December deadline: Another trip to Maiduguri

It was neither a vacation trip nor a tour for seasonal ceremony. It was a journey to attend a crisis communication seminar for humanitarian workers and journalists covering disasters which was held in Maiduguri in the first week of December 2015. My family members could not dissuade me from the trip that hopefully would provide me another opportunity to assess one of the Boko Haram worst-hit cities in Nigeria.

The flight was smooth from Abuja to Maiduguri. Driving into the town, it was easy to observe that the city wasn’t bubbling as most roads were deserted, exotic mansions abandoned and fine hotels had low patronage even with their generous discounts on accommodation.

On a visit to the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps, the sights of orphans and widows were quite disturbing even though NEMA and other stakeholders are taking good care of them.

Passing through security check-points, the sacrifice of Nigerian troops, especially young soldiers in their zeal and determination to defeat Boko Haram terrorists, was obvious from their faces. While some of them are bachelors with parents, others are married with children they left at home to defend Nigeria.

Incidentally, almost everyone was concerned about the Presidential directive for the military to end Boko Haram this December. During the inauguration of his service chiefs on July 13, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the military to end the Boko Haram terrorism in three months.

Immediately after the directive, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major General Babagana Monguno led service and security chiefs to the frontline to seek the cooperation of community leaders, traditional rulers and pressure groups to support the new drive against war on terror. He also visited and commiserated with IDPs and reassured them that the war would soon be over.

The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai has not led from the back, he was in the warfront by actively participating in some of the operations where terrorists were either captured or killed. He has so far spent most of his time on the battle field. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Mashall Sadique Abubakar has personally commanded fighter jets in the war on terror to motivate fighter-pilots into putting in their best.

The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, has ensured effective coordination and cohesion in the operation so far through mechanism of inter-agency collaboration, even as the Chief Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas has also confirmed that Special Forces from the Navy are actively involved in the operation.

The military has so far destroyed dozens of Boko Haram camps and freed more than 1,000 kidnap victims since inauguration of President Buhari. Nevertheless, there is the fear that the military may not be able to end Boko Haram by the deadline. The Executive Secretary of Centre for Crisis Communication, CCC, Air Commodore Anas recently disclosed that there is nothing wrong in imposing targets on the military but due to the asymmetric warfare which Boko Haram is prosecuting against civilian “soft targets” the December deadline is unrealistic.

There are also worrisome reports of fresh kidnap of dozens of girls and burning of buildings in Bam Village of Yobe State; reported missing and fleeing soldiers in Galtumari town in Borno State; destruction of military base in Gulak, Adamawa and media allegations that terrorists snatched military trucks, artillery guns that were bought by the previous administration.

During private conversations with stakeholders, many expressed beliefs that concerted efforts are required through credible intelligence to address the insecurity in the North-East.

Beyond ‘body languages’ theory and political grandstanding, others were of the opinion that some tougher actions taken by the past administration could be deployed in curtailing the excesses of terrorists. For instance, a journalist observed that even though many doubted the sincerity of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, when he sought and obtained approval for postponement of 2015 general election to enable the military to degrade Boko Haram and ensure maximum security of voters, all known terrorists’ camps were destroyed before the emergence of new government on May 29; Sambisa Forest was stormed by “Special ‘M’ forces” and about 300 kidnapped women and children were freed; 22 terrorist occupied towns in three states were recovered; and Boko Haram could not disrupt the elections.

It is public knowledge that some of the towns recovered from terrorists during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan include Abadam, Askira, Baga, Bama, Biu, Damboa, Gwoza, Hong, Konduga, Kukawa, Marte, Madagali, Michika, Monguno, Mubi, and others. In fact an official statement by the Defence Headquarters on March 16, 2015, with reference no: DHQ/ABJ/901/32/DDI announced the routing of terrorists from Bama after massive casualty was inflicted on the terrorists before the remnant fled. The statement further stated that the Chadian partners in the MNJTF were mandated to pursue the terrorists who were heading for the borders after being dislodged from Bama. Gujba, Gulani, Goniri, Buni Yadi were all retaken by Nigerian troops within the month, the statement concluded. It seems Nigerians have forgotten all these.

