Maiduguri — Hundreds of troops in Gamboru Ngala and Banki towns reportedly fled their duty posts into Cameroon, yesterday, after they ran short of ammunition in their encounter with Boko Haram terrorists who stormed the two communities with sophisticated weapons in search of security operatives.
The Defence Headquarters, however, clarified immediately that the 480 Nigerian soldiers found on Cameroonian soil actually pursued fleeing Boko Haram terrorists past international boundaries of both countries against international law, hence they needed to surrender to Cameroonian authorities as required by law to show they were not on a hostile mission.
Both Gamboru Ngala and Banki towns share boundaries with Cameroon Republic which have been witnessing series of deadly attacks in recent times, including the massacre of over 300 traders in Gamboru Main Market in May.
The attacks on the communities came barely 24 hours after leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau released a new video proclaiming an Islamic Caliphate in Gwoza town which was taken over by the insurgents.
Gamboru Ngala is North-East and about 180 kilometres, while Banki town in Bama Local Government Area is South-East and about 120 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital.
A competent source said many of the terrorists were killed by troops in Gamboru-Ngala before the troops ran out of ammunition and had to cross over the border into Cameroon to join forces with their Cameroonian counterparts to repel the attacks.
According to a BBC Hausa programme monitored in Maiduguri by our correspondent and corroborated by sources, the insurgents invaded Banki town on Sunday, and stormed Gamboru-Ngala, at about 5am, yesterday.
It was gathered that while in Banki, the insurgents overpowered the troops on ground by deploying rocket-propelled launchers, and improvised explosive devices, IEDs on the duty posts of the troops who managed to escape and fled towards Amhide villages before they entered Cameroon for safety.
It was also revealed that some of the troops in Banki fled to Marwa through Gazawa, another community bordering Borno and Cameroon Republic. It was not clear whether there was any casualty on both sides. However, sources said many casualties were recorded including terrorists, security operatives and civilians who were caught up in the crossfire.
400 soldiers escape to Cameroon
Also in Gamboru-Ngala, it was discovered that more than 400 of the troops managed to escape during the attack on their facilities, and reunited with their Cameroonian counterparts who made frantic efforts to repel the attackers. As residents said, the exchange of gunfire was ongoing between the terrorists and the military around the border communities of Cameroon and Nigeria.
A resident of Gamboru, who fled to Maiduguri yesterday evening, told our correspondent that "the insurgents who occupied the area were not after civilians, and asked residents not to flee, saying they were not in the town to attack civilians but military operatives.
"Some of us who could not withstand the sounds of gunshots and explosions between the insurgents and the military had to flee for safety, while others managed to stay based on the terrorists' assurance that they were not after residents. Unfortunately, as I am speaking to you, I have seen corpses of civilians and that of terrorists on the streets of Gamboru-Ngala, suspected to have been caught up in the crossfire or stray bullets".
A top military source in Maiduguri, who is not authorized to speak to the press confirmed the attacks in the border communities, insisting that the fighting was ongoing, but couldn't give the number of casualties.
The position of things, by Defence HQ
The Defence Headquarters in its reaction to Nigerian troops found in Cameroon explained that military authorities of both countries have discussed the issue and resolved it while the Nigerian soldiers have returned to their base.
A report posted on the Defence Blog regarding the incident said: "The Nigerian troops that were found in Cameroon was as a result of a sustained battle between the troops and the terrorists around the borders with Cameroon which saw Nigerian troops charging through the borders in a tactical manoeuvre.
"Eventually they found themselves on Cameroonian soil. Being allies, the normal protocol of managing such incident demanded that the troops submit their weapons in order to assure the friendly country that they were not on a hostile mission.
"Following necessary discussions between Nigerian and Cameroonian military authorities, the issues have been sorted out. Subsequently, the troops are on their way back to join their unit in Nigeria.
"The reference to the incident as a defection is therefore not appropriate considering the discussion between the two countries' military leadership and the series of contacts with the soldiers who have confirmed that they are safe.
Adamawa acting gov imposes curfew
Meanwhile, following the escalating insurgent attacks on Madagali, Gulak and other adjoining villages in the border between Adamawa and Borno states, Acting Governor of Adamawa State has declared a 24-hour curfew in the areas.
In a statement in Yola yesterday, the government observed that it has no alternative than to take such measures. But, in a swift reaction, the insurgents urged residents to go about their normal businesses, claiming that they were in charge of the entire areas.
The declaration of the curfew followed the recent upsurge of terrorist attacks forcing residents of the entire areas to move either to Mubi or Yola, the state capital, even as others were heading towards Gombe.
Insurgents moving towards Yola, says Gulak
Residents of Gulak, Madagali and other communities in the area said the insurgents bombarded as if heaven will fall or as if the world was coming to an end.
Mr. Ahmed Gulak, an indigene of the area and former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on political matters described the situation there as beyond comment.
Gulak, who spoke to newsmen in his country home in Yola, argued that the insurgents will soon head towards the state capital if they were not checked immediately.
Residents of the areas who spoke on phone with journalists confirmed that the insurgents were in full control of the entire communities with no presence of security men.
According to the villagers, the insurgents have been patrolling the streets of Madagali and Gulak as well as the highway leading to Borno State, urging the people to go about their normal businesses and ignore the curfew imposed by the Adamawa State Government.
According to the villagers, the insurgents claimed that they were in full control of the areas and challenged the Nigerian security to come there and enforce the curfew.
Gwoza attack: 10 missing police officers make contact, 7 rescued
Also, indications emerged, yesterday, that scores of Boko Haram terrorists who attacked the Mobile Police Training Camp in Gwoza last Wednesday, have fled the facility for fear of being bombed by military aircraft of the Nigerian Air Force.
