Nigeria’s military spokesman says the national army launched an “operation” against the violent Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Gwoza, a town in the country’s northwest the militants claimed they captured.
Major General Chris Olukolade also said senior military officials are in close contact with their counterparts in Cameroon after some Nigerian soldiers battling Boko Haram militants “found themselves” in the neighboring country’s territory.
“The normal protocol for addressing such issues has been completed by discussions and interactions between the military authorities. And by that we’ve been able to smoothen issues, and the troops are on the way to joining their units at the moment,” said Olukolade.
He said the military is gathering intelligence from a video of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, who announced the militants have established Islamic law in Gwoza. Olukolade said Nigeria will not tolerate militants’ claim to control any part of the country.
“We have seen that report much as we are studying it for intelligence purpose. I can say that the whole claim is an empty claim that cannot be sustained,” said Olukolade. “No group of terrorists would be allowed to have any claim to any portion of Nigeria, and to that extant any group that is making such claim is only delusive.”
Olukolade said the military has the capacity to combat the security threat posed by the militants and dismissed criticisms that the lack of proper equipment forced some soldiers to abandon the fight against Boko Haram fighters, who analysts say are better equipped.
“The criticism has its various prisms, major among which is perhaps intended as a psychological warfare on our troops to demoralize them. But to the best of our knowledge like all other armies, we do not have all that we require at the moment, but we are maximizing all that we have to achieve the result of dealing with terrorists and keeping them off our country,” said Olukolade.
“All that we can boast of at the moment is that we have the capacity to manage the situation. We are not going to relent, until we handle the situation,” said Olukolade. “The claim of saying we are not equipped is not going to deter us from achieving that result. We are getting incrementally improved in our equipment and weapons. We are sure that…with the way we are handling the situation we will soon achieve our results somehow.”
Some Nigerians are worried that security agencies haven’t prevented brazen attacks by Boko Haram militants. They cite recent attacks carried out by the militants on unarmed civilians in parts of the country as examples of the need for the security agencies to do more to protect lives and property.
Olukolade says the concerns are legitimate, but added that the military is determined to defeat the militants.
“[This] is giving a lot of concerns to many people and it is understandable. People are traumatized, but it is consistent with terrorists. We are working the appropriate way to handle it and ensure that we [prevent] unnecessary civilian casualties in the process,” said Olukolade. “At the moment, we are fashioning out what we believe will get us that result and we are going to reverse this trend, all things being equal, in a very short while.”