As the military continues its onslaught against Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, President Goodluck Jonathan has thanked Nigerians for their support for the emergency rule declared in the three states, assuring them that the effort of the armed forces has already started yielding positive results.
His statement coincided with the pledge by the country's armed forces to continue their offensive against militants in the north-east for "as long as it takes" to achieve its main objective.
Also, as part of its strategy to rally international support for the ongoing military offensive against Boko Haram in the North-eastern part of the country, the federal government has reached out to officials of the United States of America and other heads of missions in Washington.
The President's Senior Special Assistant, Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said in a statement yesterday that the president had commended the efforts of the armed forces, which have already started yielding positive results, "as available information confirmed that the insurgents had been dislodged from their safe havens and camps."
Okupe added: "President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed gratitude to all Nigerians for the overwhelming support they have given to the declaration of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
"The president also thanked the leadership of the National Assembly and many of its members, who have through calls and personal visitations, given solidarity and support for this extraordinary step taken by the president in order to halt the mindless killings, bombings and general insecurity that had prevailed in that part of the country.
"The president also notes with gratification the positive disposition and understanding of the governors of the federation, especially the Northern Governors' Forum, leaders and elders in the north, traditional rulers, religious leaders, cultural and political groups nationwide including opposition political parties, civil society organisations and the media."
The president's spokesman said the president was appreciative of the effort, loyalty, commitment and sacrifice of members of the armed forces and other security agencies who have demonstrated commendable patriotism and gallantry in compliance with the order of the commander-in-chief.
He added that the president also appreciates the words of encouragement by members of the diplomatic corps and international community.
"He further promised that as a disciplined force, members of the armed forces will operate according to acceptable international rules of engagement and will pay particular attention to the safety and well-being of the citizens of the affected states during this period of emergency rule.
"Mr. President also notes that the efforts of the armed forces have already started yielding positive results, as available information confirms that the insurgents have been dislodged from their safe havens and camps while many have been apprehended, and their activities in the affected states have been brought to a total halt," the statement added.
The president also called on Nigerians from all walks of life, ethnic origins and religious affiliations to rally round the federal government in this period of national travail in order that collectively, "we will achieve success in this major fight against terror in our land, and return peace and stability to our nation with its attendant prosperity, growth and development in the affected region."
Jonathan promised that the federal government would not relent or spare any effort that would guarantee the safety and security of all Nigerians, noting that "all manner of criminality in our country would be fought uncompromisingly with all the powers and might available to the Federal Government."
The president's statement was given a boost by the armed forces, which vowed yesterday to continue their offensive against militants in the north-east for "as long as it takes" to achieve their main objective.
Ministry of Defence spokesman, Brig Gen Chris Olukolade, told the BBC the aim was to assert Nigeria's "territorial integrity as a nation".
Earlier, a 24-hour curfew was imposed on parts of the city of Maiduguri, where the military said it had arrested 65 terrorists.
Olukolade said the army would continue its operation "as long as it takes to achieve our objective of getting rid of insurgents from every part of Nigeria".
He said in a BBC World Service Newshour programme that the offensive "knows the targets it is after, and it took a long time to plan and prepare for this".
"It is their (insurgent) bases, their weaponry, their logistics that we are going to deal with in this operation," he added.
He said the troops deployed to enforce the state of emergency declared by the president had gained significant ground in their latest offensive against the strongholds of the Islamic sect.
He informed THISDAY that the troops had continued their advance and attack on identified terrorist camps in the northern part of the country.
Olukolade disclosed that the insurgent have already deserted their camps while military patrols have moved in to secure towns and villages from infiltration. Also curfews on identified flash points are being enforced.
He said: "Dislodged terrorists have been noted to be in disarray with a large number of them heading backwards to various borders. Their bases are being deserted but they are making efforts to evacuate most of the large stock of logistics including scores of vehicles in their holdings.
"In the course of special forces pursuit and operations, a number of encounters have ensued since yesterday (Saturday). After a mop up of scenes of battle, 14 terrorists were confirmed dead, while, seven vehicles and 13 telephone handsets were recovered. A total of 20 terrorists were apprehended as they fled".
"Altogether, three soldiers died, while seven are wounded and are being treated in military medical facility, one soldier is missing," he added.
Olukolade also revealed that the required reinforcement and logistics have been delivered to forces in the front where they have been engaging in large numbers with heavily armed terrorists since Saturday.
He said that the Defence Headquarters was quite satisfied with the high standard of compliance with the operational order and strict observance of the rules of engagement so far.
"The forces have been directed to maintain the robustness of the patrols and enforcement of curfews were emplaced and ensure that civilians are kept out of harms' way as much as possible," he added.
Meanwhile, Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was on lockdown yesterday, as the military enforced a 24-hour curfew and blocked supply routes in its sweeping campaign against the insurgents.
Soldiers sealed roads heading out of Maiduguri, blocking supply routes to remote towns where Boko Haram Islamists have seized power, AFP quoted residents as stating yesterday.