It was gathered that the location of the camp itself, which was used for hazard, intimidation and endurance training to toughen Mobile Police officers and men, is difficult to access but easy to attack from air.
In a television programme yesterday, Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Emmanuel Ojukwu while speaking on the development disclosed that the Police, Army and other security agencies were working in partnership to flush out terrorists from the camp and other parts of Gwoza.
This disclosure came just as Vanguard gathered that about 10 of the 35 Police officers earlier reported missing, have made contacts with the authorities, family members or friends, telling them that they were alive.
He said seven course men have been rescued and brought to safety out of the 10 who made contact, adding that search for the remaining 28 was being intensified.
A senior Police officer who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity also said the Police High Command was positive that none of its personnel died during the attack on the Mobile Police Camp, adding that there was no single casualty recorded during and after the attack.
"What happened was that when the terrorists were advancing, because of the hilly and rugged nature of the facility, Policemen in the camp got wind of the advance. Hence, they were ready and there was a shoot-out and tear gas was used on them which forced them to retreat.
"They later went back and reinforced for another attack. Before then, the Policemen in the camp had evacuated and mingled with members of the Gwoza community as a precautionary measure. By the time the terrorists came back, the policemen were not there.
"Right now as I am talking to you, the officers have been making contact with us, their families and friends which shows they are alive. Apart from the contacts, we have established that there was no casualty of any sort on our part. So we are expecting that in the next few days, all the men will make contact."
It will be recalled that the Police Force headquarters on Sunday confirmed that 35 of its officers were still missing following the deadly attack on the Mobile Police training school, Gwoza, by Boko Haram terrorists.
Force headquarters, however, noted that the search and rescue efforts launched by the Police after the attack, has led to the recovery of scores of policemen.
A statement by the Force Headquarters said: "A ferocious attack earlier launched on the Training camp by insurgents on August 7, 2014 was repelled by the Police. On August 20, 2014, the attackers launched a fresh offensive that lasted several hours where the Policemen on duty engaged them in a fierce battle. The search and rescue party launched a counter-attack immediately which located and brought to safety all Police officers in the Training College at the time of attack.
"So far, 35 policemen who are still missing from the facility as a result of the latest attack are being searched for with very promising prospect of locating them.
"While enjoining all citizens to remain calm and join hands with the security forces in the collective fight against insurgency, the IGP restated his determination to work closely with other security agencies to stem the tide of terrorism in the country."
FG won't allow an inch of Nigeria for experimental terror state -- Maku
Meantime, the Federal Government declared yesterday that it will not allow an inch of the country to be used as centre for an experimental terror state in West Africa.
Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku gave the assurance in Abuja while addressing officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps at a workshop on Conflict Prevention, Peace Building and Election Monitoring ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Maku said the government had utmost confidence in the ability and capacity of the Armed Forces to defend the honour and uphold the territorial integrity of the nation and warned marauding insurgents in some states in the North-East that the Armed Forces would wholeheartedly defend the country to the last mile.
"Local and international adventurers that are contending with the destiny of our nation should know that we will defend our country to the last mile. We know our responsibility to this country; we know the responsibility of this nation to Africans all over the world and we will do everything within our powers to ensure that our country remains united, indivisible and continues to prosper as the leading state in Africa," he stated.
He reassured the citizens that the government has resolved to deal with the current security challenges and emerge victorious.
"Let me assure our country that no matter what forces of disunity would want to do, by the grace of Allah and the resolve of this administration and the people of Nigeria, no part of the Nigerian territory will become a centre for an experimental terror state in West Africa", he stated.
He said the current circumstances demanded absolute commitment by the Armed Forces and the citizens of Nigeria to ensure they work together in unity to defeat the evil of insurgency.
The Information Minister stated that conflict prevention was the responsibility of all citizens, security forces, the civil society and all national institutions, adding that it costs much less to prevent conflict than to manage it.
He remarked that a lot of the conflicts the nation was witnessing could have been prevented by being proactive instead of waiting for conflict to erupt and fester, because any human community was liable to conflict, which could be anticipated, hence the need to train people on conflict prevention and peace building.
According to him, when conflicts are properly managed, they can advance the development of society by reconciling all the contending factions and channelling their energies towards the pursuit of the common goals of peace, unity and development.
Speaking on the 2015 general elections, Maku called for a change of attitude among the political class as often exhibited in their utterances and conducts, to ensure elections were free of rancor and acrimony and the result was acceptable to all parties.
He said so long as politicians continue to display the tendency for violence before, during or after elections, government would continue to take adequate security measures to protect the life and property of voters.
The Information Minister further pledged the commitment of President Jonathan to free, fair and credible elections and urged politicians to complement the gesture by playing according to the rules.
Earlier in his addres, Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Dr. Ade Abolurin, said the Corps had remained consistent in fashioning out programmes and effective collaborative efforts aimed at enhancing peace and tranquility in the country, which ensured the utilization of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism in finding lasting solution to conflict.
He said over 1,200 officers across the state commands and divisions were trained on principles and practice of Alternative Dispute Resolution, which led to the resolution of 3,450 disputes nationwide from 2010 to date.
Dr. Abolurin announced that the Corps would soon organize a multi-agency Peace Building Programme for all security agencies, the media and other stakeholders to discuss ways of fostering synergy and cooperation that would enhance national security.
In his remarks, Country Director of UNDP, represented by Dr. Lamin Begai, who condemned violent elections commended the recent elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states, which he described as peaceful and reinforced assurance in the electoral process.