Abuja/Lagos/Maiduguri — DESPITE global outcry against the activities of Boko Haram, the United States (U.S.) yesterday decried the security threat posed by the insurgents in Nigeria.
Speaking at the opening of the third session regional security working group meeting of Nigeria-U.S. Bi-National Commission, held in Abuja yesterday, U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the frequency and scope of terror attacks has grown more acute, adding that this has constituted a serious threat to the overall security of Nigeria.
She said: "Boko Haram has shown that it can operate not only in the North-East, but in Kano, Abuja and elsewhere. We are very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama community and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri, which would impose a tremendous toll on the civilian population. This is a sober reality check for all of us."
Also, French Minister of State to the Minister of Defence for Veterans and Memory (SEDACM), Kader Arif, has re-affirmed that his country was still committed to helping in surmounting the dreaded militant group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria and its neighbours such as Chad, Niger and Cameroun.
A statement from the office of the minister, which was made available to The Guardian yesterday, noted that Arif made the affirmation at the ministerial conference in Abuja following the Paris Summit for Safety in Nigeria.
The statement read: "The presence of Kader Arif in this event which was attended, among others, by representatives of Nigeria, Cameroun, Niger, Chad, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (U.S.), underscores the commitment of France to maintain regional dynamics initiated during Paris summit on May 17 in the fight against Boko Haram. Kader Arif said that the position of France is to contribute, with all the partners in this matter, in concrete terms to "the development of a joint response to the threat Boko Haram poses to all the region bordering Lake Chad."
In another development, the founder of the Kingdom of Love Church of Christ, Prophet (Dr.) Felix Oluyemi (JP), has called on Vice President Namadi Sambo to collaborate with all the northern governors and emirs to dialogue with Boko Haram to bring back the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.
The prophet, who disclosed this in Lagos yesterday at a press conference on the state of the nation, said: "It is time for Vice President Sambo to call on the northern governors and emirs to sit together and settle the rift between them and go to the forest to bring back the kidnapped girls before 2015 general elections.
Why are they not talking of unity before 2015? Why should the northern leaders fold their hands?
On the collective efforts to curb the excesses of the insurgents, Thomas-Greenfield said: "Despite our collective efforts, the situation on ground is worsening. The conflict has affected the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in the Lake Chad region. Cameroun's military is increasingly forced to fight Boko Haram within its borders and they flee back into Nigeria without fear."
"The Chibok schoolgirls and others remain hostages, enduring horrible and tragic suffering. Abubakar Shekau's bold announcement that Boko Haram is now governing a 'caliphate' only adds to the perception that the security situation is steadily worsening. All of these developments are deeply disturbing and increasingly dangerous with each passing day."
Besides, she said that U.S. would continue to provide technical training to military and police forces involved in the fight against insurgency.
"As an important part of this effort, we are pleased to provide advanced training to a Nigerian infantry battalion. We applaud the motivation of this unit and the progress it is making. It is critical that the investment in this unit be properly maintained and utilized upon deployment with clean supply chains and adequate supplies, a strong chain of command and mission and values that address Nigeria's counterterrorism threat and keep civilians safe. The reputation of Nigeria's military is at stake. But more importantly, Nigeria's and its children's future is in jeopardy. Failure is not an option," she added.
However, the Shehu of Borno and Chairman of the state's Traditional Council of Chiefs (BOTCC), Alhaji Abubakar Umar Ibn-Garbai El-Kanemi, has cautioned members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) on "strict rules of engagement" in fighting insurgency to restore peace in the state.
The monarch's caution, according to the palace sources in Maiduguri yesterday, came barely 24 hours after the Shehu declared a three-day prayers and fasting among the Muslim and Christian communities in Borno State.
Addressing a news conference at the Maiduguri palace on capture of Bama and Banki communities by the insurgents, Abubakar said that members of CJTF sought support from traditional rulers on how to end Boko Haram insurgency in various towns and villages in Borno Central and Southern Senatorial Districts of the state
His words: "As the vigilante youths sought our support and co-operation to enter Sambisa Forest and other training camps and hideouts of terrorists, they should however, strictly abide by the 'rules of engagement' so that none of them commits any offence against extra-judicial killings in the forest or any attacked town or village in Borno."
While urging the vigilante youths to abide by rules of engagement, he also appealed to them to follow the directives of the military and other security agencies while discharging their duties.
He said with the emergence of the civilian JTF, it has assisted in dislodging the sect out of Maiduguri and its environs, and therefore called on other places to set up their own civilian JTF/youth volunteers to fight terrorism.
Co-ordinator of CJTF, Abba Aji Kalli in an interview yesterday, said they were at the Shehu's palace to seek his "fatherly and religious" blessings and advice, as the group has vowed to go after the Boko Haram insurgents even if they are not well armed, like the military and other security agencies.
