Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday fired back at Borno communities that wrote President Muhammadu Buhari that they had lost confidence in the military following successive attacks by insurgents, which led to the killing of civilians and soldiers, saying it needs their support and not opposition.
The communities, in an open letter signed by a traditional ruler, Alhaji Hassan Boguma, had accused the military of not doing enough to protect them from the insurgents and declared that they had lost confidence in the military.
They accused military personnel deployed in the communities of cowardice.
They stated: “The attempts by Boko Haram to intimidate and attack communities in the state and the actions of our soldiers in the frontline have made us lose confidence in the recent military’s performance in protecting not only the vulnerable citizens but even the territorial boundaries of the nation.
“Your Excellency, while lauding the efforts of the Nigerian Army for their gallantry in other parts of the state, much is needed to be done in areas around MMC and Jere and in recent attacks on Nganzai, Gajiganna, Gubio, Magumeri, Amurwa, Kalali Abdul, Wanori and yesterday, Dalori villages.
“The incessant and daring attacks by BHT (Boko Haram terrorists) is becoming a source of great concern to citizens living in the two local governments and five villages simultaneously attacked for three days without any countermeasures or even a response to distress calls from the locals.”
However, the Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, while responding yesterday to THISDAY, which sought his reaction to the allegations levelled against the military, queried the basis for such a letter, saying the military liberated Borno communities from the clutches of insurgents.
He said the armed forces did not just liberate Borno communities but pushed the terrorists towards the fringes of Lake Chad.
He said rather than lose confidence in the military, the communities should provide intelligence-gathering support for troops in order to enhance its operations.
He said: “That they have no confidence in the military that liberated all those communities? That they have no confidence in the military that kept the entire North-east safe – the military that chased the insurgents away into the Lake Chad region? Is that what they are saying?”
According to him, such criticisms are counterproductive to insurgency operations in the North-east.
Nwachukwu said: “It is agonising to hear someone speak as if the ongoing war against terrorism and insurgency is only between the Nigerian military and the adversaries. It is a war between the Nigerian state and the terrorists; the military is an instrument to defend the state.
“Therefore, we must be very mindful of vituperations in the guise of criticisms that are counter-productive in the ongoing counter terrorism/ counter insurgency efforts of the troops.
“If anyone makes such sweeping statements that he has lost confidence in the troops who toil all day, suffer sleepless nights and pay the supreme price of laying down their lives for their countrymen and fatherland, a military that reversed the ugly trend of terrorism that swept through the entire North-east and infiltrated the FCT and other contiguous states, then we need to interrogate that submission very critically.”
He restated the earlier position of the federal government and the military that Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) remained decimated.
He explained: “Boko Haram has been thoroughly decimated and the recent development is the fact that our troops are confronting ISWAP, an affiliate of IS, which is bent on saving the face of international terrorism after suffering defeat in the hands of the allied forces in Syria, by attacking soft targets to project potency and virility in the media.
“Terror and insurgency are asymmetric in nature and very fluid, therefore the strategies to counter them cannot be fixated, it must be dynamic.”
Also reacting to the claim by the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, that the Super Camp war strategy deployed in the North-east by the military “is unwise and not working,” the DHQ spokesman said the strategy was aimed at unsettling insurgents with high mobility and force protection.
According to him, “The principle underlying the Super Camp strategy is aimed at robustly projecting operations against the insurgents with high mobility and adequate force protection.
“The issue here is that the communities are used to seeing troops deployed around their communities in pockets, which has its vulnerabilities.
“Rather than lose confidence, the communities should improve on their effort in supporting the intelligence gathering effort of the troops to enhance their operations.”