Maiduguri — Though military authorities are still contesting the recent appearance of Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram in a new video, the fact remains that the September 25th video has ushered in a new phase in the activities of the insurgents.
Observers believe that recent attacks by insurgents in parts of Borno and Yobe States may not be far from desperate move by the Boko Haram to give credence to Shekau's speech which many describe as "declaration of war of attrition" on the Nigerian state and Nigerians.
"This is evident in the mass killings of people in the last three weeks, which to me, is the worst offensive by the insurgents in recent times," said Mohammed Sadiq, a public commentator in Maiduguri.
"On the highway from Benisheik to Maiduguri, the insurgents have killed over 200 people with impunity and without recourse to the identity of anyone... whether you are Christian or Muslim, you are a target. This goes to show the desperation of the group in remaining in the headlines," he said.
The new approach by the Boko Haram is now a source of worry, not only to vulnerable groups, but even to people in position of authority, who have no wherewithal to travel by air or to be escorted by heavily armed security operatives.
The last Saturday's attack on College of Agriculture in Gujba, Yobe State equally elicited responses from Nigeria and many parts of the world.
The attack also prompted calls on the Nigerian security agencies to step up their surveillances, pointing out that the essence of government is safeguarding the lives of the people.
"Once a government cannot protect the lives of its people, that government loses its essence," Abubakar Yunus, a private legal practitioner said.
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State had described the Gujiba attack as "devastating, heinous and barbaric."
The governor who shed tears after seeing corpses of dozens of students who were killed and taken to the Sani Abacha Hospital in Damturu also shared the sentiments of many people, especially in northern Nigeria that the Federal Government was treating the Boko Haram imbroglio with kid gloves.
In a press statement signed by Abdullahi Bego, his special adviser on press affairs, Gaidam called on the military and other law enforcement operatives to intensify surveillances and patrols to deal more effectively with the prevailing security challenges.
"The governor notes that although there is increase in troop movement and the deployments of more military hardware in the northeast, people were yet to see the kind of action on the ground that effectively nips criminal and terrorist activities in the bud.
"The governor pledges to continue to support security agencies in every way possible to restore peace and security. He also calls for regular aerial reconnaissance and more intrusive patrols along the Maiduguri-Damaturu-Potiskum highway where many heinous attacks have taken place in the recent past," the statement said.
The fact that the Boko Haram fighters were hitherto known to be carrying out selective killings, but the sudden change to mass killing has heightened tension as evident in the way people have deserted the Maiduguri-Damaturu road, only traveling when it becomes necessary.
The impact of the activities of the Boko Haram has also crippled economic activities as traders and drivers of articulated vehicles are reluctant to come to Maiduguri.
For now, observers say passing through Maiduguri-Damaturu-Kano road takes courage if one does not have the privilege of being accompanied by security operatives because of the activities of the Boko Haram.
However, in the last five days, it appears that the Nigerian security operatives have risen to the occasion as evident in the deployment of fighter jets and gunships to the notorious Benisheik, Damboa, Gujba axis which locals now call "Bermuda triangle."
A security source said the killing of 161 people, including civilians and soldiers in Benisheik on September 17 and about 61 in Gujba made the deployment of air and ground fighting armament imperative.
"We are in full scale war with the insurgents," he said.
"There is air bombardment and it has been substantially successful. It was a well coordinated operation by the Nigeria military troops with input from security services. It is done with all military precision, but very discreet," the source said.
"And let me add that images captured by satellite are being used to ensure precision. Similarly, there is effective communication between all those involve din the operation... it will continue for the next coming days," he said.
Another source said the military operation in the northeast has been changed completely. "Some weapons, armoured tanks and military patrol vehicles hijacked by the insurgents have been recovered," he said.
Weekly Trust reports that the Boko Haram insurgents have snatched about four armoured tanks in Gubio, Monguno and Benisheik, a development which observers say is not a healthy development for the Nigerian military authorities.
"To me, the military have no excuse, but to take the war to the insurgents in the bushes," Sule Jatau, a retired sergeant said.
He said during the days of urban guerilla warfare (making reference to the days when the Boko Haram insurgents were in Maiduguri), the military operatives were constraint because they don't want to kill civilians.
"But the trend has changed... with active cooperation of locals and youths vigilantes, the Boko Haram miscreants have been chased out and they now live in the bush. Unless there is something somewhere, I see no reason why they should not be trailed to their hideouts," he said.
However, military authorities in Borno and Yobe States said they have risen to the occasion.
Spokesman of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Lt Col. Sagir Musa said military authorities are concerned about the spate of attacks by Boko Haram insurgents along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.
"Following periodic strikes by Boko Haram terrorists on Maiduguri-Damaturu road, the 7 Division is fully concerned and is acting on the matter with the view to containing this ugly trend, not only on the Damaturu road, but other major roads in its area of responsibility.
"The whole effort is to destroy terrorism and ensure protection of lives and property of the citizenry. Members of the public are requested to continue to remain resilient and security conscious at all times as the 7 Division is poised to eradicating this madness," he said.
Also, spokesman of 3 Division Special Operations Battalion, Damaturu Captain Eli Lazarus said several members of the group were also killed in ground and air strikes carried out by officers and men of the command.
"After the attack on the College of Agriculture in Gujba, our men carried out an operation around the Gujba axis and a camp of the insurgents was raided. Several members of the group were killed while 15 others were arrested," he said.
Our correspondents gathered from credible security sources that the Defence Headquarters in Abuja has deployed three fighter jets and two gunships to destroy the enclaves of the insurgents in parts of Borno and Yobe States.
Hundreds of youth vigilante members, popularly known as 'Civilian JTF" have also joined the ground troops of the military in ransacking some enclaves of the insurgents along Benisheik, Damboa, Bama and Gwoza.
At the Special Hospital in Maiduguri yesterday, many corpses were seen on ground, in front of the mortuary and some officials who do not want to be quoted said they were the dead bodies of suspected insurgents.
Some people also said the corpses, numbering over 30 include the bodies of insurgents and civilian JTF who were killed in crossfires in the last two days.
For now, air bombardments is ongoing and Boko Haram fighters are also changing tactics, moving from one corridor to another, laying siege on vulnerable people to attract attention. On Thursday, the insurgents moved to Bama road and slaughtered three people.
Students are also jittery, especially in Yobe State following the attacks in Mamudo in July and the one in Gujba last week.
"Military authorities must be proactive in order to stem the trend and they can only succeed in doing this if they synchronize their activities with other agencies, including those that specialize in intelligence gathering," a lecturer at Ramat Polytechnic who does not want his name here said.