The military yesterday commenced a massive “special operation” in Borno State to flush out the terrorist Boko Haram sect from major towns like Bama, Damboa, Gamboru Ngala and Gwoza.
In a related development, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in a statement yesterday vowed to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country in the light of the current challenges in the counter-terrorism efforts in the North east.
Also yesterday, the Department of State Security announced that it had begun probing former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu sheriff, over his alleged sponsorship of the Boko Haram. The Australian who named Sheriff has equally challenged him to go to court.
Sources told THISDAY last night that fighter jets of the Nigeria Air Force were in the thick of the special operation in Borno as they went on numerous bombing raids while ground troops moved in and mopped up.
The source said further that the barracks of the 202 Tank Battalion in Bama and much of town are now firmly in control of the military.
The vow by the military to defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity is coming after reported rapid gains of territories by the Boko Haram sect in Borno State, which has elicited a sense of apprehension among citizens and even foreign allies.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade in the statement yesterday reassured Nigerians and international community that the military will not shirk its constitutional responsibility of defending the country and protecting constituted authority.
Olukolade reiterated DHQ's pledge and commitment it made while briefing the Joint Committee on Defence of the National Assembly to the effect that everything will be done to reverse the situation and defeat the rampaging terrorists.
"While welcoming all the concerns shown by Nigerians and a section of the international community following the increased menace and activities of terrorists, it is necessary to reassure all that the Nigerian Armed Forces is more than ever determined and committed to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria, regardless of any odd", he said.
According to the DDI, it is not only the pride and reputation of the military that is at stake but that of the entire nation.
"We therefore urge our citizens not to lose hope or be disenchanted but to remain steadfast and supportive of the military as all steps are being taken to ensure the success of the counter-insurgency operations, especially at this crucial time when our sovereignty is being challenged.
“It is important to reiterate that the Nigerian military is fully conscious of its obligations to the Nigerian state and remains willing and ready to perform its duties with utmost diligence. What the military requires at this critical period in the nation’s history is not pillories but continued support from all stakeholders and comity of nations,” he said.
The Defence Spokesman said that this was not the time to despair or shift blames, rather, "it calls for concerted effort by all and sundry to stop the agents of darkness who seek to destroy our country and civilization.
"On its part, the Nigerian military as a fighting force, assures Nigerians once again that this battle will be won", he assured.
SSS Probe Sheriff…
The Deputy Director of Public Relations, DSS Marilyn Ogar announced that the agency had started probing Sheriff while parading the co-mastermind of the Nyanya blast, Sadiq Ogwuche along with other suspects, Ahmed Abubakar, Muhammad Ishaq, Yau Saidu, Anas Isah and Adamu Yusuf.
She said investigation was on-going into various aspects of the allegations by the Australian negotiator, Stephen Davis, who named the former governor as one of the financial backers of the sect.
However, Ogar dismissed allegations by Davis that former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika was one of the sponsors of the sect.
Ogar said: "Sheriff has been invited twice and he has been invited again over his alleged sponsorship of Boko Haram. Investigation is ongoing to reveal every aspect of Davis’ allegations."
The DSS spokesperson said contrary to claims by Davis that a Central Bank of Nigeria official, who allegedly handled the funding of Boko Haram “is an uncle of three of those arrested in connection with the Nyanya bombings. None of the six suspects in the agency's custody was related to another by blood.
"In other words, none is a cousin or nephew to any other and only two suspects namely Yau Saidu and Anas Isah have ever lived together at the makeshift clinic called 'Kishi Clinic' operated by Rufai Tsiga, a co-mastermind of the bomb blast who is still at large", she said.
According to her, further interrogations conducted by the Service indicated that none lived with or has any relationship with any staff of CBN, noting that the clarification was necessary to correct the erroneous impression in the media.
Ogar denied that the DSS was the source of the information credited to Davis, who she described as a self-styled and self-appointed negotiator.
Ogwuche, who was repatriated to Nigeria from Sudan, denied being a member of Boko Haram in interview with journalists, stressing that he had no hand in the Nyanya bombings as he was in Sudan at the time of the incident.
The suspect however admitted to have donated N30,000 to widows of Boko Haram members through Tsiga, who had been declared wanted for his roles in the Nyanya blast.
Asked why he deserted the Army, he stated that he did in order to go and study Arabic in Sudan even as he admitted receiving lectures and taking demonstrations with a Jihadi group in Britain before he came back to Nigeria.
Shettima calls on FG to redouble its effort…
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State yesterday appealed to the federal government to redouble its present efforts toward ending the security threat of the Boko Haram.
The governor, addressing the people of the state in a broadcast, said there was need to acknowledged the gallantry of the nation's military and security personnel and asked all and sundry to contribute their quota “which will ensure that the common enemies of all Nigerians, Boko Haram is defeated.”
He continued: "Our armed forces that have outstandingly proven their capability in such difficult times can by the grace Allah defeat the Boko Haram insurgency with overwhelming federal reinforcement in all areas of their needs.
"We strongly appeal to the federal government to redouble its present efforts so that the nation will be a historic witness to speedy containment of the Boko Haram insurgency. The Borno State Government will continue to do whatever it can to compliment the constitutional roles of the federal government in this battle of ours," Shettima reassured.
Davis asks Modu Sheriff to sue him…
Meanwhile, Australian negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis yesterday dared Sheriff, to sue him over allegations that he is a sponsor of Boko Haram. Speaking to TheCable yesterday, Davis said he stands by his allegations.
“He is worried, is he? He knows that if he goes to court, the evidence will be produced and he cannot escape justice. Let him go to court if that is what he wishes. It is his right to do so. He will not be able to avoid close examination and then the facts will be known. Good luck to him if he decides to sue me in Australia. He can’t buy the judges here. Truth is not for sale. Australia has zero toleration for those who might sponsor terrorism,” he said.