The President was yesterday in Maiduguri, the engine-room of the Boko Haram war, to cheer up the injured and reassure others that he is committed to their mission – wiping out the insurgents.
The army suffered some losses — 23 dead and 31 injured — in Metele on November 18. Lawmakers are planning to probe the funding of the war.
President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Maimalari Military Cantonment Hospital in the Borno State capital, saw injured soldiers on their beds. He comforted them and stressed the fact that their sacrifice was well appreciated, The Nation learnt.
The Commander-In-Chief was in the city to open the Chief of Army Staff’s yearly conference.
He assured the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole of support to defeat Boko Haram and other security threats.
The President praised the army for stabilising security in the Niger Delta and curtailing clashes between farmers and herdsmen in some parts of the country.
The President, at the conference, noted the “operational losses” in Northern Borno.
He advised the troops not to be distracted but to focus on wiping out Boko Haram.
He said: “The effort of the military has also stabilised the security situation in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country and curtailed the clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
”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.
”There has been a remarkable improvement in the security situation in the Northeast since 2015 when this administration came into government and you are a major part of the successes that have been achieved.
”I am, of course, aware that in the recent months and in recent days, there have been some operational losses in the northern part of Borno State, particularly in Jilli, Arege and Metele.
”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 Northeast and making the entire area safe for all. I urge you all to keep up the good work.
“I am also painfully aware that some gallant officers and soldiers have paid the supreme price in the course of these anti-terrorist operations. While we remember them and mourn with their loved ones, I must also convey the deep gratitude of the government and people of Nigeria to the late soldiers and their families for their heroic sacrifices.
Our thoughts and prayers are also with all other victims of Boko Haram’s atrocities and their families,” President Buhari said.
He praised the professionalism the army and other security agencies employed to unravel the mysterious death of Maj.-Gen. Idris Alkali, stressing that the perpetrators of the heinous act must be brought to book.
“Let me also commend you all for the professional manner with which the Nigerian Army, in collaboration with other security agencies, unravelled the perpetrators involved in the disappearance of late Maj.-Gen. Idris Alkali. This attests to the capabilities that exist in our security apparatus. I want to assure you that the perpetrators will be brought to book. May his gentle soul and the souls of our departed gallant troops rest in perfect peace,” Buhari said.
The President, observing the importance of the theme of the conference, praised the army for shifting the conference from Benin to Maiduguri, stressing that the officers and soldiers who are fighting against terrorism in the Northeast deserve all the attention our country’s leadership can 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.”
”The Armed Forces play a critical role in safeguarding the country, hence you must all ensure that your plans and programmes meet the challenges we face.
”To this end, I am glad that this conference is holding at this time, because it serves as a platform to assess and evaluate your performance for the Year 2018.”
Buhari observed that the army have kept to one of the cardinal objectives of his administration – security – which according to him, has ”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 Northeast”.
To boost the morale of the troops, the President announced: “I will be visiting some of our injured troops in hospitals and also talk to others at their bases to assure them of our continued support. It is a must win war. 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.
“I want to reassure you that as your Commander-in-Chief, I will do everything within my powers to continue empowering you by providing all the necessary equipment, force multipliers and enablers required for you to prevail on the field. I also want you to be aware that I am currently looking into measures to improve your entitlements and welfare generally.”
Dwelling on the theme of the conference which is “Optimising the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Army towards safeguarding democracy and national security in Nigeria”, the President said: “The Nigerian Army’s commitment to upholding democracy is appropriately captured in the theme of the conference”.
He told members of the Armed Forces to be non-partisan in next year’s elections.
His words: “As we approach the 2019 general elections, I want to urge all members of the Armed Forces to live up to their responsibilities and remain non-partisan. In addition, you must all remain vigilant throughout the electioneering period and alongside other security agencies, prevent every form of violence that could disrupt the process in line with your rules of engagement.”
The President praised the army in mainstreaming human rights in its operation. This, he said, has reduced the allegations against them.
”The Nigerian Army has enriched her corporate identity, organisational commitment and responsiveness. I also wish to acknowledge the drastic reduction in human rights allegations against the Nigerian Army.
“I urge you to continue to ensure that all troops remain committed to the observance of all International Human Rights Laws and Laws of Armed Conflict”.
The President recalled the objectives of his administration, saying: “Let me remind the audience that the cardinal objectives of this administration remain the entrenchment of security, restructuring the economy and the fight against corruption, to ensure a steady, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
“In addition, our commitment to entrenching purposeful and accountable leadership remains firm because it is the base from which peace, security and national development would be built on.
“I therefore wish to reiterate that leaders of all strata of society, including our Armed Forces, must embrace the wind of CHANGE that is blowing across the country for good. There must be cooperation at inter-service and inter-agency levels.
“To this end, the Chief of Defence Staff and Service Chiefs must work closely together as well as with other security agencies to improve on strategies that will defeat terrorism, militancy and other forms of criminal activities in our country.
”As you appraise your activities for the Year 2018, concentrate on the contemporary security challenges facing our nation and proffer ways of surmounting the challenges. I am convinced that this conference will renew the vigour and dedication, for which the Nigerian Army is known.
”I have gone through the conference programme and it is my belief that the conference will be worthwhile if your deliberations generate new strategies that would strengthen stability in the country.”
In his opening remarks, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, thanked the President for his support to the army and other security forces in the fight against insurgency.
Gen Buratai pledged the commitment of the army to flushing out Boko Haram in the Northeast and other forms of criminalities in the country.
Host Governor Kashim Shettima praised the gallant troops for their fight against Boko Haram. He called on politicians to stop grandstanding, even as he admitted that there were challenges.
President meets Lake Chad Basin Heads of State today
President Muhammadu Buhari will today consult with Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in his capacity as chairman of the Summit of the Commission.
The meeting is billed for N’Djamena, the Chadian capital.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Asesina, said 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 are to attend the meeting.
The President of Benin Republic, a troops-contributing country, has also been invited to attend.
The Multi-National Joint Task Force (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.