.”
“Surrendered terrorists will be received, processed, and passed to the appropriate government agencies saddled with the responsibility of handling them,” it further said.
While urging Nigerians to leave security matters for experts, the Army asked them to focus on contributing towards nation-building instead of engaging in a campaign of falsehood.
“The NA wishes to state that the campaign of falsehood embarked upon by some individuals who do not wish the nation well cannot distract its personnel from their resolve to bring an end to the violent crimes in the country,” General Nwachukwu’s communique stated.
President Muhammadu Buhari says Tuesday’s attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), rather than dampen the morale of the Armed Forces, will buoy them to end criminality in the country.
In a statement by his special media aide Femi Adesina on Wednesday, President Buhari noted that the attack, which led to the loss of lives, came when the military had put insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, and other criminals on the retreat.
The President added that the heinous action would accelerate the total uprooting of evil in the polity, which members of the Armed Forces are solidly resolved to accomplish in the shortest possible time.
He commiserated with the families of those who died during the incident, asking God to comfort them, and assured them that the deceased would not die in vain.
The President noted the degenerate act would have consequences that will eventually clean the country of vermin and emancipate the polity from deliberate, targeted, and contrived atrocious acts.
Buhari thanked Nigerians who appreciate the military’s efforts and urged those playing hateful politics with the dastardly act to desist from such.
According to him, rather than recriminations, this is the time for patriots and “people of goodwill to support and encourage those who are in the vanguard of the battle against wickedness in the land”.
The Nigerian Army has debunked what it termed a ‘spurious allegation’ by a lawmaker suggesting that when security agents arrested suspected kidnappers of some Abia State University lecturers, a call came from a high military formation ordering the release of the nabbed suspects despite strong evidence linking them with the said crime.
According to the Army, the comments attributed to the member representing Isuikwuato constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Emeka Okoroafor, are “not only unfounded but a travesty of facts and reality”.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu described the development as unfair and targeted at damaging the Army’s reputation.
“The claim is completely devoid of truth. It is most unfair for anyone at that height of the social ladder to sponsor a smear campaign against the Nigerian Army for whatever reason; particularly knowing that he has access to the leadership of the military,” the statement added.
“Contrary to the narrative being peddled in the said report, it took the gallantry of our men on patrol to rescue the victims of the said kidnap incident before handing them over to the police.
“How then could the same Army that was instrumental to the rescue of the victims, turn around to order the release of the suspects. Evidently, this is illogical and a blatant lie,” General Nwachukwu’s communique read.
It further noted that the report is an abysmally failed attempt at blackmailing the Nigerian Army for denying unscrupulous elements the freedom to foist lawlessness and violence on the Abia government and people.
The statement explained that the lawmaker should have sought clarifications from the Army before resorting to a “media trial”.
While reaffirming the security agency’s commitment to the fight against criminality, the Army appealed to the public to always seek clarification on issues from the Force instead of resorting to blackmail.
As part of its ongoing onslaught against terrorists threatening the nation, the Nigerian Army has again humiliated Boko Haram fighters in Borno State.
According to a military statement on Sunday, troops of Sector 3 of Operation Hadin Kai on routine patrol with elements of 19 Brigade Garrison to Gajiram Borno, annihilated several Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists who laid an ambush on Ali Gambari Village.
Items recovered from the terrorists include three AK-47 rifles, ten 7.62mm special rounds of ammunition, one 36 Hand Grenade and one magazine carrier.
Assorted drugs and other personal items were also recovered from the terrorists.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya commended the troops for their gallantry, the statement added.
A wave of humiliations
The Nigerian Army has continued to intensify their fight against Boko Haram with troops in recent times smoking out terrorists from their enclaves and retaking lost grounds.
As evidence of the advancements being made, the military in its more recent communiques have shown members of the Boko Haram sect surrendering and begging that they be forgiven their crimes against the nation.
No blanket amnesty
While many have commended the army for the feat, some are worried about the fate of some of the now labelled ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members. There are also calls for amnesty and deradicalization of the repentant terrorists.
Following the damage caused by the terrorists, some Nigerians argue that more stringent measures must be meted out to the fighters who have surrendered and are pleading for forgiveness other than the pat on the back which seems to be the norm.
One of such Nigerians who believes more must be done beyond the proposed blanket amnesty is Senator Ali Ndume.
The lawmaker, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, maintains that seemingly penitent terrorists must first be profiled without rushing to have them return to their communities.
According to Senator Ndume, the army should be more focused on ensuring that the Boko Haram war ends even faster than it has been predicted in various quarters.
Ndume, in an interview with Channels Television, stated that as the war draws to a denouement, the nation must turn its attention to the resettlement of those displaced over time.
For him, it is after the citizens who bore the brunt of this conflict have been satisfactorily resettled, that the country can begin to talk about how to reintegrate those who have wreaked havoc on the nation and are now pleading for mercy.
Thousands have been killed in the Boko Haram war which has lasted for about 12 years, and millions displaced, leaving critics speculating that when Nigeria eventually wins the war, the victory will be pyrrhic.
The Nigerian Army says 219 more Boko Haram fighters and children have surrendered to troops in the north-east region of the country.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, who disclosed this in a statement on Monday said the feat was recorded over the weekend in Borno State.
“The current trend of apprehension in their (terrorists’) camps was further aggravated by the recent alarming turn out of members of the terrorist group, who came out in droves with their families to lay down their arms and surrender to own troops at Mafa Local Government Area on 14 August 2021,” he stated.
“A total of 186 Boko Haram terrorist members led by their Amir, Manye Aga, comprising 67 adult males, 54 adult females, and 65 children surrendered to troops of Operation Hadin Kai at Forward Operational Base (FOB) Ajiri. Items recovered from the surrendered terrorists include several AK 47 rifles and magazines, a locally made pistol, and eight locally fabricated daggers.
“Similarly, on 15 August 2021, the Theatre took custody of additional Boko Haram fighters, comprising of four adult males, 11 adult females, and 18 children from Landanli, Azah, Ngaridua, and Kondilla villages, who surrendered to own troops of 151 Task Force Battalion, Banki Junction in Bama.”
Nwachukwu explained that the feat followed the recent massive surrendering of Boko Haram terrorists in Bama Operational area on August 2 and 4.
Since then, he stated that there has been confusion and severe apprehension in the camps of the Islamic State of West Africa Province, especially among its top-ranking commanders over the depleting strength of its members which he said has drastically dwindled their overall fighting efficiency.
“It is against the backdrop that the terrorist group opted for the use of propaganda via AMAQ Terrorists Media Wing with the aim to portray the group as if it is still a potent force in the North East,” the army spokesman said.
According to him, ISWAP is yet to come to terms with the reality of its current predicament which has posed a serious negative impact on its prowess.
Nwachukwu insisted that the terrorists were overwhelmed with palpable fear and were making desperate efforts to halt the surrendering of their fighters from the Tumbus and Sambisa axis.
He said the military remained resolute in intensifying both kinetic and non-kinetic efforts in the fight against insurgency, banditry, and sundry crimes in the country.