Army arrests 1,400 Boko Haram members as Aregbesola, Ayade hail routing of terroriists
LG chief denies deputy was nabbed for being insurgents’ sympathiser •Buhari: There is hope
From Molly Kilete, Abuja, Judex Okoro, Calabar and Chinelo Obogo
The Army yesterday announced the rescue of another Chibok girl, by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at Alagamo area of Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State. The girl, Rakiya Abubakar, was said to have been found with her six months old baby.
President Muhammadu Buhari said the recovery of Rakiya has raised hope that the other captured girls still in captivity will one day be reunited with their families, friends and community.
His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the President also commended the military for the diligent investigation which led to the recovery of Rakiya. He urged them to continue in the spirit with which they cleared the Sambisa of terrorists.
Buhari assured that the government will continue to do all within its powers to assist the military in locating the rest of the girls and eradicating the menace of terrorism.
This is even as Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-Gen. Lucky Irabor said 1,400 Boko Haram members have been rounded up within one week.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Sani Usman, who made Rakiya’s rescue known in a statement issued in Abuja, said the girl is currently undergoing medical check-up and would be handed over to the Borno State Government as soon as medical investigation was concluded.
He said preliminary investigation revealed that Rakiya is the daughter of Abubakar Gali Mulima and Habiba Abubakar of Chibok.
Usman also said the rescued girl told soldiers that she was a student of Senior Secondary School Class 3B (SS 3B), before her abduction along with her colleagues on April 14, 2014 by Boko Haram.
Members of the terrorists group had on the night of April 14, 2014 stormed Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, and abducted 276 girls from their hostel.
No fewer than 59 of the girls escaped within days of the abduction, while 219 others were taken into captivity. In 2016, two of the girls escaped at various times as 21 returned. Presently, a total of 196 Chibok girls remained missing, while 23 have been rescued.
Since their abduction, various groups and world leaders have urged the Nigerian government to ensure their safe return.
While some people have maintained that their abduction has a religious and political undertone especially when Chibok town is predominately a Christian community, others have accused the government of not showing enough concern to bring the girls alive and safe.
Government had 10 weeks ago announced the release of 21 Chibok girls, assuring Nigerians that it was discussing and that “soon”, 83 more would return.
Last week, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar, Shekau, released a video, mocking the Nigerian military on its claim to have taken over the Sambisa Forest and ousted the terrorists.
Before now, the military and the Department of State Services (DSS) had declared Shekau dead and even went ahead to produce a photograph of his body which was widely circulated in the media.
At another instance, Shekau was said to have been seriously injured while in their latest report, the military said it cannot really tell where he was.
In his latest video, Shekau had openly countered the military claims and warned the Chief of Army Staff, the Theatre Commander and the Director, Army Public Relations over their false claims and deception on their victory and promised to carry out more attacks in the coming days.
The military, in its response, debunked Shekau’s claim as that of a drowning man and said his days and that of his members were numbered.
Since the abduction of the schoolgirls, one group which has refused to give up despite confrontation from the government and the security agencies is the Bring Back our Girls Group (BBOG).
The group, headed by Oby Ezekwesili, a one-time minister of education, had refused to be intimidated and vowed to remain vocal until all the kidnapped girls were released.
Only few days ago, the group made public its programme lined up to mark the 1000th day of the girls in captivity, which would be Sunday, January, 8.
As part of its week-long activities, the group said it would resume its protest to the Presidential Villa in Abuja to demand for the unconditional release of the remaining girls.
The group said the protest which will be peaceful is to compel the Federal Government to accelerate actions necessary to rescue the remaining 196 Chibok girls to their “grossly disappointed parents.”
The group expressed disappointed by what it described as the lack of communication from the Federal Government on the reported negotiation for 83 of the Chibok girls following the release of 21 of them last October.
Meanwhile, Gen. Irabor said yesterday 1,400 suspected terrorists were arrested between December 28, 2016 and Janyar 4, 2017.
This is even as more accolades came for the Federal Government for routing terrorists at their stronghold at Sambisa Forest in Borno State.
Giving a report of the arrests to journalists yesterday, Gen. Irabor said: “On December 25, 2016, our troops deployed in Fob, Potiskum, apprehended a suspected Boko Haram member, Musa Abdullahi at Fika, and the suspect is in custody undergoing interrogation.
