AT THE FRONTLINE OF NIGERIA’S EXTREMIST FIGHT, FOES DISAPPEAR WHILE REGION’S CHALLENGES REMAIN

Colonel(rtd)Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser

Colonel(rtd)Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser

WASHINGTON POST
MARTE, Nigeria
5 June,2013

Islamist extremists raised their black flag over this village in the remote plains of northeast Nigeria, setting fire to a church,shutting down the schools and bombing the police station in a violent overthrow of government control.

Just as quickly as they rose out of the desert scrub several months ago,however, they recently disappeared as
Nigeria’s military regained control of
this area as part of a new offensive. As
attack helicopters hovered overhead and tanks hid among the scrawny trees,
military commanders told journalists
touring the region Wednesday that they
had struck a decisive blow against
radicals who want to impose strict
Islamic law over this multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

Yet behind the smiles and speeches,
commanders acknowledged fighters
with the extremist network Boko Haram likely escaped their dragnet, burning equipment they couldn’t carry while still maintaining an arsenal of heavy weaponry. That means Nigeria’s quick military successes may carry the price of years of troop commitments in this region of crumbling roads and derelict power lines to hold territory against a now-unseen adversary. “One year, two years, three years — that’s what we signed up for,” Lt. Col. Olufemi Olorunyomi said.

The new military offensive comes after
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a
state of emergency May 14 in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states — a territory of some 155,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) of the Sahel bordering Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In a nationally televised speech, Jonathan acknowledged that the nation had lost control of some villages and towns to extremist fighters already responsible for more than 1,600 killings since 2010 alone, according to an Associated Press count.

Military reinforcements arrived to a
northeast already heavily occupied with
soldiers, but now with the authority to
arrest anyone at will and occupy any
building believed to harbor extremists.
For weeks, the military issued statements outlining quick advances
and mass arrests, while never offering
clear explanations of its own losses. On
Wednesday, the military flew foreign
and local journalists from Nigeria’s
capital, Abuja, to Maiduguri in Borno state as part of a tour of one
battleground area. The tour clearly offered the message Nigeria’s military wants publicized: Soldiers routed the extremists.

The chief of defense staff “was interested in the whole world knowing
what was going on, and we have
nothing to hide,” said Gen.Jah Ewansiha, the commanding officer of the joint police and military task force in the northeast.

However, commanders ordered journalists not to “clandestinely
interview” any soldiers and tried to
limit questions to officers who spoke
along the way. Officers displayed out of a cache of weapons they said they seized from Boko Haram fighters, ranging from locally made pistols that fire a single shotgun shell to truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns firing 12.7 mm rounds. Long belts of heavy ammunition mixed with rounds for Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Much of the weaponry appears to be from old Eastern Europe arsenals, Col. Kayode Ogundele said, likely smuggled into the country as part of West Africa’s thriving illegal arms trade. The colonel acknowledged that extremists likely still have anti-aircraft guns and other sophisticated weaponry that poses a serious threat to Nigeria’s military. “I have a strong belief they still have some of them, and we are on it,” Ogundele said.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state
and the spiritual home of Boko Haram,
had long lines Wednesday at ATMs, and
some stores were open. Mobile phone
service remains turned off in the region, as security officials have told the AP that the government shut down the networks in hopes of disrupting extremists. A military convoy carrying journalists sped past lines of waiting cars at numerous checkpoints, led and followed by armored personnel carriers with gunners who constantly swiveled
their machine guns. The caravan headed northeast some 95 kilometers (60 miles) toward Marte, and signs of the challenges facing northeast slowly came into view.

The desert swallowed portions of the poorly maintained asphalt road. The convoy drove instead on hard-pan ground that had cracked under the blistering sun.Power lines from Nigeria’s decrepit state-run electricity company lay in the sand. The northeast remains one of the poorest places in the nation, where 75 percent of people live in absolute poverty on less than $1 a day, according to Nigerian government statistics.

That poverty, coupled with growing anger over public corruption and few
opportunities for the region’s youth,
helps fuel the insurgency. That allowed
Boko Haram extremists to take over
Marte several months ago as they
preached about religious purity and called the government sacrilegious,
Olorunyomi said.

Shortly after the president’s
announcement in May, soldiers moved
into the area and took control. They
discovered an extremist camp close to a
nearby village called Kerinowa. What
happened next remains unclear, as officials contradicted each other on
whether they attacked the camp and
destroyed the extremists’ vehicles or
whether the fighters torched what they
couldn’t carry and escaped. The camp, hidden in brush, was deserted Wednesday, the ground scattered with medical supplies and discarded clothes. Authorities said extremists had begun coating their vehicles with mud and hiding them under trees to avoid being spotted from the air.

Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the military’s top spokesman, has said the military carried out some aerial bombings against fighters. At Kerinowa, several hundred people gathered to greet the military convoy and journalists. A teacher there said no one supported the extremists and that the Nigerian military had rescued them. But while everyone smiled and clapped for the commanders, the teacher said he was afraid to give his name out of fear of extremists retaliating against him — suggesting some had slipped back into the community unnoticed.

What happens next in the campaign
remains unclear, though deployments
across the nation and abroad have put
increasing strain on Nigeria’s estimated
76,000-member armed forces.Commanders said they wanted to invest in local communities while also
protecting them, suggesting a long
deployment.

Meanwhile, extremists who slip away could just as easily return. As the meeting in Kerinowa ended,those gathered prayed in unison to Allah for peace in the region. Only a few steps away, a soldier carrying an assault rifle watched, his helmet bearing the graffiti: “The joy of the Lord is my shield.”

About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies
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8 Responses to AT THE FRONTLINE OF NIGERIA’S EXTREMIST FIGHT, FOES DISAPPEAR WHILE REGION’S CHALLENGES REMAIN

  1. beegeagle says:

    Fair enough – coming from an ultracynical Mr Gambrell.

