From Iheanacho Nwosu, Uche Usim and Magnus Eze
Major General Rabe Abubakar, the Acting Director, Defence Information believes that militants destroying oil installations and other national assets are economic terrorists who should not be spared.
Speaking when he led a delegation of military officers on a courtesy call to the Abuja Bureau of the Sun, Abubakar said the armed forces will not allow itself be blackmailed by those feeding fat from the insecurity challenges in some regions of the country, assuring Nigerians that only real culprits of violence will be adversely affected by its operations.
On the advice by the recently released 21 Chibok Girls that military should be cautious in air bombardment of Sambisa because of the remaining Chibok girls, the Defence spokesman declared that the military today is better trained, equipped, willing and able to surmount territorial and regional challenges using precision-based technology to take down enemies without causing collateral damage.
He also spoke on a number of other security concerns.
Boko haram still having strongholds in the North East
The issue is this; there is no territory; there’s no inch of this country where Boko Haram’s flag is hoisted today. It is possible that they could have some areas where they could have freedom of movement but not much. Even in Sambisa forest, our people are there for the past two months. When we talk of Sambisa, people just think it’s a small forest of 2,000 square kilometres. But it is 60,000 square kilometres. It is as big as the whole South East. So, you can imagine the complicity involved in this kind of operation. And these are people who don’t even wear uniforms. They know you but you don’t know them. You can only know them by virtue of the fact that anybody you see around that general area could not be just an ordinary inhabitant, but must be a militant. And in the course of training, we’ve shifted from conventional to asymmetrical. That’s why we are able to quickly change to know who is really Boko Haram and who’s not. But even with that, even when we arrest them, we profile them because normal investigation must be carried out. All this is to ensure that we operate in line with respect to human rights and in line with global best practices. All these criticisms are mostly sentimental and I can assure you that we are doing everything that is possible jointly to ensure that this Boko Haram is a thing of the past. Luckily enough, we invested enough of modern platforms both aerial and land. This is what really chased them away, unless those sleeper cells which we’re also dealing with. Sometimes, they sneaked in tactically to go to nearby villages to get food and water because their supply routes have been cut off. We’re sure of decimating this Boko Haram. But we cannot pull out completely because insurgency isn’t like your normal war. In fact, it’s only Nigeria that has battled and defeated insurgency in less than 10 years. Sri Lanka for 54 years. Columbia just recently signed a peace pact after a long time. Nigeria has professional military that finishes insurgency in less than 10 years and even American NGOs and others have said so. People can testify to it.
Chibok girls and bombing of Sambisa
Our operatives will continue with their operations because the work of terrorists is still on not only in Nigeria but regionally, even internationally; so we will continue to do our professional engagement to ensure that we use precisional equipment that would target our registered targets and hit them without necessarily causing collateral damages. Just like the one we used in Arepo axis in Lagos, Ogun, that general area where militants attacked some few months ago, that’s what we used. We used air armaments with precision to attack them, that’s how we got them without causing any collateral damage. So, this is a modern war. It’s not a war that hit randomly or little target. We must be sure of what we’re doing. We register it and with the precisional equipment, we hit our target.
Military men court martialled in the course of fighting this war?
You know court martial is an administrative disciplinary course action based on your offence. We court martialled so many officers and soldiers for cowardice behaviour and unprofessional ethics. For instance, a soldier who molested a 10-year old child recently, was stripped of his rank and then jailed for three years. So, we don’t condone indiscipline in any form.
Yes! We take it very seriously. All outstanding allowances have been cleared. Not only that, of those in the country, even the external ones. In fact, that’s why we’re getting the successes we’re getting. Paying them as and when due is giving the troops the confidence to fight. Allowances, feeding and welfare generally have really improved. I don’t know of this month, but all the previous months have been cleared. I had an interview with the Chief of Defence Staff and he told me this. If there’s any delays, it could be the new administrative procedure that was recently introduced. There was a case of a soldier in Dafur, he called me directly and complained he wasn’t paid for the past three months. Immediately, they processed his three months allowances and one month arrears and paid. When I called him again, he said they’ve paid him. Welfare is one of the ingredients for fighting insurgency. We’re paying it and getting the results unlike before when they were not paid for six, seven months.
Right now, there are procedures. You must open an account and all that which are in line with government’s directive on TSA and initiatives of government.
Seeking media support
We urge you to put national interest first and sensitize for the public for peaceful co-existence and equally for our own operation that is going on across the spectrum of Nigeria. I am glad to say that there is no inch of this country that is under Boko Haram or any other militant group. Our operation in the North east and other parts of the country is going on as planned. I’m equally to say that in the course of this operation, a lot of innocent people have been rescued on daily basis as our operations go on. We have made tremendous successes against the Boko Haram and I believe what we are seeing is just a sleeper cell that operates out of frustration to cause unnecessary havoc on the innocent citizens who are mostly isolated communities and areas in the North East. But we are equally coming on board with our own strategies to ensure that we reduce such attacks though the armed forces cannot be everywhere; it’s not possible. Information is very important to terrorists and they always want themselves to be heard no matter how small their activity is. Once they are heard, as far as a terrorist is concerned, he has fulfilled his mission. And it is against this backdrop we deem it necessary to continue to seek the cooperation of the media especially the print like The Sun, which is a globally recognized newspaper of repute. I believe with such kind of collaboration and understanding, you can be a vehicle that can propel what the Nigeria Armed Forces are doing above the so called terrorists and any other criminal group disturbing this great nation. The interest of the nation is sacrosanct and cannot be compromised. And the armed forces will ensure that within the rules of engagement, we’ll do what is needful to decimate or eliminate the Boko Haram or any other belligerent group threatening the peace and unity of this great country. We know the armed forces have that capacity to do that. We’re determined to route them and their criminal activities which are not only capable of scaring away investors but also capable of causing internal insecurity.
