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Nigeria Marks Independence Day Amid Security Challenges

A school girl holds a Nigerian flag as she joins a parade marking Nigeria's 54th Independence Day in Lagos October 1, 2014.
A school girl holds a Nigerian flag as she joins a parade marking Nigeria's 54th Independence Day in Lagos October 1, 2014.

As Nigeria marks its Independence Day, its military appears to have made significant strides in sharply reducing attacks often launched by Islamist militant group Boko Haram against unarmed civilians in parts of the country. That’s according to Mike Omeri, director-general of the National Orientation Agency, which also handles the government’s information on Boko Haram.

He rejected local media reports asserting that security experts from western countries who have been supporting the military against the militants have left after expressing frustration with the unprofessional conduct of security personnel tasked with ending the five-year old insurgency.

Omeri cited President Barack Obama’s Independence Day message to the government and people of Nigeria, promising support in the fight against terrorism. He said Washington’s commitment shows the international community’s seriousness to combat Boko Haram militants.

“That is a signal to those who think that foreign support has waned, and people have left in frustration, this is not true,” said Omeri.

Boko Haram insurgency

Omeri’s comments came Wednesday as Nigeria celebrated the 54th anniversary of its independene from former colonial power Britain.

In a speech, President Goodluck Jonathan said security forces have made major advances in the fight against the militants.

Critics say the government has failed, however, to protect citizens following what they call brazen attacks on the civilian population by the militants despite the imposed curfew in parts of the country’s north.

They also say the militants have overrun some security bases, seizing arms and brutalizing towns -- with little or no resistance from the Nigeria military.

Omeri disagreed, saying the security agencies have foiled efforts by insurgents to overrun some towns in the north.

“There has been consistent attempt at attacking some communities in the northeast, especially Konduga up to Maiduguri area. But, the armed forces of Nigeria have successfully repelled those attacks, and to a large extent even conquered some of the facilities some of the insurgents have used to attack citizens and those communities,” he said. “Indeed a number of insurgents have met their waterloo in the battle of Konduga.

“I am optimistic that with the poise and reinforcements retooling and skills of the armed forces now in the fight against the insurgency, we would begin to witness many more of such achievements in terms of repelling the insurgents and also making sure that we stamp this aspect of inclination to the killing and maiming and destruction of innocent citizens life and property in that area,” said Omeri.

He said the administration’s policy to boost morale by acquiring new and improved equipment for the military, coupled with increased troop presence in areas often attacked by the insurgents, have led to the recent successes the security agencies have made against Boko Haram.

Military prosecution

Local media is reporting the military plans on Thursday to court martial soliders who disobeyed orders in the fight against Boko.

Omeri said Nigerians should wait for the military institution to complete with its legal processes before passing judgment.

“I don’t know why civilians are trying to interfere with normal military processes. But even at that… the armed forces have an internal mechanism of dispensing with its cases. So let us allow the armed forces of Nigeria to do what they have to do and if the process exonerates the soldiers, they would be freed,” he said.

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