Olaleye Aluko and Ramon Oladimeji
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said a suspected Boko Haram member was arrested last Thursday in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State by soldiers.
This was just as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, appealed to Nigerians to continue to support the troops as they cleared the remnants of the fleeing terrorists.
Buratai, who said the arrested terrorist was one of those who fled Sambisa Forest, said the forest would be turned into a military base in 2017.
The army chief said this on Monday during his visit to the troops of 145 Battalion in Damasak, Borno State, to mark the reopening of the Maiduguri-Gubio-Damasak Road.
Buratai had on Sunday joined the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, to reopen the Maiduguri-Monguno-Baga and Maiduguri-Gubio-Damasak roads which had been closed since 2013 due to Boko Haram activities.
Buratai said the troops would not rest on their oars until other fleeing terrorists from the North-East geopolitical zone were apprehended.
He said, “I urge you not to relent until all the terrorists, who had fought Nigeria since 2009, are arrested. We must maintain the momentum of the operation. We must pursue the terrorists wherever they are. We must never allow them to regroup.
“For instance, a Boko Haram member was arrested in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State on Thursday. Despite the takeover of the terrorists’ Camp Zero in the Sambisa Forest, we have no time to waste. The seven-year fight against the Boko Haram terrorists was quite sober, and a number of officers lost their lives in the war. I pray for the repose of their souls. We vow to fight the remnants’ of the terrorists.”
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, who was represented by the Chief of Administration, Defence Headquarters, Rear Admiral Adebowale Dacosta, urged the military to maintain the tempo of the operation and to ensure that the insurgents were wiped out of the geopolitical zone.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has congratulated the troops of the Nigerian military for seizing the Sambisa Forest from the Boko Haram terrorists and securing the North-East, paving the way for Sunday’s reopening of two strategic roads in Borno State.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed, appealed to Nigerians to continue to support the troops as they clear the remnants of the fleeing terrorists.
The minister also called for increased vigilance among Nigerians, noting that the Boko Haram escapees were seeking to integrate themselves into the society.
“We urge Nigerians to keep our gallant and victorious troops in their prayers, and to also imbibe the mantra of ‘if you see something, say something’ as a way of ensuring that no escaped terrorist is able to wreak havoc in their communities. It is also important to know that now that they have been dispossessed of their fortress, the Boko Haram escapees will intensify their cowardly attacks on vulnerable targets if only to maintain an illusion of terror. But there should be no panic because the worst is over,’’ Mohammed said.
While commending the military for the re-opening of the Maiduguri-Gubio-Damasak Road and the Maiduguri-Mungono-Baga Road, which link Nigeria with neighbouring countries, he hailed Shettima for his unwavering support for the military and his administration’s determination to quickly restore normalcy across the state.
In a related development, troops under Operation Lafiya Dole, on Monday took over 3,000 Internally Displaced Persons and refugees back to their deserted houses in Damasak town in Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State.
The IDPs and refugees, who were received by a combined team of religious leaders, vigilance group members and the local government officials, had for about three years fled the area due to Boko Haram activities.
One of our correspondents learnt that the IDPs and refugees, comprising a majority of women and children, were led home by the soldiers, including Buratai, who paid a visit to Damasak on Monday.
A source said the soldiers and the civilian Joint Task Force, however, screened the returnees, before reintegrating them into the town.
He said, “A waiting team of local government officials, traditional rulers, village elders, and religious leaders were present to receive the IDPs. Not all the IDPs were living and taken care of in camps. Many of them just became wanderers for the last three years.
“The military and the civilian JTF personnel also screened the returnees before settling them into their houses.”