Boko Haram: Get Shekau dead or alive, Buratai charges troops

Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has, again, charged troops to capture factional leader of the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, dead or alive.

Buratai gave the charge at former Boko Haram’s Command and Control Centre in Sambisa, Camp Zairo, during an operational visit to troops in Borno State, at the weekend.

In 2017, the army chief gave troops a 40-day ultimatum to capture Shekau and last Thursday, the army offered a N3 million reward for information on the terrorist.

Buratai also disclosed the army is set to acquire more Mine Resistance and Ambush Protected vehicles,  Armoured Personnel Carriers, and other equipment with the $1 billion approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) for counter-insurgency operations in the North East.

In a statement signed by the Director of Army/Public Relations, Sani Usman, Buratai said the aim of the operational visit was to further boost troops morale and see things for himself. 

In January, troops finally destroyed Camp Zairo in Operation Deep Punch II and are now dominating the general area of the forest.

The military sacked Shekau from the camp in December 2016 but the terrorists later re-grouped to launch pockets of attacks.

Other locations visited by Buratai were Bita and Tukumbere, all settlements within the forest but almost deserted, due to insurgency.

“Let me say congratulations. But, we must move across to wherever this criminal, Shekau, is and catch him red-handed. I want you to get him.

“Mr President, Command-In-Chief of the Armed Forces says congratulations to all of you for recovering Sambisa. As far as we are concerned, we have come to the end of this operation (clearing the forest of remnants of terrorists).

“What is remaining now is the Lake Chad waters only and we hope to do that (clear terrorists from it) also very soon.

“Meanwhile, you all know these criminals are still on the run; these guys are on the run, you must make sure that you get them wherever they are around this area.

“You must not allow them to escape. Every day, you must go on patrol, lay ambush for them and you go on raids.

“This is the time we have to consolidate and ensure that this place, Sambisa, is safe and never for these criminals to come back to it,’’ Buratai charged the troops.

The chief of army staff said he was in Sambisa and Camp Zairo to confirm the capture, destruction and domination by the gallant troops.

“I am glad that the troops have done the country proud and they have done Mr President proud by not only capturing Camp Zairo within the forest but, also, consolidating on this success.

“It is a thing of pride and I want to say that we are proud of the Nigerian troops. We are proud of members of the armed forces, the Air Force, Navy, Police, DSS and indeed Civilian JTF, who have provided the needed service,’’ he said.

Buratai described the Sambisa forest as strategic and assured that the military would it secure against terrorists.

“We are going to transform this place, apart from making it a training area.

“We are going to have a modern defence establishment in terms of the provision of basic requirements for your comfort and indeed for your operations.

“We already making sure that the first set of facilities are brought here,’’ the army chief said.

To the troops, who captured the camp, Buratai promised them special package to boost their morale.

“We are going to have some special packages for all of you that penetrated this forest.

“We will make sure that your morale is high by making the necessary provision for you to be comfortable,’’ he added.

On rotation of troops, he said that plans were on to rotate those who had stayed long in the theatre of operation.

“This is in our plan. I know that some of you were inducted here right from the depot but we are doing something for you to be properly deployed and properly accommodated as well.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) gathered that 3,000 troops would be inducted into the Operation Lafiya Dole this week, to replace those who had stayed long.

In an interview with newsmen after the visit, Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, the Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, said with the capture of camp Zairo ”the soul and mind of Boko Haram have been broken in Sambisa forest”.

“They don’t have a place to hide. We are still going round to make sure that some of them that are hiding in holes, we intend to fish them out,’’ Nicholas said.

He said that on assumption of duty in 2017, the chief of army staff tasked him to capture Camp Zairo and clear Boko Haram from the Sambisa forest.

“Troops have finally cleared the forest of remnants and we are presently occupying camp Zairo as well as all the little settlements and camps within the forest.’’

Staff Sgt. Dauda Mohammed, one of the troops, who participated in the operations that finally destroyed camp Zairo and clear the forest of remnants of terrorists, attributed their success to the Almighty God.

“The success is from God. God almighty is the one that gave us the success which all of us are happy to be here. The Sambisa is cleared,’’ Mohammed said.

NAN also reports that during the visit, the army chief directed principal officers, who accompanied him, to visit other locations and frontline.

Accordingly, the Chief of Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. David Ahmadu visited Bama, Borno South East to find out the needs of the troops and encourage them.

The Director, Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Abubakar Tarfa, visited Dikwa, Borno North East while Maj.-Gen. A.T. Hamman, the Provost Marshal, visited Gubio, Borno North West.

Buratai also disclosed the army is set to acquire more Mine Resistance and Ambush Protected, MRAPs vehicles  Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC and other equipments with the $1 billion approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) to the military.

In a statement signed by the Director of Army/Public Relations, Sani Usman, Buratai said the aim of the operational visit was to further boast troops morale and see things for himself. 

Speaking at Bitta, his first port of call, where he was received by the General Officer Commanding 7 Division and Commander, Sector 1 Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General IM Yusuf and the Commander 26 Task Force Brigade, Brigadier General IM Obot,  Buratai  he congratulated the troops for the clearance of Boko Haram terrorists. 

In all the places visited, he expressed happiness with the troops and  commended them for their resilience and excellent performances just as he urged the troops to keep the momentum.

While addressing the elements of the Cameroonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Buratai thanked them for their efforts and support and urged them to continue to operate along with their Nigerian counterparts to attain the desired result which is total clearance of Boko Haram terrorists wherever they might be hibernating. 

The areas visited include; Tokumbere  and Sabil Huda. In each instance, he addressed and interacted with the troops and also addressed some of their complaints.. 

“At Tokumbere, he addressed troops in which he also extended the President’s Goodwill message congratulations for their bravery and dedication to duty which brought about the fall of Boko Haram operational enclaves in Sambisa.

“ He also urged them to maintain the pressure on the fleeing terrorists wherever they run to, adding that Sambisa forest has come to stay as Nigerian Army training area and urged them not to relent in their efforts. He also said that “You must maintain this momentum and justify the confidence reposed in you by Nigerians”. 

“The Chief of Army Staff further stated that the Nigerian Army is expecting a number of equipment which the Federal Government is procuring for the military, “it added. 

At Sabil Huda, he was conducted round the Battle Groups 1 and 2 deployments locations, the new borehole and shown some of captured Boko Haram terrorists Armoured Fighting vehicles and equipment.

 He thereafter addressed the troops. In the address, he congratulated them for routing out Boko Haram terrorists out of their enclaves  and encouraged them to work harder to clear the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists that might be hiding in the area. He also said that Mr.  President and Commander-in-Chief is very proud of their exploits.

While the Chief of Army Staff and his team were at Sambisa Forest, the Chief of Training and Operations (Army), Major General DD Ahmadu, Director Military Intelligence, Major General AA Tarfa and Provost Marshal (Army), Major General AT Hamman led other teams where they visited troops locations under 5 Brigade, 21 and 22 Brigades Nigerian Army at Gubio, Bama and Dikwa, respectively. 

Their visits followed the same pattern with that of the Chief of Army Staff; they received briefing, went round troops deployments, addressed and interacted with the troops. 

They were equally accompanied by other senior officers from the Army Headquarters and the Theatre Command.