Maiduguri — President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Maiduguri, Borno State addressed officers and men of the Armed Forces engaged in the war against terror in the North-east, rousing their morale with promises of better attention to their welfare and provision of essential equipment needed to carry out their assignment of defeating the terrorists.
Tasking the officers and troops, he commended them for their efforts so far and charged them that the defeat and extermination of Boko Haram must be accomplished without further delay, assuring them that he would be behind them at all times.
The military had in recent times suffered some setbacks, leading to loss of hundreds of troops, the most recent being the Boko Haram attack on 157 Task Force Battalion base in Metele, Borno State.
The share weight of the casualty jolted the nation to the apparent resurgence of the insurgency and forced the president to call off his five-day working leave that would have taken him to his Daura home town in Katsina State.
Wednesday, he seized the opportunity of the opening of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference in Maiduguri to address senior officers, visited troops at Maimalari Cantonment as well as injured soldiers, who were receiving treatment and recuperating at the Military Medical Centre, Maimalari Cantonment, in the troubled state's capital city.
Addressing top military officers at the conference, Buhari said, "I want to encourage our troops not to be distracted by whatever speculations but to remain focused and committed to the task of eliminating Boko Haram from the face of earth."
The president, who admitted that the war on terror suffered some lows recently, commended the military, saying their efforts had led to the dislodgement of insurgents from areas hitherto viewed as their strongholds, rescue of abducted persons, return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the gradual return to normalcy in the North-east.
"The effort of the military has also stabilized the security situation in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country and curtailed the clashes between herdsmen and farmers," he told the officers, adding, "I must commend the selfless sacrifices of our Armed Forces especially the heroic officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army, who by virtue of their commitment to operations all over the country have brought about the desired peace."
He also told the officers, "I know that you are doing your best to reverse this trend and I want to assure you that no effort will be spared in providing the necessary support you require to complete the task. We remain committed to ending the crisis in the North-east and making the entire area safe for all. I urge you all to keep up the good work."
Buhari said the officers and soldiers, who are fighting terrorism in the North-east, deserve all the attention the country's leadership could demonstrate to them.
"As president of the country, I am determined to ensure that every citizen feels safe and secure in all parts of the country. To achieve this, the security agencies must rise to the challenge and curb threats to security in our country," he said.
The president remarked that there had been a remarkable improvement in the security situation in the North-east since 2015 when this administration came into power and told the officers that they were a major part of the successes that had been achieved in that regard.
Saying he was aware that in the recent months and days there had been some operational losses in the Northern part of Borno State, particularly in Jilli, Arege and Metele, the president asked the officers not be downcast, pledging to provide for their operational needs to the best of his ability.
He subsequently held a minute silence for soldiers recently killed by insurgents in Metele and encouraged the officers, saying, "I know that you are doing your best to reverse this trend and I want to assure you that no effort will be spared in providing the necessary support you require to complete the task. We remain committed to ending the crisis in the North-east and making the entire area safe for all. I urge you all to keep up the good work."
Speaking at the conference, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, said the conference was moved from Benin to Maiduguri because of recent happenings and because of the desire of the Commander-in-Chief to personally be with the soldiers to see them and to show that they were in his plan.
Addressing troops at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri, the president reiterated his commitment to improve the welfare of Nigerian Army to enable them discharge their constitutional mandate of protecting the nation's territorial integrity.
He said the troops were always on his mind, adding that he had always woken up thinking about them and the conditions they operated.
He told them, "I will support you to play your constitutional role of defending the integrity of the country from both internal and external forces.
"This is the oath you have taken just as I took an oath as the President and Commander-In-Chief. "I assure you that I go to bed and always wake up thinking about you and the conditions under which you operate.
"Please, maintain your loyalty and defend the country. Whatever happens, a military, no matter how equip or how well led, without discipline is no use to the country."
While commending the troops over their gallantry and sacrifices, Buhari urged them to increase their commitment in engaging the outlaw Boko Haram insurgents, without further delay.
He said plans were on to adopt a new enhanced salary structure for the military in recognition of their contributions to security, social and economic development of the country.
Buhari Meets Heads of State of Lake Chad Basin Thursday
Meanwhile, in his capacity as Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of LCBC, the president has convened a consultation scheduled to take place in N'Djamena, Chad, thursday.
According to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the one-day meeting is to review the security situation in the areas affected by Boko Haram insurgency and adopt measures to enhance the capacity of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to meet the challenges of securing the areas.
The presidents of the LCBC member countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and the Central African Republic have been invited to attend the meeting.
The President of Benin Republic, a troops-contributing country, has also been invited to attend.
The MNJTF and the national operations of the affected countries have appreciably degraded the capacity of Boko Haram terrorists, although the insurgents still retain the capacity to attack isolated targets in desperate search for supplies.
