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The fall of Sambisa forest

By Gbemiga Olakunle

Two days before Christmas, the final stronghold of the Boko-Haram terrorists named Camp- Zero tucked inside the dreaded Sambisa Forest in Borno State, finally fell to the heavy bombardment of the Nigerian Military through the grace of God. The news came to many Nigerians as a rare Christmas gift to the nation that is facing an economic recession.

While thanking God and giving Him all the glory for this major breakthrough in the nation’s fight against terrorism in the land, kudos should also go to the fighting spirit and the resilience of our troops for doing the nation proud amid reports of alleged poor logistics/welfare which they allegedly suffered regarding adequate supply of food and water.

And just before the final push that led to the fall of Camp- Zero, there were alleged reports of some soldiers dying of exhaustion for alleged lack of drinking water.

Although, the military authorities promptly denied the rumours, the Nigerian public was not sure of whose report they should believe. But for as long as the nation was losing soldiers and high ranking military officers to the insurgency in questionable circumstances, the public opinion was against the tactics of our military strategists for inadvertently  making room for loopholes which the Boko-Haram insurgents were using to their own advantage.

It was in  view of such surprise attacks that we reinforced/reemphasized our call for Inter-Agency collaboration among the Security Agencies and the nation’s Intelligence Community in our previous article  on this subject- matter titled “ENDING THE BOKO-HARAM MENACE: The Hard Choices Facing the Nation”. Among other things, we pointed out that such Inter-Agency collaboration would expose the activities of the fifth columnists among the Nigerian Military who might be leaking troops’ movements to the insurgents which might have been responsible for the successful ambush of our troops leading to the death of about three Commanding Officers of Lieutenant-Colonel rank together with other officers and men who were accompanying them at the time of their respective attacks.

Despite this recent military success in the North-East, the Intelligence Community, with the general support of the Nigerian public and the Diplomatic Community should not rest on their oars. This is because the fall of the Sambisa  occupied by the Boko-Haram as its fortress should not be likened to the fall of the insurgent group or its ideology. The event of last week, as strategic as it was, only represented the dislodgment of the Boko-Haram group from its stronghold with its resultant dispersal into other parts of the sub-region.

As a matter of fact, few days after the fall of  Sambisa  one of the sect’s commanders was  reportedly apprehended in Ikorodu near Lagos. As if this was not enough, two female suicide bombers were also apprehended on Boxing Day, December 26, 2016 in Maduguri, Borno state. One of them reportedly died while detonating a bomb while her partner on the suicide mission was gunned down while the bomb-belt strapped to her body was detonated later.

The Federal Government has also called for extra-vigilance on the part of the public to prevent integration of the insurgents into the larger society so that they would not unleash fresh attacks. This is because with the GSM Technology and other Hi-Tech in communication, this group can still contact and coordinate themselves with the aim of continuing their strikes at the nation’s soft targets.

It should be noted that Boko-Haram is an ideology in the hearts of its adherents and supporters. And that is the reason the Federal Government should quickly move in to address the remote causes of the insurgency in the first place so that it doesn’t resurface in another location under the guise of another Extremist/Fundamentalist group.

We learnt that Sambisa was an abandoned Military facility constructed by the former Military President, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida for his ill-fated National Guard Project. The camp reportedly has underground bunkers. But how did the location of this Military facility come to the knowledge of the Boko-Haram insurgents and its subsequent acquisition and use as their own fortress without the knowledge of the  nation’s intelligence community during the era of the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan? And, on whose authority were they using the facility ? This may be the subject- matter of research and national discourse by other writers/social commentators.

For now, while congratulating the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the entire Military with their sister Security Agencies on this remarkable success/breakthrough in the fight against terrorism, we want to admonish the President and his economic team to also strive and win the fight against hunger and abject poverty that are prevalent in the land.

As we pointed out in one of our previous articles entittle “Food Security and National Security: A correlation”, when the government wins the war against hunger and poverty in the land, it will drastically reduce its expenditure on purchase of arms and ammunition to fight crimes.

Meanwhile, let us celebrate, cling glasses and toast to the dislodgment of Boko-Haram insurgents from their fortresses in the Sambisa forest as we continue to be more vigilant in our respective immediate environments.

Olakunle writes  from Abuja

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