From Timothy Olanrewaju Maiduguri
Five people were feared killed, yesterday, following rocket propelled grenade attack believed to have been fired into Maiduguri, Borno State capital by Boko Haram and its ally ISWAP.
Residents said the first explosion occurred at Ajilaro Cross at about 9 am and while two others followed at Gomari Ayafe and 1000 Housing, all in the vicinity of the Air Force Base where President Buhari landed few hours later for a day visit.
“Three people hit by the grenade at Gomari Ayafe died,” Ahmed Saje, a resident, said.
At least one person was feared killed at Ajilari Cross though some residents said the casualty later rose to two.
A mosque near a public hospital was also hit though no one was affected, residents said.
Five people including a nursing mother and her baby strapped on her backy were injured.
The incident occurred two weeks after similar attack by the insurgents who fired rocket propelled grenade into the 1000 Housing Estate and Gomari area, injuring at least five people.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has said the government would soon come hard on terrorists and bandits in the Northeast, Northwest and other parts of the country.
The president, who spoke at the University of Maiduguri shortly before the commissioning of a centre at the institution said he was acutely aware of the security situation in the two geo-political zones.
“I have ordered and we have started receiving military hardware from the United States: aircraft, armoured cars, helicopters and we are going to be very hard on them.”
He said the biggest problem was that Nigerians were judging his administration on the basis of current happening rather than what he met on ground.
“This is why I ask Nigerians to please tell the less informed that in Africa, we are the potential liberator,”he said even as he urged the people to do everything possible to keep the country together.
He said he has 17 months to leave the office but maintained his successor must ensure the security and economy of the nation are healthy.
While addressing troops in the theatre of war against insurgency shortly after his arrival at the Air Force Base, the president urged them to be focussed at the battlefield and remain steadfast as they go into the final phase of the campaign against insurgency and other forms of criminalities.
According to the president, the entire nation remains grateful for the gallantry displayed in ensuring gradual return of peace to the North East, while condoling with families that have lost loved ones, and the wounded.
“I urge you also to stay focused to achieve our strategic end-state which is the defeat of all adversaries and restoration of an economically viable North East Geo-political Zone and other parts of the Country where Nigerians are free to go about their activities without fear or harassment.’’
The president assured families of soldiers who paid the supreme price for the nation and the injured that the Federal Government would cater for their needs, recognizing their sacrifices for all Nigerians.
“I am delighted to be with you today and to convey my gratitude and that of the entire nation to you all, as you continuously strive to secure our dear country.
“Your career is like no other because it is a conscious commitment and preparedness to give your best for the sake of others.
“I am therefore here on behalf of a grateful nation to thank and commend you for your service and sacrifices.
“Let me start by commiserating with you all on the unfortunate loss of Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkushu and other personnel of 25 and 28 Task Force Brigades, who died on Nov. 13, 2021.
“I do this mindful of the fact that we have lost others in this Theatre of Operation as well as other operational areas across the country.
“We pray for the repose of their souls and for the Almighty God to comfort the families that they left behind.
“The people of Borno State and indeed the entire country owe a debt of gratitude to our serving men in uniform for the huge sacrifices in the pursuit of peace.”
He maintained that the government would continue to ensure that the widows and children of fallen heroes were well catered for, to help them fully realize their potentials.
The president noted that the response exhibited across the theatre had shown extraordinary resilience and steadfastness in the face of adversity.
“That is the spirit, tenacity and resolve that the Nigerian Armed Forces is known for. Well done.
“Our country, just like all the others in the Sahel region, is faced with several security challenges that are largely characterized by the violent activities of non-state actors.
“This has necessitated several interventions aimed at ensuring the security of persons and property across the numerous hot spots.
“Further improvements in the security situation in Operation Hadin Kai have led to a corresponding rise in the confidence of our people who are now returning in significant numbers to their homes.
“Further to the reorganizations in the military leadership, concerted efforts are being made to improve your equipment holding.
“I am aware that you have started receiving some of the platforms procured by our administration while others would be received in the weeks ahead,” the president added.
While noting threats posed by criminals through the employment of Improvised Explosive Devices, he said substantial resources had also been directed at procuring equipment for explosive ordnance disposal.
According to him, similar attention is being given to Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Assets.
“These measures and the platforms being received would accord you the necessary reach, fire power and protection to project force across the Theatre and bring the fight to a logical and successful end.”
President Buhari told the troops that at the onset of the administration he emphasized the need to rejuvenate the Multinational Joint Task Force, which was in realization of the fluid and transnational nature of current threats and their propensity to hibernate in neighbouring countries.
“I, therefore, urge you to continue to further strengthen your cooperation with the militaries of the other countries under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force in order to further optimize the mutual gains for our respective national security.
“As we step up the military efforts, our administration has remained conscious of the efficacy of the employments of other lines of effort in our drive to ensuring the return of lasting peace to the North East Region.
“The North East Development Commission continues to make giant strides at improving the economic and social welfare of Nigerians in the region.