Nigeria’s army has hoisted the country’s flag in Gamboru Ngala, a border town with neighboring Cameroon, days after recapturing it from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The militants had used the town as a stronghold to launch attacks, including kidnappings and murder in both Nigeria and Cameroon.
Nigeria’s army chief of staff Major-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai was in the town Wednesday to boost the morale of soldiers on the frontlines of the fight against Boko Haram, according to Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, spokesman for the military.
Usman said the soldiers also received supplies including food and ammunitions.
“Today is very significant not only to the Nigerian military but also to the people of Nigeria and the peace loving people of the world because we are able to restore the territorial integrity of our dear country Nigeria, by hoisting the flag. First by capturing the town from the clutches of Boko Haram terrorists and now we have taken full control and hoisted our flag,” said Usman.
“We are going to be with them [the military], we are going to rejoice with them, [and] we are going to have a wonderful time even though we will be security conscious before we go back to other formations and possibly fly to Maiduguri and then Abuja,” he added.
Cameroonian citizens across the river reacted to the hoisting of the flag.
“The inhabitants of the town across the river in Cameroon were so happy, they were cheering the chief of staff and members of his entourage,” said Usman.
Before it became the stronghold of the Boko Haram militants, Gamboru Ngala, was a bustling border town full of commercial economic activities. It served as a trade route where traders from Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic engaged in business activities.
Boko Haram destruction
Usman said violence carried out by the militants forced residents to flee.
“Since the advent of the Boko Haram insurgency, they captured the town and killed most of the inhabitants of the town and some of them have either gone as refugees or become internally displaced persons within the country,” said Usman.
“Unfortunately, the level of destruction in Gamboru Ngala, by Boko Haram terrorists is unprecedented. Almost all the structures have been destroyed and you can’t even get a single soul. Remember this is a very big town that is very strategic and economically [viable] too.”
Meanwhile, the military said it has freed 128 detainees, after investigations showed they were not members of Boko Haram. The released detainees include 109 men, seven women, 11 boys and a teenager.
Usman said the military was making steady progress in the fight against Boko Haram. He also said the military was on course to meet the deadline President Muhammadu Buhari set to defeat Boko Haram within three months.