Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Borno Airforce Base Attack - Heads May Roll in Military Top Ranks

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Nigeria Airbase

As the military picks the pieces from the deadly attack on the Air Force Base in Maiduguri and other military installations, indications have emerged that heads may roll if the alleged case of sabotage or negligence of duty is established over Monday's attack by Islamist insurgents, which left in its wake the near-total destruction of the air base and heavy casualty.

Terrorists suspected to be members of the outlawed Boko Haram had destroyed the 33 Artillery Barracks, burnt three aircraft and two helicopters among other military machinery, and razed down buildings. No fewer than 24 insurgents and two military men reportedly died in the incident.

President Goodluck Jonathan had held an emergency meeting with the Security Council where he expressed shock and disappointment with the service chiefs and ordered them to investigate and brief him on the factors responsible for the security breach in the ancient city despite the fact that the state was under emergency rule.

"President Jonathan is angry over the incident. He did not mince words while meeting with the Security Council immediately he got the report. He asked the NSA to summon the service chiefs to the State House and asked for the factors responsible for the dawn attack. The service chiefs suspect sabotage and they promised to unmask those responsible with a view to bringing them to book," a presidency source disclosed.

Corroborating the source, another security source, who expressed dismay over the incident, said since the creation of 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, relative peace had been established and normal activities were being restored to Maiduguri until the Monday attack and said those responsible for the lapses would be sanctioned.

"You know that it was the Joint Task Force (JTF) that was maintaining law and order until they were replaced after they had lost the track, as people began asking for their withdrawal. This led to the creation of 7 Division that now takes full charge for the implementation of the state of emergency in the area. And they have been doing well until the Monday attack. This is why we are suspecting sabotage.

"How come that these people were able to penetrate all these installations without being caught? What has become of intelligence gathering? Who was supposed to be where that was not there? Who failed to do his work as assigned? Was there any insider's support or a unilateral action of the terrorists? These are some of the questions we have been asking and we need to know the answers and the answers will go a long way in preventing a reoccurrence."

Yesterday morning, the chief of defence staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, ordered a fact-finding team to Maiduguri to investigate the incident, and our source said the team is expected back in Abuja either today or tomorrow.

During the press briefing for the commencement of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration yesterday, the supervising defence minister, Labaran Maku, corroborated our source about the fact-finding mission. He lamented the incident but disclosed that the military was on top of the situation.

During the question and answer session, the chief of defence staff declined speaking on the matter when the minister asked him if he had anything to add to what he had said. A top military officer later told our correspondent that "both the CDS and all the service chiefs are not happy with the attacks and those who are found culpable or negligence of duty would be made to face the music".

He recalled: "Those who had been indicted of sabotage or negligence of duty have been court marshalled and this would not be an exception. We were all hoping that the war against terrorism was over when this one happened."

LEADERSHIP also has it on good authority that the chief of air staff, Air Marshal Sabundu Alex Badeh, hurriedly left for Maiduguri early yesterday to assess the level of the attack. He was billed to travel with Admiral Ibrahim who had to wait behind in order to attend the press briefing with the supervising defence minister.

"The CAS (chief of air staff) had left for Maiduguri in the morning (of yesterday) to assess the destruction of the Air Force Base that was attacked. He was supposed to go with the CDS who had to wait in order to attend the press conference with the acting minister of defence at the National Defence College," a serving general told LEADERSHIP.

Attack on military: Borno reviews curfew, restores GSM network

Following the deadly attacks on military formations by the Boko Haram insurgents on Monday, the Borno State government and military authorities in the state have reviewed the 24-hour curfew imposed on the state to dusk-to-dawn restriction of movement.

This was announced after a three-hour closed-door security meeting Governor Kashim Shettima held with top security chiefs at the Government House, Maiduguri, yesterday afternoon.

The meeting, according to LEADERSHIP findings, has also approved that the GSM networks that had been grounded for six months now be restored.

Residents of Maiduguri had, even before the end of the meeting, begun to receive weak signals of various networks on their phones.