By Yushau A. Shuaib


BOKO HARAM...HOW MUCH OF WHAT DHQ SAYS IS TRUE?...READ A RECENT ACCOUNT BY A DESERTER!B-O-K-O H-A-R-A-M: Battle-field account of a military deserter

While the battle to route Boko Haram insurgents within six weeks as promised by the Federal government rages, an army officer, nursing the wounds and deep feelings over the whole incident, spoke exhaustively to Saturday Vanguard about his battle field experiences at Gombe and Yobe axis and why he deserted the profession he loves so much. His narration which runs like a ‘war memoir’ is as interesting although the military has recorded reasonable success with more equipment with which they have attacked terror camps and killed a great number of them. However we present to you an interesting account of an officer who deserted the army from the battle front



‘’I have served Nigerian Army for about twenty years. I enrolled through the regular course.

I have served in almost all formations in the country. I am from the middle Belt part of the country, married with two children, a boy and girl. I have also served in foreign missions in Sierra-leone, Liberia and Dafur and we always came out in flying colours. Sierra-leone and Liberia were for peace enforcement while Dafur was for peace support missions. We fought real battles at Sierra-leone and Liberia for about one year. We were there as a member of ECOWAS and we proved our mettle. It was popularly called ECOMOG. The battles were tense but rewarding in the sense that we were heavily equipped and all we needed for the war were adequately provided for us. During the battles we recorded very minimal casualty though. You know that it is difficult not to record casualties in war situations.
A picture taken on February 17, 2015 shows Cameroonian soldiers patrolling in the Cameroonian town of Fotokol, on the border with Nigeria, after clashes occurred on February 4 between Cameroonian troops and Nigeria-based Boko Haram insurgents. Nigerian Boko Haram fighters went on the rampage in the Cameroonian border town of Fotokol on February 4, massacring dozens of civilians and torching a mosque before being repelled by regional forces AFP PHOTO

A picture taken on February 17, 2015 shows Cameroonian soldiers patrolling in the Cameroonian town of Fotokol, on the border with Nigeria, after clashes occurred on February 4 between Cameroonian troops and Nigeria-based Boko Haram insurgents. Nigerian Boko Haram fighters went on the rampage in the Cameroonian border town of Fotokol on February 4, massacring dozens of civilians and torching a mosque before being repelled by regional forces AFP PHOTO


‘’In spite of the fact that the war was being fought outside Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria under General Abacha provided us with all we needed and when ever we complained of any inadequacy, the Federal government provided them without delay. That was the spirit and we relished and cherished it. It was such that we were all looking forward to being drafted back to continue with the war. But it is a totally different thing with the against Boko Haram in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.


This is a war in which almost 95% of our soldiers fear to join. Our fears are not that we were not trained enough to face the challenges but simply because we seem not to be prepared, at all, for the war. A lot of sabotage, politics and other extraneous factors are seriously inhibiting the success of the war. Unfortunately, we are loosing a lot in men and material. It is so much that whenever the toll will be taken, the world will weep for this country. Already, thousands of families are in deep grief, having lost their dear ones in the war.

As we speak, I have deserted from the battle field at Bajoga, Yobe State. Let me give you a vivid account of the circumstances that led to my deserting the profession I love so much.


Until the unfortunate and very painful AWOL, I was serving in Bauchi as a Sergeant. While carrying out our normal duties, I was abreast of the ongoing war my colleagues were waging with Boko Haram and I was inwardly praying for an action whenever I would be drafted to the front. Alas, my battalion was informed of a certain foreign mission. I was ecstatic, knowing that we always triumphed during such missions. Unfortunately, when the real action came, I regretted joining the Nigerian army.


After the signal came for the mission, we started training from Ohafia in Abia State. Later on, we heard that the operation had been changed from peace keeping in Liberia to Zaman-Lafia in the North East. We thought it was a joke and when we finished the training at Ohafia, we were sent to Jaji in kaduna State. It was at Jaji we realised that the rumour of going to the North East was true and we all knew that it meant going to fight the insurgents called Boko Haram. We were very sad because most of us were due for compensation and that was why they selected us to go for foreign mission. About 90% of us were victims of previous attacks at Bama and other areas and we lost both our loved ones and properties. So, military authorities selected us for foreign mission as a way of compensating us but unfortunately, we were diverted to go and fight Boko Haram insurgents.


