By Precious Igbonwelundu
No fewer than 5,475 suspected Boko Haram members have been killed while tens of thousands have been killed by troops, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt.-Gen Tukur Buratai has said.
Gen. Burutai spoke at the 16th annual conference and Awards of the Security Watch Africa Initiatives held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The COAS who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans (CPLANS) Lt.-Gen. Lamidi Adeosun said 32 bomb-making factories have been destroyed by troops.
According to him, the strength of the terrorists had been significantly reduced from an estimated 35,000 to less than 5,000, adding that the war was clearly being won by the army.
Delivering a keynote address titled “Role of the Nigerian Army in combating internal insecurity and external aggression in Nigeria: Global lessons and way forward,” Gen. Buratai said: “Tens of thousands of the terrorists were killed, 5,475 of them were arrested and 32 bomb-making facilities/ factories have been destroyed. In addition, the number of Boko Haram fighters has been reduced significantly to less than 5,000 from the initial estimate of over 35,000 persons.
“It is equally acknowledged that the Army has lost officers and soldiers in the course of containing this internal security threat to the state. Clearly, through the efforts of the Nigerian Army, we are winning the war against Boko Haram.”
Buratai said statistics from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) indicated that Boko Haram have killed between 30,000 to 100,000 people, displaced over two million persons being accommodated in about 35 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and generated a refugee population of about 200,000 persons.
Acknowledging that combating the insurgents would require both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches, Gen. Buratai said Nigerians must realise the long-drawn nature of the battle and the need for persistence.
He added: “There must be a determined political will by the ruling elite to fight terrorism and insurgency, which is to be based on ‘all government approach’, involving the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. This was demonstrated by the USA in her over a decade’s pursuit and eventual hunting down of Osama bin laden. It took determination and a clear focus on the goal.
“In Africa, we recall that Algeria and Kenya have been dealing with the menace of terrorists for quite some time. While the Algerians are just getting off the throes of terrorism, Kenyans are still contending with the deleterious threats of Al Shabaab. Nigerians must realise that the country is not alone in the fight against global terrorism. In contending with this challenge, she should seek international partners and cooperation with neighbouring states and those experienced in combating terrorism and insurgency. “The multinational approach is also necessary in the country’s bid to acquire arms and ammunitions from any part of the World. Efforts must be made to synergise with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs) of the required military hardware, to smoothen relationship and invariably establish a win-win situation.
“Furthermore, we must recognise that there is now a very wide area of convergence between internal security and external aggression. Modern warfare engagements are not conventional in nature. The parties are also not necessarily state actors. A lot of dynamism accompany these conflicts requiring flexibility and adaptability, by conventional troops involved.
“The asymmetric nature of these engagements by non-state actors makes efforts at combating their menace very complex. In spite of these complexities, these terrorists and criminal elements have to be curtailed and their activities eliminated, by a wide range of activities with the citizenry or innocent civilians the focus of all considerations or simply people-centric operations.”
“We must intensify inter-state and international cooperation in the fight against terrorism particularly in the Sahel Region of Africa. Apart from intelligence sharing on the movements and activities of insurgents and terrorists, there has to be an increase in the number of troops for joint deployments by the countries of the sub-region.
“Thus, there is an urgent need to increase the use of hi-tech in combating the challenges of insecurity. While appreciable effort is being made in this direction by Nigeria, her neighbours and international partners, more could still be done to achieve greater success.
“There is no gain saying that kinectic approach is quite necessary to bring the insurgents to their knees, however other non-kinetic options need to be explored by the civil authorities. I am therefore convinced that to effectively checkmate security challenges of the country, the strategies of carrot and stick need to be adopted to elicit total and long-lasting victory.”