President Goodluck Jonathan and former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, have ordered the Nigerian Armed Forces, especially the military, to crush Boko Haram members and maintain security in the country.
The new order was given on Tuesday at the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference 2014 in Ibom Le Meridien Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, ThisDay reports.
Nigerian Army personnel in Chibok, Borno State
The President, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Lt-Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd) ordered the Nigerian Armed Forces to take immediate and necessary action to redeem its floundering image by wiping out the sect, adding that Nigerians depend on the armed forces for the security, peace and stability of the country.
“At this juncture, let me reiterate that the nation continues to look up to the military particularly the Nigerian Army, at this challenging moment in our history,” he said.
Jonathan, however, applauded the gallantry of the military in the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east and assured Nigerians that the state of insecurity would soon become a thing of the past.
“As you deliberate on contemporary security challenges facing our nation and re–strategise to meet them, I am convinced that you will apply the traditional vigour and dedication, for which the Army is noted, to bear on achieving the objectives of this conference. Therefore, I am confident that the nation will sooner than later overcome the current challenges and usher in a new era of peace, unity, progress and development. As we pray for the repose of the departed souls, we must remain resolute to address those issues that will make every part of our dear country a safe and secure place to honour their memories and enhance our national development,” Jonathan said.
Speaking also at the occasion, Gowon ordered the military to urgently retrieve every inch of the Nigerian territory occupied by the Boko Haram sect members.
The former military head of state that was also represented by the former Military Governor of Lagos State, Brig-Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), condemned the situation where soldiers reportedly abandon their weapons to the terrorists and flee the battlefield to neighbouring countries for safety.
“To be honest with you, I have heard of stories about our soldiers running away in the face of fire and abandoning their weapons, soldiers throwing away their uniforms and equipment running away to neighbouring countries and even handing over their weapon to these countries. Could this be true? I have known our soldiers to be braver, gallant and more professional than that,” Gowon said.
Gowon hinted that during the critical period in the civil war, he had limited ammunition of only 500,000 rounds to fight the war but was later helped by private citizens to acquire 15 million rounds of ammunition within a short period of asking, and tasked the military to make best use of the $1 billion loan to procure the equipment required to fight the war.
He further disclosed that most Nigerians in both ‘high and low places’ were not happy with the fact the military that is supposed to protect the territorial integrity as well as the people from internal and external threat seems to be losing ground to the terrorists.
Gowon said the pictures of Boko Haram he had seen, apart from being mounted on Toyota vehicles, show that they look rag tag and are certainly not a threat to a well trained and better soldiers like the Nigerian Army.
The ex-military President told COAS, Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, and commanders in the Nigerian Army to quickly correct the negative perception about the soldiers who have in the past had records of professionalism and competence.
“Are we short of equipment? We can buy directly from friendly and obliging governments as I did during the civil war. Yes, we can also buy from other sources (which is called or referred to as black market), but, do it properly. I have not lost confidence in our armed forces. I want you to retrieve your honour by reversing some of these lapses into successes, losses into victories; negative opinions into positive opinions. I charge you to go all out to flush those insurgents (Boko Haram) out of our territories all the way right back to where they came from. That is the task that the Armed Forces, especially the army must do, must accomplish without delay. I trust you will win,” he said.
Responding, Minimah assured the country of the Army’s cardinal duty to defend Nigeria from external aggression, maintain its territorial integrity, suppress insurrection and provide aid to civil authorities.
The COAS explained that the conference offers them opportunity to deliberate and re–strategise for better outcomes in future operations.
“The upsurge of terrorism and violent extremism in the North-east of our country has remained the most significant threat facing our dear country today,” Minimah said.
Meanwhile, this new order is coming against the backdrop of the reports that soldiers and youth vigilante killed scores of Boko Haram insurgents in Konduga, Borno State, when the militants attempted to advance to Maiduguri.