We, however, took it in good faith and after we completed our one month training, they moved us to Gombe. That should be around early January this year. On arrival around 2pm the next day, the Brigade Commander came to address us. To our chagrin, he told us that even members of Boko Haram were aware that we were coming, that they had sent a text message to him that we were coming to attack them with the local hunters and heavy equipment and that they were ready for us.


The following day, he wanted to move us (about 600) to Mallam-Sidi area of the state but we objected because our Commanding Officer had not come and those heavy tanks, like the APC’s and other supporting weapons were not equipped for the battle ahead.
Soldiers tasked with fighting Boko Haram militants arrive to face trials for mutiny in Abuja on October 2, 2014. Nearly 100 soldiers tasked with fighting Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s far northeast appeared at a military court martial on Thursday, facing a range of charges including mutiny. The hearing comes just weeks after a tribunal sentenced 12 soldiers to death following their conviction for shooting at their commanding officer in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, in May. AFP PHOTO

Soldiers tasked with fighting Boko Haram militants arrive to face trials for mutiny in Abuja on October 2, 2014. Nearly 100 soldiers tasked with fighting Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s far northeast appeared at a military court martial on Thursday, facing a range of charges including mutiny. The hearing comes just weeks after a tribunal sentenced 12 soldiers to death following their conviction for shooting at their commanding officer in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, in May. AFP PHOTO

The following day when the Commanding Officer came, he compelled us to move to the place, saying that it would be more conducive and safe for us to stay there than being left at the open and ill-equipped barrack in Gombe. We then moved to Mallam-Sidi where we spent almost two weeks before advancing to the war front. While we were there, they told us they were making provision for all those weapons that were not available. And, actually, while there, they brought three armoured tanks, replaced some of the APC’s that were in bad condition and brought new ones.


On a Sunday, precisely on the 8th of February, around 2am, we advanced towards Bajoga, a town between Yobe and Gombe States. We were there before 6am. Before advancing to the battle field,we were fed with tasteless jollof rice that was as dinner. About 9.30 to 10 am we started advancing to the location where the insurgents were. While we were advancing, the three helicopter gun -ships that we were earlier promised would assist in the operation hovered round and landed. Even the Alpha jet came and all of us were jubilant and battle -ready to win at all costs.


However, five minutes before we met with our target, the helicopter and alpha jet disappeared. Even at the peak of the battle, our commander called them for backup but they did not surface. The battle raged for over four hours, they were surging like locusts towards us with sophisticated weapons including ant-aircraft guns. In conventional wars, such weapons are not used on human beings. They are used to fell air crafts. But, the insurgents use them brazenly to kill our soldiers. It tears human body into shreds on contact.


It is pertinent to let you know how we were equipped for the war. Before the battle, they gave us three armoured tanks, three artillery guns, five APC’s, grenade launchers and AK47 rifles with three magazines per soldier. But on the day we started advancing, only one armoured tank , five APC’s, and artillery guns advanced with us. If we had gone into battle with, at least, the three armoured tanks, nothing would have made us lose the war. As the battle raged, it did not take time for their fire power to surpass ours.


Initially, we had upper hand, but they struck with two golf cars loaded with bombs and dislodged us. It was a suicide mission. The explosion covered the whole area with thick smoke and the insurgents used the opportunity to advance towards us. In the process, we were asked to withdraw because they were coming ferociously. We were killing them but they kept on advancing like bees. Then, it was almost 5pm.


That was how the race for survival by our men started. You know the terrain is a very open and large expanse of land with scanty vegetation. It was just like running in a football field with no place to hide. We ran into a small settlement and they pursued us. They were quite familiar with the terrain but we were

We succeeded in crossing the first stagnant river, before we noticed the presence of our alpha jet which started backing us up. That did not deter the insurgents from pursuing and killing our soldiers one by one.


While we were running for dear lives, some soldiers were falling by the wayside after losing strength to continue with the long race for survival. In fact, because of the fact that we were not equipped with water bottles, our throats were drying up as we continued running. It got to a stage when dehydration set in and if you try to swallow saliva, it will be almost impossible and choking. Our spit was so white, slimy and it splattered on the faces of most of us due to exhaustion.

One of the most pathetic cases was that of a colleague who got exhausted and simply collapsed on the ground. He was even pleading with us to continue without him because he could no longer make it. One of our officers, a Lieutenant pleaded that we should lend a helping hand by jointly helping him to continue with us. His plea touched us and we tried our best to help but we were also too exhausted to help offer help.


