The threat by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) to expel Boko Haram from its fold for failing to meet the three-year ultimatum given to it to recapture Nigerian territories it previously occupied in the North-east, has fuelled the group’s renewed attacks on military personnel and installations in the crisis-torn region, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
THISDAY gathered that ISWAP’s threat has put pressure on the terrorists to intensify attacks on the Nigerian troops so as not to be expelled by the Islamist group.
This development, it is learnt, has changed the dynamics of the war on terror in recent months.
A survey carried out by the International Terror Monitoring Group (ITMG), a global group that monitors the activities of terrorists across the world, showed that the three-year ultimatum given to Boko Haram to recapture territories formerly under its control had expired.
It said, “The ISIS has threatened to expel Boko Haram from its fold for its inability to sustain the tempo in the ongoing war with the Nigeria Army as reflected in it losing areas that hitherto were strongholds, such as Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest as well as the lucrative Kukawa-Baga-Chad-Niger route.
“The critical aspect of the deal for the Boko Haram insurgents is in their desire to continue to have supplies in arms and ammunition from the ISIS group.
“Their main supply would be cut off, and they stand the risk of going into oblivion should that happen.
“The renewed onslaught against the Nigerian Army is to put out a bold face to the ISIS network that they Boko Haram are in control of major communities in North-east of Nigeria, and which is far from the case. This much they have tried to achieve but with a heavy price in the number of casualties it suffered.”
THISDAY’s investigation also revealed that the continued stay in office of the military service chiefs is fuelling sabotage in the ongoing war against terrorism, thus prolonging the crisis.
THISDAY gathered that despite the recent promotions in the military, partly designed to douse tension and complaints over stagnation and career retrogression of senior officers arising from the tenure extension of service chiefs, the discontent is playing out in the form of sabotage of the ongoing war on terror.
Top military sources, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, said the sabotage, which has led to the killing of soldiers on a daily basis by insurgents was a corollary of alleged “corruption at the highest levels” of the military high command.
He said, “The service chiefs have lost a sense of direction. What other senior officers want is for them to leave because they have run out of ideas.
“There is also corruption or why will budgetary allocations not be properly applied and soldiers are dying daily because they have no quality weapons to fight people with more sophisticated weapons?
“Yet people are in the media everyday lying about imaginary victories recorded.”
Another high ranking military source said the situation had become untenable “because when I know how much you have signed away for arms procurement, feeding, payment and all that and I can’t see the evidence and you post me somewhere empty-handed, what do you think I will do?”
But in a swift reaction, the spokesman of Defence Headquarters, Brig. Gen. John Agim, said there was no case of sabotage in the war.
According to him, “I have not seen the report – International Strategic Studies Association report – that accused military high command of corruption you talked about. If I react to it they may say it is not what they said.
“Who is talking about corruption and sabotage? The citizens have a right to know but when a citizen sits down and begins to talk about what he knows nothing about, then you are discouraging those who are fighting the war.
“If there is sabotage, we in the military should know those who are saboteurs. You cannot sit somewhere and talk about sabotage and corruption.
“Some senior officers died in action so who is sabotaging who? There is a point the citizens will get to then they have to fight the war themselves because if you discourage soldiers and they can’t fight, you have to fight the war yourselves.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of Baga residents and surrounding towns have fled to Maiduguri as insurgents’ attacks intensify.
THISDAY gathered that they have been arriving Maiduguri in their numbers since Saturday.
A faction of Boko Haram, ISWAP, which split from the insurgency in 2016, had claimed responsibility for an attack on a military base in Baga, a town in eastern Borno State, which the Nigerian Army said took place last Wednesday.
The fight to control Baga – a strategic town as it borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon – forced hundreds to seek safety in Maiduguri, some 200 km (124 miles) to the south.
The Boko Haram insurgency, which Buhari vowed to end when he took office in 2015, aims to create an Islamic state in North-east.
It has forced about 2.7 million people to flee their homes since 2009 and killed around 30,000.
The military and insurgents also clashed in Monguno, a town in the adjacent local government area to Baga.
But Islamic State, in a statement issued through its news agency Amaq, said its fighters “killed and injured dozens, took four apostates as captives, burned many barracks, and seized weapons and ammunition.”
But the Nigerian Army said in a statement yesterday that some people with sinister motives were creating panic among residents, forcing them to seek refuge in IDP camps.
It said, “It has been observed that some unscrupulous individuals with likely sinister motives within and outside Borno State are trying to create panic and unnecessary humanitarian problems for undisclosed reasons.
“It has come to our attention that these people are plotting to instigate the inhabitants of Bama, Dikwa and Monguno communities to abandon their communities and relocate to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps for undisclosed reasons.
“The inhabitants of these towns and the general public are please urged to discountenance such calls and remain calm. Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole and other security agencies will shed more light on the issue in a security council meeting with the Borno State Government, scheduled to hold on Monday, December 31, 2018.
“We would like to further state that there is no basis for the people of Bama, Dikwa and Monguno to vacate their respective communities. However, Operation Lafiya Dole troops in conjunction with Borno State Government are working towards relocating the residents of Baga, to safer locations in view of the ongoing military operations in the area.
“Members of the public are advised to remain calm as the military is in firm control to guarantee their safety and security. We would like to warn that any attempt to cause further panic through this false alarm would be viewed very seriously.”
In a related development, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) also said it neutralised a hideout of armed bandits in Zamfara State and reactivated an intelligence gathering base in Port Harcourt.
“The Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation Diran Mikiya has successfully neutralised an armed bandits hideout at a compound West of Tsamari in Birnin Magaji Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
“The attack was conducted at dawn on December 28, 2018 following intelligence reports indicating that the compound was being used by the armed bandits as a camp from where they launch attacks against innocent civilians,” the Air Force said.
On Port Harcourt operations, the Air Force reactivated some helicopters to enhance operational efficiency.
“In furtherance of the commitment of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to ensure availability of more serviceable platforms for the prosecution of the ongoing war against insurgency and other forms of criminality in the country, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, during his operational visit to 115 Special Operations Group (115 SOG) Port Harcourt, inspected the ongoing in-house reactivation works on Mi-35P and EC-135 helicopters,” NAF’s spokesman, Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said in the statement.