Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, fled his Sambisa Forest sanctuary shortly before the military stormed and captured the area, Daily Trust has learnt.
Shekau and his fighters have now relocated into remote villages in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, villagers and local hunters told the Daily Trust yesterday.
They said hundreds of the insurgents as well as unspecified number of captives, including some of the remaining Chibok girls abducted in April 2014 as well as police women taken away last year, had occupied new abodes at Gambale axis in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State.
They said Shekau shuttles between Dumur and Duhuwa villages while his fighters and many hostages live in Falturam, Darfada, Uye, Barkin, Lukshe, Luksheab-amarwa, Mulgwailawanti and Gwarimari.
Sources said residents in those villages are terrified that they will fall victims to the terrorists’ raid for food and recruits.
Jumne Mamman, a local farmer from Falturam who fled to Maiduguri, yesterday, said Shekau and his men had established presence in many hamlets and villages around Konduga and other locations in Bama and Gwoza local governments since he fled from Sambisa forest where the Nigerian Air Force and ground troops had intensified operations in the last few weeks.
Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole said on Saturday that the Nigerian Army had completely defeated the Boko Haram insurgents.
“My soldiers are in the heart of Boko Haram enclave that is ‘Camp Zairo”, the gallant troops have taken total control of Sambisa Forest.
“We have broken the heart and soul of Shekau’s group, taking over the camp and its environs,” he said.
Our correspondent reports that similar feat was achieved by the army in December 2016 when it announced the capture of Camp Zairo and later took to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa, a copy of the Holy Qur’an and Boko Haram flag purportedly belonging to Shekau.
In March 2017, the military authorities opened the Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship (NASAC) at Camp Zairo which was renamed after Lt. Col. Abu Ali who was killed on Nov 2. 2016.
Sources said after the success last year, the Nigerian security operatives vacated the Sambisa area at the onset of raining season, a development that encouraged Shekau to move back until the recent onslaught.
In the latest offensive with the massive deployment of ground troops aided by aerial reconnaissance in Sambisa, villagers, hunters and community leaders said the new communities taken over by Shekau were as good as the Sambisa because there is water and other basic needs for the survival of the terrorists.
“The area where the insurgents thrive now has plenty of streams and rivers that feed the Gombole dam,” another villager who does not want to be named, said.
Another source said the new locations could also serve as obstacles to movement of troops and equipment. “The new areas would definitely provide the terrorists military advantage; in fact the places are just like harbours and something must be done in the next couple of months to dislodge them before the raining season sets in to avert going back to square one,” he said.
It was also gathered that the Abu-Musab Albarnawi faction of the Boko Haram dislodged from locations in the Lake Chad region, have found new places along the River Yobe around Yunusari Local Government Area that shares borders with Niger Republic and northern fringes of Borno State.
“There is thick forest around the River Yobe and the terrorists have established new homes in villages like Bulabulin, Alagarno, Mattari and Kayaderi,” a source said.
Shettima applauds FGs fight against insurgency
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima has lauded efforts of the federal government in its fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.
The governor stated this on Monday while addressing the 9th edition of the town hall meeting in Maiduguri.
Shettima praised the efforts of the theatre commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj Gen. Rogers Nicholas and the field commander, multi national joint task force (MNJTF) Maj Gen. Lucky Irabor in degrading the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast.
He said the troops had successfully combed every corner of Sambisa forest.
He noted that under the theatre commanders, the military had made massive achievements in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency.
He urged the Federal Government to provide more support to the military ahead of the rainy season, saying if the rainy season sets in, the Sambisa Forest can become marshy and thick for the insurgents to find a way to regroup.
“To most of us in the northeast, terrorism is not a subject of philosophical history but a reality of everyday life, so if there are any set of people who are the beneficiaries of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration strides in the fight against insecurity, is we in the northeast” the governor said.