"There is a huge build-up of trucks loaded with essential commodities... along the Baga Road on the way out of Maiduguri to the northern part of the state," said resident Ibrahim Yahaya.
"The drivers said they have been prevented by the military from going northward," he told AFP by email.
The phone network in Borno has all but collapsed since the president on Tuesday declared a state of emergency there and in two neighbouring states, Adamawa and Yobe.
The military on Saturday imposed a round-the-clock curfew in 12 Maiduguri neighbourhoods considered Boko Haram bastions.
The curfew was being enforced yesterday, with most roads deserted, an AFP journalist reported, while some living in areas not impacted by the curfew also stayed in-doors.
"My area is not affected but I have to stay at home with my family," trader Ezekiel Adamu said.
He explained that he was afraid of coming across soldiers, who "seem to have more power with the state of emergency."
Supplies were also running short in the city, with the price of basic goods soaring because supply lorries have been prevented from entering the city.
"We've been eating without meat since Friday... but there is nothing I can do. This is the challenge of emergency rule," said resident David Olutayo.
Supply shortages and price hikes have also started to bite in the town of Gomboru Ngala, on the border with Cameroun, where some Borno residents have fled to escape the air raids.
"Trucks bringing in goods from Maiduguri have ceased since last week," said resident Grema Babagoni, adding that prices have soared as much as 25 per cent.
"If the blockade continues for some time we may completely run out of supplies," he told AFP.
Residents in Gomboru Ngala can be reached by phone as the service uses Camerounian lines.
The town has seen an influx of people fleeing the nearby Marte district, one of the areas where Boko Haram chased out the government and removed Nigerian flags.
Marte has been among the areas targeted by air strikes, residents told AFP.
A senior rescue official who requested anonymity said that he could not immediately tell what impact the offensive has had on civilians because his staff in Borno and Yobe have been unreachable.
"I have sent emails and texts but have not heard anything yet," the official said.
However, in a strategy aimed at rallying international support for the ongoing military onslaught against Boko Haram in the North-eastern part of the country, the federal government has reached out to officials of the United States of America government and other heads of missions in Washington DC.
Secretary of State, John Kerry, had on Friday issued a statement expressing the United States' "deep concern" about fighting in North-eastern Nigeria following the declaration of a state of emergency and what he called "credible allegations" that the Nigerian security forces were committing gross human rights violations.
Kerry's statement was preceded by the remarks from the State Department's spokesman, Mr. Patrick Ventrell, two days earlier, who while reacting to the unfolding developments in Nigeria said: "We're looking at this state of emergency that was declared given this violence."
But THISDAY gathered that the Nigerian ambassador to the US, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, has been holding meetings with US officials to rally support for the latest onslaught against the sect by the Nigerian military.
In his various engagements, Adefuye has told US officials and heads of other diplomatic missions in Washington that no responsible government anywhere in the world would allow portions of its territory to be taken over by armed militants who attack every symbol of the state as brazenly as the Boko Haram insurgents.
Adefuye's talking points have focused on President Jonathan's resolve to take the tough but necessary steps in order to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria, lives and property of its people who have come under constant attack by the violent sect.
Another argument, which the Nigerian envoy was said to have made was that no government would fold its arms when members of its security agencies are brutally murdered in large numbers almost on a daily basis by armed groups, citing the recent killing of 56 security operatives in one operation in Nasarawa State.
The talking points also included the argument that the declaration of a state of emergency is backed by the constitution, and that the military's efforts were being complemented by ongoing dialogue initiated by a panel set up by the president.
The ambassador was also said to have told foreign officials that in spite of the deadly activities of the Boko Haram sect, the president has not established an extra-judicial body to try the arrested terror suspects as variously canvassed in several quarters, rather prosecutions were being carried out in civil courts in accordance with the rule of law.
A source at the Nigerian embassy in Washington also said that apart from meeting with officials of the State Department, Adefuye had also been holding meetings with some of his colleagues from various missions in Washington to explain recent developments in the country using the same talking points.
"The ambassador has continued to assure diplomats in the US that the Nigerian military is professional and would carry out the president's directive according to its rules of engagement to preserve the territorial integrity of Nigeria and protect the lives and property of its peace-loving citizens who are already applauding the president's action," the source told THISDAY at the weekend.
The Nigerian government has also been making its position known on the global arena through various media platforms. Last Thursday, for instance, Adefuye appeared on ARISE TV, a 24-hour news and current affairs television network under the Leaders & Company stable, currently viewed in 44 countries cutting across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
During his appearance on ARISE News, the envoy maintained that the president's directive to the military was clear on the rules of engagement and that government was committed to the preservation of the rights all Nigerians in the affected states and across the country.
Expressing confidence that the latest step taken by the president was a well-thought out decision that would help tackle the security challenges confronting the nation, Adefuye said to show the president's commitment towards the preservation of democratic institutions, none of the elected officials in the three states was removed by the declaration of the state of emergency.