According to a statement signed by the secretary to the state government, "Borno State government in collaboration with security agencies has approved the review of the 24-hour curfew to commence from 7pm to 6am each day until further notice.

"All citizens are therefore enjoined to comply with the provisions of the curfew and cooperate with security personnel on duty.

"Vehicles on essential services such as ambulances, fire service, media personnel are exempted.

"Meanwhile, Borno State governor, Honourable Kashim Shettima, regrets all inconveniences caused to Borno citizens as a result of the curfew."

Maiduguri residents angry, disappointed

Residents of Maiduguri, the troubled capital of Borno State, have expressed their anger and disappointment with the military over the attack on three major security formations on Monday by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists, LEADERSHIP gathered.

The attack came at a time the city was coming back to normalcy. The security operatives had ruled out the possibility of the insurgents regrouping in such a large number to launch a massive attack.

The residents were disappointed over what they see as poor handling of security intelligence. They felt it was a failure not to pre-empt the attack that appeared to have been perfectly planned and executed by the terrorists.

"We are really disappointed with the army for allowing the Boko Haram attack them in such a devastating manner," said Aminu Balarabe, an automobile mechanic who lives near the attacked 79 Composite Group Base of the Nigeria Air Force. "We are now living in fear because Boko Haram has faulted the claims of the military that they are winning the war."

Balarabe said if the Boko Haram insurgents had targeted the civilian populace around the Air Force Base or the 33 Artillery Regiment, "thousands would have been killed by now. Despite that, a lot of people still died".

According to a top Borno government official who doesn't want to be named, the Monday attack was not a surprise. "A lot of locals have said they noticed strange movements of people around the outskirts of Maiduguri, especially the areas called Dalwa along the Damboa-Maiduguri road. If action had been taken, perhaps the attack would have been aborted," he said.

A local businessman, who simply identified himself as Mallam Yakubu and whose house is not far away from the 33 Artillery Regiment, wondered "how could the Boko Haram storm Maiduguri in such a large number, and attacked 33 Artillery for about an hour before marching straight to the Air Force Base to carry out a similar attack without anyone stopping them?"

"It means the military had been telling us lies that they had killed 50 and hundreds of Boko Haram, or destroyed their camps. If their claims of victory over Boko Haram is real, and the Boko Haram could still launch such a huge attack, then we are doomed in Maiduguri," he said.

LEADERSHIP observed renewed fears amongst residents who now worry for their lives with the renewed attack on the city.

"We thought it's over," Mrs Lami Aliyu, a school teacher, said. "But the Monday attack on soldiers, and not even civilians, shows that the military are not capable of tackling the situation as they claim. Now we have been thrown back to square one. What is the problem that they cannot solve once and for all. We have heard of Nigerian soldiers going on peacekeeping mission winning awards for gallantry, yet they cannot take care of their home problem; they allow it to grow so big."

Many residents said that the insurgents could have been noticed regrouping in villages not far away from Maiduguri, but nothing was done by the security to stop them.

APC condemns Maiduguri attack, seeks new strategy to curtail Boko Haram

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned Monday's deadly attack on military and other facilities in Maiduguri, saying it is shocked and saddened by the enormity of the attack as well as the deaths of innocent civilians.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by its interim national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the attacks on Nigerian Air Force planes and helicopters at the NAF base in the city was particularly disturbing, considering the hitherto effective use of aerial attacks against Boko Haram, which is widely believed to have carried out the attacks.

It said nothing in the world can justify such deadly attacks on the military and the collateral deaths and damage inflicted on civilians.

APC however called for a renewed strategy to combat the sect, which seems to retain the capacity to carry out such a massive attack in a major city, despite the successes which the military said it had recorded against it since the declaration of a state of emergency in three states in May.

The party said such a strategy must place a great emphasis on the gathering of intelligence through which such attacks can be nipped in the bud, adding that failure of intelligence, more than anything else, made Monday's attack possible.

It called for a probe into how hundreds of attackers could so easily infiltrate military facilities, which are believed to be highly secured.

"The probe must unravel why the security personnel in the city in general and the military installations in particular were apparently caught unawares by the attackers, who were reported by some newspapers to number as many as 500, riding in trucks and motorcycles.