    He admits what we all knew – irrespective of what Shekau decides to say when he does the babble – namely, that the troops have retaken control of all ‘threatened communities’ and that they have uprooted the militants therefrom.

    On the flip side, it is CATEGORICALLY wrong to estimate that the size of the Armed Forces is 76,000 personnel. It takes no soothsayer to see that the wildly inaccurate bit of information which has been in circulation for over a decade and a half was culled from the CIA Factbook so called.

    The Nigerian Army number roughly 100,000 men while the Navy and Air Force each have 15,000+ personnel

    Read

    ARMY SEEK TO RAISE PERSONNEL STRENGTH FROM 100,000 TO 150,000 MEN

    https://beegeagle.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/chief-of-army-staff-calls-for-manpower-strength-to-be-increased-from-100000-to-150-000-soldiers-more-battalions-to-be-established-in-yobe-state-kafanchan-and-in-n-e-towns-of-azare-mubi-mountain/

    NAVY HAS 15,000 PERSONNEL

    https://beegeagle.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/nigerian-navy-has-15000-officers-and-men-foc-western-naval-command/

    So the Army alone number well in excess of 76,000 men which you quoted, never mind when the NN and NAF numbers are taken into consideration. There are 370,000 policemen.

    Let us keep it real, buddy. When you arrive in a country engage with the people. Do not just appear with the CIA Factbook memorised and acting like they are indubitable truths or railroads which must not be deviated from

    That said, thank you for having the courage to write what you saw. That is a bold step from sitting in Lagos and talking glibly about Bama barracks being “overrun” by some insurgent force. “OVERRUN?”. I am not sure you know the Nigerian Army well enough but have come a long away from that gaffe regardless.

    Finally, a General is unlikely to be a “Commanding Officer”..same way a Colonel is unlikely to be an “Officer Commanding”. General Ewansiha is a Commander who can only become a General Officer Commanding in any other command position but he is surely beyond being a “Commanding Officer”

    And NO, his name is not “Jah”. Na God?🙂. His initials are “J.A.H”

    So Gambrell, this has been a rare good outing. Make your best, even better. Goodluck. Regardless of your libertarian inclinations, you are first and foremost a journalist…not a social crusader or a political activist. Always narrate both sides of the story lest you end up sounding like a hired propagandist for mindless terrorists.

  2. makanaky says:

    Oga Beegeagle the report is still sensational, poverty bla bla bla as been the main reason for the insurgency.
    Failing to acknowledge the blitz the NA took over territories occupied by those miscreants.

    Anyway, I am also waiting for Shekau to take journalist around terroritories he occupies where NA fled and left their weapons.

  3. beegeagle says:

    Yeah, I know. Coming from Gambrell however, I cannot explain how much he has reinvented his style to come away with this passable piece. Those who know him well are probably rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

    As for Shekau, he is fated to die in battle. Useless citizen. Come the day.

  4. jimmy says:

    This is to Mr Gambrell
    1)This is what they teach @ FRESHMAN CLASS in any public university get the name and the rank of the the most senior officer RIGHT he is a MAJOR GENERAL . In America if you were reporting you would get the name and rank of the most senior officer in charge of AFGHANISTAN RIGHT also it is on their breast/ chest pocket.
    2) Instead of ” cutting and pasting” like I have rightly said about Western JOURNALISTS DO THE RESEARCH and see whether Nigerian MILITARY PERSONNEL @ 5+ DIVISIONS AND COUNTING has 76,000 personnel. Laziness and the stereotypical American/Western journalists who arrives in Africa and sits all day at the bar drinking and hunting for prostitutes at night should be gone by now. Yes it is getting personal because at least working for the Washington post which back in AMERICA has much higher standards it shows that you do not pertain/ aspire to those standards this is just one well paid expensive junket for you or is it the “dregs” of the newspaper that they send to Africa the ones who can’t”cut it stateside”.
    3) If you cannot even summon yourself to get out of your slumber and do what you are paid , comeback to the states and file your reports from the states and just use the misnomer that ” filed from Abuja ” right now there is no difference.
    4) A journalist has a responsibility to look for and write the facts, imagine how ridiculous a Nigerian journalist from the Guardian coming to AMERICA and not even knowing the rank of Gen ALLEN just calling him the “commanding officer in the marines” who was initially slated to be the next JCS before the “commanding officer in AFGHANISTAN” GEN. Petraues scandal broke or quoting American LAND FORCES at about ” 1 million”
    5) Do your work , you are getting paid for it.

  5. asorockweb says:

    CIA Factbook? more like the CIA “book of estimates”.
    John Gambrell’s use of the 76,000 figure for the size of the Nigerian Armed Forces is either arrogance or laziness. Yet, some will consider him an “expert” in Nigerian affairs.
    Not surprised. Mediocrity is the norm as far as information on African affairs is concerned.

  6. Tope says:

    Its very easy for a Western Journalist to tout bullshit to us because they come from an Established Journalist Firm, that is the same way AlJazeera tried to sell us some cock and bull story and think we are stupid to gobble it up indeed it was fake if it had been true we would see Sahara Reporters and BBC as well as Human Rights Watch on it but alas it failed them, all it was was a Strong Arm Tactic and it worked in some ways as the FG has allowed foreign press something not all of us really want. But i think the FG should during Armed Forces day state the Total Number of Troops in its coffers or will Gambrell say they dont retire and recruit people in Nigeria’s Security Agencies?.

    Doesnt he read this blog? Its so funny to see how journalism has been skewered in this 21st century, journalist no longer stick to logical observations they begin writing their bias contributions something they shouldnt do.

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