He said: "We are optimistic that with our sticks, bows and arrows and other local arms we will raid all terrorists' hide-outs and kill them when given permission by the Federal Government."
He also said that the Civilian JTF are now more motivated with the support and assurance they have received from retired military men, local hunters and other patriotic citizens who have expressed their willingness to join the group to end terrorist activities in the North-East sub-region of the country.
While expressing dismay over President Goodluck Jonathan not supporting CJTF after sacrificing their lives in the fight against insurgency, noted that the group, which is non-political and non-religious, would not be deterred, but would ensure that it works with the military to restore peace in the affected region.
Meanwhile, a senator representing Borno Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Ahmed Zannah, yesterday called on the Federal Government to "deploy more troops" and aerial surveillance to the state to reclaim the captured border towns of Bama, Banki, Gambouru, Dikwa and Wulgo by Boko Haram terrorists group.
Speaking during an interview with the Hausa Service of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) yesterday and monitored in Maiduguri, Senator Zannah said: "I am urgently calling on the Federal Government to deploy more troops to Bama and other captured towns and villages; as failure to heed my calls, could lead to worsening insecurity situations that have claimed the lives of many people, including the unconfirmed number of Bama residents killed in last Monday's attacks and takeover by gunmen."
The military, according to him, should rise to the challenges of protecting people's lives and property, and not to politicise the lives of innocent citizens.
Also, another senator representing Kaduna Central and retired Army General, Senator Saleh Mohammed Sanni, yesterday blamed the Federal Government under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for weakening the power of the Armed Forces.
Sanni spoke at the meeting between the National Assembly Joint Committee on Defence and Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, which also had in attendance, other top security officers.
The five-hour meeting, according to the Chairman of the Senate committee, Thompson Sekibo, was to be briefed on the current security situation in the country.
Sanni said that comprehending the security situation would entail referring to former military President's administration, which he alleged, systematically and comprehensively disarmed the military.
He said: "For us to understand why this is happening, we need to go back to the Babangida era. After the 1990 coup, the Federal Government systematically and comprehensively disarmed the military.
"All the tanks, all the artillery guns were disarmed and locked up. All the aircraft were parked in Ilorin and other places. Flying stopped and training stopped to ensure regime security not national security.
"All the good officers of the Nigerian Army were hounded out of the military and there was over-concentration of power at the centre, which was the Army Headquarters."
Sanni said that though his responsibility as a senator was that of over-sighting the activities of the military, his explanation was however pertinent at this time considering that he was an insider and has factual account of how the military was grounded at the time.
He further said: "What I am saying is based on my experience as an insider. Prior to that, General Officers Commanding used to have training and manouvre grants. They had the power and responsibility to train their troops and battalions and to ensure an efficient logistics and service support system.
"All that stopped. Everything was from Army and Air Force Headquarters, including the Naval headquarters. The attendant result was decay.
"Training was no longer going on at the battalion level, soldiers lost their skills and since then, no additional military equipment was purchased for the Nigerian Army.
"Even things as little as machine guns were in short supply, ammunition was in short supply. An individual soldier's professional skill was to be a match-man, to shoot and hit his target but can he do that if he has no ammunition?
"We have a duty to rebuild this Army, to rebuild this Armed Forces and unless we understand these basic facts, we are not going anywhere.
"Also, after some time, the fighting doctrine of the Nigerian Army was changed. We were essentially British brought up. That means we knew how much materials we had, the tasks before us and so on. But along the line during the Obasanjo regime, Gen. Obasanjo brought Americans here and our doctrine approach was changed to warfare.
"I make bold to tell you that up till today, nobody understands that. I know it is a strategic concept of warfare but in Nigeria, we are applying it to the operational and tactical level. It has created a lot of confusion within our Army.
"Apart from that, our involvement in foreign operations and the kind of training we give to our soldiers for operations was a kind of defensive posture. You don't kill until you are killed, you don't attack until you are attacked. That also helped to change the orientation of some of our soldiers.
"Then again, I must mention here that there is fraud within the Ministry of Defence and fraud within the military service systems themselves has contributed a lot to diminishing our fighting capability.
"Further to that again, we have the issue of our combat service support. Because of fraudulent activities, we monetised everything. Our supply services, our medical services are completely inefficient and are unable to support the fighting in the North-East now."
In his response, Badeh, who assured Nigerians that the military was doing everything possible to contain the menace of Boko Haram, appealed to Nigerians not to lose hope in the ability of the military to defend the nation's territorial integrity. He also called on other national powers to support military operations
He said: "Let me just say that Nigerians need not lose hope in the military but continue to support her in a bid to defeat the terrorists.
"Secondly, all other elements of national power should contribute more in support of military operations. Right now, the element of national power we are using is the military.
"Other elements of national power are not being engaged sufficiently. There is also the need for diplomatic lobbying for our foreign partners to provide more assistance in areas of equipment and whatever they can give us."