November 12, 2011
After the Federal Government said it had security measures to counter the Boko Haram insurgency in Yobe State, facts have emerged that it had ordered the establishment of military joint task force in each of the six states in the North-East and other adjoining states. The National Security Adviser, Gen Owoeye Azazi (rtd.) had on Monday talked tough, while reacting to a US advisory to its nationals to avoid three hotels in Abuja, following alleged Boko Haram threat.
Azazi had said, “Security agencies have emplaced (put in place) adequate countermeasures to secure lives and property.”
States in the North-East zone considered to be haven for the Islamic fundamentalist sect are Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Adamawa.Under the new counter-offensive compass also are Kaduna and Niger states, where bombings attributed to the sect occurred some months ago.
It was learnt that JTF presence in these states was at the behest of President Goodluck Jonathan, after he presided over a top security meeting, in the wake of the Yobe mayhem. Casualties from the Yobe attacks on the eve of the last Sallah were considered the highest so far since the Boko Haram challenge took the country by storm early this year.
The NSA had said, “The US statement is eliciting unhealthy public anxiety and generating avoidable tension. “The government wants to advise members of the public that it will continue to ensure security of lives and property under its jurisdiction. The current threat of attack on the three hotels in Abuja is not news, and for over three months the security services have taken pro-active measures. Members of the public are urged to go about their business without fear.”
A source, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Thursday in Abuja on the condition of anonymity, said that the military high command had decided to establish an operational base of the task force in each of the affected states.
The source said the decision followed Boko Haram’s relocation from their original base in Maiduguri to Damaturu because of the sustained action of the JTF against them, and the need to prevent further attacks in these states prone to their insurgency. The source explained that the new operational bases of the JTF in each of the states would be under the command of a senior military officer, who would be reporting to the Commander of the JTF in the North-East with its headquarters in Maiduguri.
According to him, military authorities will not shift the base of the JTF in Maiduguri because of the likelihood that the sect members might return there if they feel that their activities have been effectively checked. It was gathered that troops that returned to the country from peacekeeping operations in Kaduna last year and their counterparts in the 1st Division of the Nigerian Army, also in Kaduna, have been put on standby for deployment to the new units.
Apart from men of the 1 Division of the Nigerian Army in Kaduna, the military authorities are also deploying some soldiers under the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Mission in Dafur, Sudan.
It was learnt that the returning soldiers would not be allowed to go to their ‘parent military formations’ on arrival in the country.
The source said that the military were expecting over 2,400 soldiers from the three NIBATTs (Nigerian Army Battalion) on foreign mission in the Sudan. The soldiers will arrive in the country in three batches with effect from November 17, 2011.
The source said, “Soldiers have already been deployed in Yobe. I think those that were affected are already in Damaturu. “It is not just deployment of troops that they are doing. I think they are going to form a JTF base in Damaturu that will be permanent there because of actions of the Boko Haram.
“The military are also deploying troops in all the states of the North-East: Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa, where the Boko Haram sect may have a serious presence. “Some of the soldiers of 1 Division in Kaduna are on standby to be deployed in those states.
“Also, some of the soldiers in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur will be deployed in the affected areas as soon as they arrive in the country.
“I know that they are over 2,000 eventhough I can’t give the exact figure. There are three NIBATTs in Darfur and each NIBATT has over 800 soldiers.”
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Information, Nigerian Army, Maj-Gen. Raphael Isah, he said the new operational move was the prerogative of the Commander of the JTF in the North-East.
He confirmed that the Commander might have been given reinforcements to cover areas that were earlier regarded as peaceful.
He, however, dismissed the insinuation in some quarters that each of the states in the North-East would have a JTF base independent of the JTF in Maiduguri.
He said that before the Damaturu attacks, other states in the North-East did not have a permanent presence of soldiers as they were only being patrolled by men of the JTF being commanded from Maiduguri.
The army spokesman said that the present arrangement was different as soldiers under the reinforced JTF would have their operational bases in the states.
Isah said, “That kind of operational move is only the prerogative of the task force commander. The areas you are talking about; those states in the North-East were identified as cool areas before. “It is a tactical operation; they are part of the area of responsibility of the men in Maiduguri. Only patrols were covering them. There is a need now to have the JTF’s presence in those areas. One of our characteristics is flexibility.
“It is flexibility of actions in any military operation. I think the commander of the JTF is being reinforced to cover more grounds.”
Besides increased JTF operations in the states where Boko Haram had posed serious security challenges to the country, it was confirmed by the State Security Services that all the services had received a presidential order to recruit more personnel.
This was disclosed by an SSS Director in charge of Media and publicity Marilyn Ogar, on Channels Television Programme.
Refering to the President, she said,“He has gone ahead to say Armed Forces, recruit more personnel, police recruit more personnel.”
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