“On December 30, 2016, our troops in conjunction with Nigerian Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), arrested a suspect, Rabiu Ibrahim, at Bagoga in Fuajoga in Gombe State. The suspect fled to Gombe as a result of the recent attacks on Boko Haram by our troops. During preliminary interrogation, he confessed that he joined the sect about four years ago and took part in the attack of troops along Damaturu-Maiduguri road. He is in custody for further interrogation.
“On January 2, 2017, our troops deployed in Numan arrested one Dahiru Saidu who was on transit from Lafia to Adamawa State. He is suspected to be one of the Boko Haram members declared wanted. He is in custody undergoing investigation.
Meanwhile, Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola yesterday hailed President Muhammadu Buhari and the military over the sacking of Boko Haram from Sambisa.
Aregbesola, while speaking at the 2017 launch of Armed Forces Remembrance Emblem at the Government House, Osogbo, regretted that the country suffered untold carnage while official corruption also bedeviled the battle against insurgents before the All Progressives Congress (APC) took over at the centre.
He donated N10 million while launching the emblem and also promised to give a bus for the comfort of the state’s legionnaires.
Aregbesola said it was pathetic that the North-East came under Boko Haram’s occupation with the most horrendous cases of killings, maiming and intimidations.
He said, “We have received good news of the routing of the insurgents at Sambisa Forest and the destruction of their base by the Armed Forces. Our soldiers, airmen and women and the officers of the various security agencies involved in this campaign have performed admirably, gallantly and heroically in the defence of our territorial integrity and pride as a nation and people.”
Saluting the courage of the fallen heroes, Aregbesola said they have paid the supreme price.
He also recalled how some political leaders and their military collaborators looted the funds the country voted for the prosecution of the battle against Boko Haram.
Aregbesola said Buhari’s diplomatic shuttles shortly after assuming office in 2015 paid off, adding that these requests for co-operation by the neighbouring countries by Buhari showed a huge understanding of what the problem of insurgency required.
Earlier, Deputy Commandant-GeneraI and state’s Chairman, Nigerian Legion, Alimi Isamotu, thanked the governor for assisting the legion and the provision of uniform for the commander.
Also, Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, has hailed the Army for reclaiming Sambisa Forest.
Speaking during the launch of the emblem at the Cultural Centre Complex in Calabar, Ayade said recapturing of the territories by the Army had restored confidence in the people.
He urged the military not to relent in ensuring total war against terrorism as insurgents constitute a big threat to national development.
Represented by his Deputy, Prof Ivara Esu, he payed glowing tributes to the nation’s past heroes as well as serving officers and men of the Armed Forces,
He said: “The Nigerian Armed Forces recently demonstrated her gallantry and capacity by reclaiming all areas previously captured by Boko Haram insurgents in the North-Eastern part of the country.
“Many of these fallen soldiers lost their lives in the process of peace-keeping while some were mortally injured and became physically incapacitated.
“Some families of these fallen heroes’ are now going through difficult times without their bread winners.
State Chairman of Nigerian Legion, Col. Timothy Ushie (retd), said there is the need to reflect on the wellbeing of the wives, children and other dependants they left behind.
In a related development, the Chairman of Kaga Local Government in Borno State, Lawal Wasaram, has denied the claim that the Army has arrested Mustapha Bukar, the vice-chairman of the council for alleged link with Boko Haram.
Wasaram made the denial in a statement issued yesterday. He said the allegation was not only untrue, but a total misinterpretation of facts.
“The attention of my council has been drawn to an allegation made by the Theatre Commander, Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, during a Press briefing on Operation Rescue Final on Wednesday,” he said.
“The military claimed that they have arrested my vice-chairman, Malam Mustapha Bukar, and that he is in their custody for complicity with Boko Haram.
“We, therefore, advise that the military issue a Press statement to disclaim and exonerate him from this serious allegation before it becomes a potential threat to his life and integrity.
“We also regret that this allegation was already aired live on NTA and many online platforms.”
In his response, Irabor said: “We have sorted this out since yesterday. The vice-chairman of Bama local government is the one in our custody and currently being investigated.”