Nevertheless, some of us tried to help him but we could not continue when we saw the way the insurgents were running towards us. We dropped him and only God knows what happened later. As we were running, bodies of many of our soldiers, both wounded and killed littered the open field. It was heart-rending seeing a close friend lying helplessly and you could not help because your own life was in grave danger and you were not sure of survival.

When we were about crossing the second shallow river, the villagers we met told us that we were in between Borno and Adamawa States, that from there to Bajoga was 75klm. Surprisingly, the villagers were very friendly and even gave us water. They were about giving us food but advised that we should quickly continue with our journey in order to avoid the insurgents meeting us.

They arranged three vehicles that lifted us for about a kilometre and the driver refused to proceed further claiming that the road was not good. We quickly disembarked and trekked all night till around 5am when we entered a village and met members of the local vigilante who helped us to arrange for two Diana Trucks that carried us to Bajoga junction. From there, we entered another vehicle to Mallam-Sidi and that was where we met some of our soldiers with serious bullet wounds.

The wounded among us pleaded with the second in command to take them to the hospital in Gombe but he objected saying that order has been given to move everybody to Ashaka where we use as harbour. After some deliberations and objections, we had no option than to obey him. When we got to Ashaka, to our chagrin, instead of taking urgent care of the wounded, feeding us and even given us a day rest after our narrow escape, the Commander ordered that we should turn back and advance, back to the battle field. That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. At that stage, many of us decided inwardly to dessert the army and that was exactly what we did.

I handed my gun to one of my colleagues to return to armoury after I left through the nearest way in the midnight. I trekked for two hours to the main road before I boarded a bike that unfortunately missed the road and we saw ourselves back at Ashaka.

I then disappeared amongst the crowd at one of the checkpoints and went to the motor park where I boarded a vehicle towards Abuja. It took time for me to take that decision because this is a profession I love so much and I have put in about 20 years. Agreed that from day one, we signed to fight and die for our dear country, but of what use will it be when it was obvious to me that things could be done differently and we would have results. For instance, we were supposed to be paid N5000 daily but what our Commanders paid was N1000.

If you sustain injury in the battle field, you spend your money treating yourself. The worst is that we were not adequately equipped for the war. We only got to battle field with our rifles, no kits, no vision goggles etc and this is an oil rich country where politicians are embezzle trillions yet, this battle that calls for the best in both incentives, morale and equipment is being fought this way at the grave expense of our dear lives. Our military is strong and can do better if well funded and equipped. As I speak, many soldiers have deserted the army.

Their families are starving in the barracks. The most painful aspect of the whole thing is that after the battle, no efforts were made to ascertain or give account of our dead and wounded soldiers. The dead ones are left in the battle fields while most of the wounded die face agonising death. What the authorities do is to close account of soldiers not seen after some time days.

In the past few days, however, it has been reported that the military has received more equipment and their forces have made reasonable inroads into terrorists camps and they have recorded reasonable success although the battle is far from being won.

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Borno state governor kashim shettima

One hundred and seventy-six teachers have been killed and 900 schools destroyed in Nigeria’s Borno state since Boko Haram militants intensified their violent attacks in 2011, officials said Thursday.

The governor of the northeastern state Kashim Shettima revealed the horrifying statistics in a statement to a committee attempting to make the country’s schools safer.

The Safe Schools Initiative has been backed by former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who is the representative of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Brown pledged $10 million (7.4 million euros) to the scheme during last May’s World Economic Forum, while Nigeria’s private sector is expected to put in 1.6 billion naira ($9.8 million, 7.3 million euros).

Although the scheme covers the whole of Africa’s most populous nation, it is scheduled to start off in Borno and neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa, the three states under emergency rule since May last year, and the hardest hit by Boko Haram’s five-year-old insurgency.

Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from their school in Chibok in Borno on April 14. Fifty-seven of the girls have escaped while the remaining 219 are thought to be still held hostage.

The group has attacked many schools and killed hundreds of students in the northeast of the country since it began its violence.

Shettima briefed the committee on the current state of education following the insurgency, while security and counter-terrorism experts from donor agencies formally presented a road-map for school safety, the statement said.