"If military installations in a major city can be so easily overrun by a band of marauders, then, no one and no facilities are safe. That's why the government and the military must work hand in hand to unravel why such a massive attack on military installations was possible in the first instance," APC said.

Nigeria is not fighting a civil war- FG replies ICJ

The federal government yesterday told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the northeast zone of the country does not qualify to be called a civil war since all the 36 states of the federation are supporting the military operation.

The minister of information and the supervising minister of defence, Mr Labaran Maku, made this assertion at a press briefing on the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration 2014. He unveiled the programme of events lined up for the occasion.

The ICJ recently described the military operation against terrorism as a civil war, and cited the loss of lives and property, the declaration of state of emergency on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe and the attendant consequences. But the minister said it would be a misnomer to use a different yardstick to describe the counter-terrorist insurgency in Nigeria.

He said: "The issue about ICJ defining the operations of Boko Haram and the terror attacks on our country as a civil war... I am not a lawyer, but I believe, at the appropriate time, the attorney general of the federation would be able to address the issue. But I can say, as a layman, that we are facing an attack on our country by terrorists and it would be amazing if a terror attack on a nation is defined as a civil war.

"When the terrorists attacked the US on September 11, 2001, it was not a civil war; it was an attack on a peaceful country by a group of terrorists for very evil objective. When Afghanistan has been under attacks by terrorist insurgents, it is not a civil war. In my opinion, when you talk of a civil war, if it is a civil war, which part of this country is fighting which? When we had the civil war from 1967 to 1970, you had a region of Nigeria that said we want to be independent of the rest of the country, but in this war, it is a war of terrorists against all Nigerians, particularly against those that live in the theatre of operations."

Speaking further, the minister explained the attack being carried out by the terrorists is against the people living in the areas where they are irrespective of their religions and ethnic groups.

"These terrorists have attacked Moslems, they have attacked Christians, they have attacked animists, they have attacked foreigners who passed through Nigeria. So it is not a civil war, in my opinion, as we have seen all over the world. It is a group of terrorists with international network that are deploying that network to attack innocent people across different countries. When they attacked a shop in Nairobi, the mall in Nairobi about a month ago, everybody that was in that shop, whether you came from Kenya or from any part of the world, became casualty.

"We are fighting a group of terrorists whose objective is clearly terror, which attacks people at random, which kills. They have attacked traditional rulers including the Emir of Kano, including the Shehu of Borno. So, if it is civil war, is it between them and who? Because the people that are even being attacked more are even the Moslems and the majority of the population where they live. So, these are terrorists. As I said, I am not a lawyer. I don't know the clear distinction but I believe clearly that what we are facing is a war in which a network of terrorists have chosen a part of our country to attack and the whole nation is behind our armed forces in dealing with the insurgents."

Speaking on the attack on Maiduguri on Monday, the minister lamented the terror unleashed on the civilians and some military and police installations which led to loss of lives. He disclosed that a fact-finding group had been dispatched from the Defence Headquarters to find out the details of the early morning attack. Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration begins

On the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration, Maku commended the military for the sacrifices "to end the reign of terror and other security challenges facing the country". He explained that, in remembering the fallen heroes from 1914 to date, "we also call to mind and appreciate their loved ones who are left behind, and who have indelible loving memories of the departed in their hearts. The Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration helps to reassure them that the nation is with them in paying respect to their departed relations".

"The celebration reinforces the fact that their death was not in vain. It also serves to encourage and appreciate service personnel for their invaluable sacrifice to their fatherland. The year 2014 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration affords us a unique opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made in 100 years by our service personnel to achieve global peace and security," he said.

At the press briefing were the chief of defence staff, Admiral S Ola Ibrahim, the chief of army staff Lt. Gen. Azubuike Onyeabo Ihejirika, representatives of the chief of naval staff, chief of air staff, and the inspector general of police; the permanent secretary, Ministry of Defence, top serving and retired military personnel including the principal staff officers at the Defence Headquarters, army, navy and air force headquarters and directors from the Ministry of Defence.

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