Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government would begin gradual withdrawal of troops in hitherto volatile spots where peace and security had been achieved from first quarter of 2020.
Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe-Ibas, stated this after the National Security Council meeting in Abuja chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday.
He, however, declined to name the geopolitical zones or states where military would cease to operate as from next year.
Ibas said the decision to withdraw troops from participating in internal security in some areas was to allow them focus on their primary duty of defending the country against external aggression.
“With respect to operations within the country, it was agreed that security agencies have done their best in ensuring that the deliverables are made.
“The various operations in the North East, North West, North Central, South East and South West where the armed forces are taking part as well as intelligence agencies have ensured we enjoyed a better holiday.
“In those areas where the military have achieved the desired objectives, from the first quarter of next year, civil authority will be preparing to take back those responsibilities as the military draws back its forces from those areas to focus its attention on other emerging threats and areas of concern.
“It is the work of the police to handle internal security since Nigeria is not at war. Remember that additional 10,000 personnel were approved for the police recently for recruitment. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps will support the police to provide internal security,” he said.
Asked to name areas troops would be withdrawn and what the specific instructions from President Buhari were, Ekwe-Ibas said: “I think I better make it very clear that an assessment of what the military will do would be based on the situation on the ground. It is not expected that the military will withdraw when it is apparent that there is still some threats in such locations. Threats assessment will be carried out to see if such areas are capable of being manned by the police and the civil defence that is the position that was reached.”
Asked if a target to eliminate Boko Haram by 2020 was part of the meeting, Ekwe-Ibas said: “It is our wish to have the insurgency and terrorism issues resolved once and for all to enable us focus on matters of development. It is our hope that we will get done with this insurgency and terrorism that has besieged our country.”
In spite of the effort of the military, Mandaragirau, a village in Biu Local Government Area of Borno State, was attacked on Sunday night by suspected Boko Haram insurgents.
The attackers also burnt down the community’s church and a school and abducted a man.
Residents were forced to flee into bushes as the gunmen stormed the agrarian village, shooting sporadically.
A resident of Biu said the gunmen torched the town’s church and primary school.
“The source said the fleeing villagers spent the night out in the cold till this morning.
“They have all returned to the town this morning,” he said, suggesting no one was killed in the attack,” the source said.
Yusuf Adamu, former chairman of Biu Local Government Area, who hails from Mandaragirau, also confirmed the attack to an online medium.
Since 2009 when the insurgency was birthed in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, more than 35,000 people have been killed according to the UN. The Borno State government said the figure could be as high as 100,000.
The Boko Haram war has also caused the displacement of over three million people from the North East states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.