Shettima noted that four years ago, nobody could venture out of Maiduguri beyond 10 kilometres before “you are in Boko Haram territory. The only road to Maiduguri was the Maiduguri-Kano road which was also subjected to sporadic attacks by the insurgents.
“Basically, what the Armed Forces have achieved in the past three to six weeks was not achieved in three years. The theatre commander recording these successes is an Igbo man from Imo State, Gen Nicholas Rogers.
“We will urge the federal government to render more support to the Armed Forces because if the rainy season sets in the Sambisa Forest becomes a fortress for Boko Haram and they might use the opportunity to regroup. It is pertinent for us to maintain this tempo.”
The minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan Ali, told the gathering that there has been reduction in activities of insecurity in the country adding that security agencies are now ever ready to curb insecurity in the country.
He also lauded the efforts of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) for their aerial bombardment of the strong holds of the insurgents.
On the welfare of troops, he said the current administration has always paid there allowance and salaries, which serves as motivation, and troops who overstayed in the epicentre of war are redeployed.
In his address, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said “Today, Boko Haram is no longer capable of carrying out coordinated attacks anywhere. All they do now is to engage in cowardly attacks on soft targets. That, in itself, is a sign of weakness.”
“Let’s be clear: We didn’t get to where we are today by accident. Our gallant men and women in uniform have made all the sacrifices, including the supreme sacrifice, to bring us here” he added.
“Our political and military leaders have shown leadership in getting us here, unlike in the past when, in the words of Mr. President, official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion made Boko Haram a terrifying force. The ordinary folks have also shown great resilience and support to bring us here. We are eternally grateful to all” he further noted.
Alhaji Mohammed said over this past weekend alone, the military handed over more than 82 women and children rescued from the insurgents to the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) right here in Maiduguri.
Senator Muhammad Ali Ndume, representing Southern Borno Senatorial District, complained that the Boko Haram insurgency had left the region with destructions worth $96billion (about N2.3trillion).
Senator Ndume however said while international donors generated N230billion for the reconstruction of the region in the last one year, the 2018 federal budgetary allocation to the PCNI for the purpose is only N45billion.
He appealed to the federal government to increase the allocation.
Senator Ndume rebuked the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning for giving the over 75 NGOs in the region the latitude to operate obnoxiously alone.
The Minister of Interior, Abdurrahman Dambazau, who said 80 percent of refugees in Cameroon hail from Borno, casted doubt on the repatriation of refugees from that Francophone country as scheduled, without adequate preparations for their resettlement and rebuilding of trust and confidence in them in their respective communities of return because, he said, according to the Kampala Convention, the refugees should return home if they wish to, but not to return to other camps.
Budget and National Planning Minister, Zainab Ahmed, described 2018 as the year of the return of IDPs to their respective communities, as she replied Ndume on the operation of the NGOs, saying that it was caused by poor screening, certification and registration of such NGOs.
Adamawa State Commissioner for Information, Ahmed Sajo, representing Governor Muhammadu Bindow, said the insurgency had plunged 11 out of the 21 local government areas of the state into “over 70 percent poverty incidence and also called for narrative change and the tackling of drug abuse among the youth of the region.
Nigeria inducts Cameroonian forces
The Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, has inducted Cameroonian troops who arrived Gwoza to join in the ongoing counter terrorism operations in the north east and the borders between Nigeria and Cameroon.
The Theatre Commander was accompanied by the leader of the Cameroonian Defence Forces delegation Brigadier General Djonkeb Frederick, the General Officer Commanding 7-Division Major General Ibrahim Yusuf, the Chief of Staff Headquarters, Theatre Command, Brigadier General IL Akinlawon and other senior military officers from both countries.
Army Spokesman at Theater Command, Col. Oyenma Uwachukwu, said in a statement yesterday in Maiduguri that the Theatre Commander charged them to exhibit discipline and professionalism in the discharge of their assigned tasks and duties.
The Nigerian Army also said yesterday additional 26 insurgents have surrendered to the troops.