You are equally aware that fighting insurgency world over requires collective efforts of so many agencies, not only the military and that’s why we have onboard the police and others. The role of the media cannot be ruled out too even if they don’t wear uniform, but I believe that with their might, it can shape story into the extent that Nigerians both here and in diaspora and those who may want to invest have a good success story that will give them that confidence to say that Nigeria is violence-free and good to invest in.
What we should always think of is if we didn’t talk good of our country or our armed forces and other security agencies, then the question we will ask is who else will talk good of the country vis-a-vis the instrument of the government that is saddled with the responsibility of quelling crisis. What other people are saying, criticism here and there, at most times, is just the same people who are committing these kind of crime that are the same people who go back through the same media, either traditional or online to throw out criticism painting the armed forces and other security agencies in a black light. But honestly speaking, by our constitution, not only in Nigeria, but all over the world, armed forces are supposed to play a role of protector of human rights, human dignity, and to protect life and to protect assets of the government and non-government. And most importantly, they are Nigerians like any other persons; the only difference is that we’re given the opportunity to serve our fatherland. Other individuals too are given similar responsibilities to serve the fatherland but in different capacities. So, efforts of everyone are required in this regard. The military has done what it could for now, the remaining one goes to the public including the key one, which is the media. If today the media went up and said the Boko Haram world is ended or has ended, it would be. To me, the issue of crafting headlines that are very disturbing, headlines that have no corporate social responsibility I believe would not help this great country. So, it is with all these that we are canvassing for support and understanding. The Sun newspaper has been my paper. Even when I was in the JTF, even if I don’t read any other paper, I’ll read The Sun. I don’t read any other paper if I don’t read The Sun. That’s a fact. So, whatever you say carries a lot of weight. And I believe we are all one and we will be working together to ensure a crime-free nation.
The rotation issue is handled well.
Allegation of having more troops in the Niger Delta than in the North East
No, no, no! You see, people are just speculating. North East, Niger Delta are parts of Nigeria and anywhere troops are needed, they’ll be deployed. In fact, our troops are everywhere even in areas that are calm. We have battalions, we have brigades, commissions etc. So, it’s not true. It’ll be all part of the junk flying about on the Internet. Personally, I worry when people put such untrue information online and in social media and unfortunately, people lift such information. We cannot stop social media. Much of what is on social media isn’t the truth. It’s high time we knew the information that jeopardises the country or operations going on anywhere. For instance, the information I saw lately about the ND where it was said we’ve sacked a whole village there and killed women and children. Why are people mischievous? Only God knows. And if you check, it’s the same people behind criminal activities that sponsor these sort of information. Because the military is hurting them by stopping what they’re doing, they think the only way to blackmail them is to put up such lies that soldiers are killing women and children. But unfortunately, some people will lift it and put it on conventional media which is highly unprofessional. We caught people in the creeks with heavy weapons and chemicals about 1.30am and the next day, someone says they’re school children. What is a school child doing at such a location with heavy weapons at that time of the night? Is that a classroom? So, when they’re arrested, someone said they’re school children. We can assure all Nigerians that we would never do anything contrary to our mandate. We’ll ensure everywhere is secured not to traumatise or harass anybody, but to ensure things are what they should be. So, all these lies against the military should be discountenanced. People shouldn’t take them seriously. We’re Nigerians too. If we could protect people’s dignity elsewhere, I see no reason why we shouldn’t do it here.
Abuse of human rights
That’s what I’m saying. What human rights abuses? Is it because we stopped you from doing the unlawful thing? We stopped them from doing illegal bunkering and all that; from operating illegal refineries; vandalising government property. What of if the troops were killed? We try as much as possible to ensure our soldiers operate within the rules. Even NGOs and Amnesty will say human rights; are they more Nigerian than us? Are they saying they love Nigerians more than us? We’re Nigerians and we’re paid and trained to ensure the security of Nigerians. How do you think we can do otherwise? It’s in the interest of the nation that we do what we do. We’re not killers. We’re to protect and that’s what we’re doing.
Greatest threat to national security
It’s a wide question quite alright but I will say militancy. Breaking up pipelines for no just cause, adding to already exiting problems and sabotaging the efforts of the government. It’s economic terrorism honestly speaking. But the military cannot do anything, even though we must be seen to do something and ensure the area is good for people to live peacefully. The government is negotiating with them. We must dominate the general area. There are people who feel they’re above this country. No one is above this country.
When we’re talking about security, two things must be kept aside, which is sentiment and politics. No nation can develop well mixing these two together. If we don’t trust our armed forces, then I wonder who we will trust. I believe we will conquer.