By Umar Yusuf, Wole Mosadomi, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—THE Nigerian Army, for the first time, yesterday, admitted that some of the country’s territories have fallen into the hands of Boko Haram terrorists. It, however, assured that in no distant time, its troops in the North-East would overrun the insurgents and retake the lost areas.
The Army made the admission on a day Governor James Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State announced that Mubi, the commercial nerve centre and second largest town in the state has been reclaimed from the terrorists by local militia assisted by the troops.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, admitted loss of the territories when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Defence and Army, headed by Senator George Sekibo, PDP, Rivers East to explain the role of the military in curbing Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
He said: “We had a setback in Bassa that resulted in loss of territories up to Mubi which was painful though, but we are working very hard to retake those territories. Very soon we will reclaim those territories and indeed other territories that the insurgents have taken.”
Assuring that the Army would soon retake the lost territories from the insurgents, Minimah said:
“I want to continue to rekindle the confidence of Nigerians and particularly the ordinary Nigerians who have suffered the pains of this insurgency. The Nigerian Army will continue to do its best and strive to win this war and reclaim the lost territories.”
The assurance by Lt. Gen. Minimah came as the Senate expressed displeasure over the inability of the Federal Government through the various security outfits in the North-East to arrest the insurgency in the area.
Nigerians deserve explanation — Sekibo
Senator Sekibo told the Army Chief that “Nigerians are getting impatient and irritated not only with the military but also with the government and those who represent them at various levels.”
He added: “I believe that we are trying our best but is our best the best we can offer? What is happening is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to Nigerians. We want to be told what is happening. The insurgents are having a field day.
“We are aware that the government is releasing your funds to you because you have not complained. We also approved $1billion for the President to purchase arms and ammunition to fight Boko Haram. We are aware that your budget is being released to you. If you have difficulties, you should tell us.
“The spate of insurgency, the way and manner the insurgents are taking areas is getting worrisome. We want to know what is happening. We also want to know the issue of the reported cease-fire. We want to know whether there was actually any cease-fire.
“We want to know whether there was a dialogue, the stage of the dialogue, if any, because few days after the announcement of the cease-fire, the insurgents struck and have continued to strike.
“At the last meeting we were told that the insurgents have captured seven local government areas. The CDS confirmed that and asked that they should be given some time to liberate the captured areas.
“We want to know where we are. We are approaching election year; are we going to conduct election in the North-East under the dire security challenge? These are our concerns and the concerns of Nigerians.”
The meeting between members of the committee and the Army chief which started at about 1:20pm and lasted for two and half hours, almost ending in a shouting match between the committee members and the Army boss when the committee insisted that he should disclose the Army’s operational issues so far in the full glare of journalists against his will.
Minimah insisted that he would not discuss military operational matters before the press.
The Committee had invited the Service Chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adeola Amosu, to brief its members on the state of affairs in the North-East with regard to the fight against Boko Haram.
Others also invited to the meeting included the Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, and the Director General, Department of State Service (DSS) Mr. Ekpenyong Ita.
But only the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Minimah appeared for the parley to represent the Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh.
Senator George Sekibo, at the start of the meeting, told the Army chief that the agenda of the parley was “very loaded.”
He regretted that while politicians were busy positioning themselves for the 2015 election, insurgents were killing and maiming innocent Nigerians in the Northeast. He then asked Minimah to throw light on the issues he highlighted.
Minimah took a measured breath and said: “I came to interface with the Senate Committee on Defence, can the press leave us because the operational issues were not meant to be discussed on the pages of the newspapers”.
Sekibo, however, asked Minimah to “just reassure Nigerians that the military is on top of the security situation in the affected areas.”
The Army Chief insisted that he would not discuss security matters in the presence of the press. A member of the committee, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, intervened by reminding Minimah that the press was an important stakeholder in the fight against insurgency. He told Minimah that Nigerians could only get to know how the security agencies were prosecuting the fight against insurgency when it is reported by newsmen.
But Minimah stood his ground, thus prompting another member of the committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, to persuade Minimah to reassure Nigerians on what the military was doing to win the war against insurgency. Minimah again refused to comply.
Following his insistence, reporters were reluctantly asked to leave the venue of the meeting by the committee’s chairman, Senator Sekibo.
Troops-assisted local militia recapture Mubi
Meanwhile, a combined team of the Army, Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Nigeria Police, local hunters and the Civilian JTF has recaptured Mubi town from the Boko Haram insurgents.
A combined offensive by the groups which began Wednesday night paid off, yesterday, when the insurgents began to withdraw to the hinterland after suffering deadly blows from the troops.
Reports from Mubi indicated that wild jubilations rented the air as scores of the insurgents were killed, while thousands of others have been arrested.
The reports also confirmed that the hunters have recaptured the 234 Army Battalion as well as other strategic security formations in the area which fell into the hands of the insurgents when they seized the town.
Similarly, all the flags hoisted by the insurgents have been uprooted and replaced by Nigerian flags.
Also, residents said the palace of the Emir of Mubi which has been converted to the spiritual headquarters of the dreaded insurgents have been taken over while the Boko Haram flags have been destroyed.
With the situation, the insurgents have retreated into the bush as the hunters gave them a hot chase. The governor of Adamawa Sate, Bala James Ngilari confirmed the development in Yola, saying that “the insurgents have been flushed out of Mubi and are on the run.”
Governor Ngillari said that the insurgents are now on the run heading towards Mubi South while some have followed the tracks to Askira.
Another suicide attack averted in Minna
In a related development, 24 hours after a female suicide bomber attacked Federal College of Education, Kontagora, Niger State, there was another attempt by two male suicide bombers at the Maryam Babangida Science Girls College, Minna yesterday, morning.
However, the mission of the bombers was foiled through a female teacher of the school who raised an alarm over the suspicious movement of the suspects near the gate of the school.
It was reliably gathered that the two male suspects were seen close to the gate of the school around 7.30am when the students were preparing for their early morning Assembly.
The female teacher, Mrs. Bezet Doma who was directed to share her experience with our correspondent said, “On my way to the school, I saw one of these suspects who pretended as if he was defecating but after a close watch, I saw him wearing a trouser which is the colour of our school and later saw him bring out a hijab which he eventually put on to disguise as a female.”
“As I was approaching him, my phone rang and this alerted him and he confronted me asking where I was going and when I told him that I was going to school, he ordered me in Hausa to go back home and that there won’t be classes and that I should not even risk my life going to the school today,(yesterday),” she explained.
At that moment she said out of fear she quickly removed her shoes, took to her heels and headed for the school and raised an alarm immediately, while the school authority swung into action.
The Principal of the school, Hajiya Fatima Madugu who also spoke with our correspondent simply said,”just help us thank God for the alertness of our staff and intervention from God. The mission of the suspect was to disguise as one of our students and sneak to the Assembly ground to carry out their dastardly act but God just intervened and before we could mobilise to the scene, the two men disappeared but we immediately alerted the police and other security Agents who mobilised to our compound immediately.”
The state police spokesman, DSP Ibrahim Gambari confirmed the incident but said the attempt should not be seen as an invasion by Book Haram.
He said security has been beefed up in all schools in Minna, the state capital with the officers of the command giving security tips to the Proprietors, principals,headmasters and provosts and Vice Chancellors of tertiary institutions in the state.
By Edos News