Army Admits 39 Soldiers Killed in Metele, others
In a related development, the Nigerian Army said Wednesday that 39 of the soldiers deployed in various military bases and locations in Borno State, died when they came under terrorist attack.
Specifically, it said 23 soldiers of the 157 Battalion, Metele died last Sunday.
In its first official statement since the attack, the army said troops deployed in Kukawa, Ngoshe, Kareto and Guram areas in Borno State came under attack at various times from November 2-17, 2018 leading to the death of 16 soldiers while 12 soldiers were wounded.
It said, "In the recent weeks, Nigerian troops deployed in the North-east of Nigeria under Operation Lafiya Dole have come under series of attacks by large numbers of Boko Haram terrorists.
"Specifically, the Nigerian Army troops deployed at Kukawa Ngoshe, Kareto and Gajiram came under attack at different times within a 2 week period from 2 - 17th November 2018. Each of these incidents was successfully repelled and several members of the terrorists were killed.
"However, a total of 16 personnel were killed in the course of these attacks, while 12 soldiers were wounded in action and are receiving treatment at our military medical facilities.
"As you are all aware, Nigeria is contributing troops to the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which has its headquarters in N'djamena, in the Republic of Chad.
"One of the Nigerian battalions (157 TF Bn), deployed under the auspices of the MNJTF was attacked at their Base on the outskirts of a town called Metele on 18th November 2018.
"During the attack, the troops were forced to withdraw and several casualties were recorded. As at date 23 personnel were killed in action and 31 personnel were wounded in action and have been evacuated to several medical hospitals within Borno State."
The statement signed by Brigadier-General Kukasheka Usman, said, "The Nigerian Army commiserates with the MNJTF at this difficult time and wishes to state that all necessary support will be rendered to the MNJTF to reverse this resurgence of the Boko Haram Terrorists.
"The Nigerian Army wishes to further commiserate with the families of the gallant officers and soldiers that paid the supreme price in the course of defending their fatherland. The sacrifices of these fallen heroes will not be in vain."
Abdulsalami, Ukiwe, Onayekan, Kukah Express Concern
Under the platform of the National Peace Committee, former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd); former Chief of Army Staff, Air Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd); Cardinal John Onayekan; Bishop Hassan Kukah and others yesterday expressed worry over the current security situation in the North-east, especially with the resurgence of Boko Haram.
Also, the peace committee has resolved to meet with the chairmen and secretaries of all registered political parties thursday to engage them on the need for a peaceful election in 2019.
The Chairman of the Peace Committee and former Head of State, Abdulsalami, spoke on behalf of others in Abuja while briefing journalists, after a closed door meeting held with a team from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and resolving to facilitate the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of peace and tranquility by all the presidential candidates and the chairmen of the registered political parties.
He said that the purpose of the meeting was to get a briefing from INEC on the preparations of the commission ahead of the general election and the challenges facing the commission, in order to make sure that there is a successful free and fair election.
Abdulsalami said, "The next stage is that we are going to meet with the chairmen and secretaries to all political parties tomorrow (today) in order to discuss also and listen to them and to see how we can make progress.
"After the meeting with the political parties, we are going to draw a memorandum of understanding of peace and tranquility and this we hope will be signed by all the presidential candidates and the chairmen of the registered parties."
On the current security situation in the North-east, Abdulsalami stated, "We are worried about the security situation in the North-east and it is necessary that we try to contend violence there in order for the INEC to go there and conduct election.
"You should know that INEC will not send people to endanger their lives in order to conduct election and in actual fact, no agent or no political party will endanger the lives of its people in any conflict area. So, we hope we will be able to contend that violence before the general elections."
The committee also said it has taken note of certain flash areas in the states that the electoral body wants it to intervene to prevent violence during the election. He said that it would engage the political parties and ensure that there are no hate speeches, no names calling and undesired utterances in order to have decent campaign.
Meanwhile, as part of plans aimed at delivering credible elections in 2019, INEC yesterday met with the leadership of transport union workers in order to ensure efficient transportation delivery of electoral materials.
The Election Operation Logistics Committee Chairman of INEC, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, said despite the success recorded in the recent past elections in the area of logistics, there was need to assemble all relevant stakeholders, so that efficient logistics could be achieved during the 2019 elections management.
He disclosed this Wednesday at a roundtable discussion with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and other stakeholders in Abuja.
On his part, the acting Director General, the Electoral Institute, Dr. Sa'ad Umar Idris, maintained that logistics is very critical in the conduct of any election and for democracy to thrive, saying the question of logistics requires urgent attention.
He noted that over the years, Nigeria has witnessed significant changes in its democratic structures and processes.