By Kingsley Omonobi, Ben Agande, with agency reports
ABUJA — President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, in Niger Republic renewed his vow to crush the Boko Haram Islamic sect, saying “five years of the presence of this evil sect is enough.”
Speaking at a news conference in Niger during his first visit outside the country since inauguration, Buhari expressed confidence in the ability of the Nigerian military to overcome and eradicate Boko Haram.
At the news conference with Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, he also said that Nigeria will soon take over from Nigerien soldiers who occupy towns liberated from the Islamist militant group. He noted that the Nigerian Army which has earned a good reputation worldwide remains a virile fighting force.
His words: “I renew my commitment to track Boko Haram into a corner, to destroy it. Five years of the presence of this evil sect is enough. On the issue of the Niger military positioned in cities of Nigeria, I think in the next four weeks we will be able to replace them with Nigerian forces so they can return to their country”.
Buhari said the other nations would provide weapons and help restore infrastructure destroyed by the insurgents. He also thanked Niger for hosting as many as 150,000 refugees who fled insecurity in Nigeria to Niger.
A statement signed by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity quoted the President as saying that because of the peculiarity of insurgency, Nigeria will require the assistance of its neighbours.
“I am four days in office today and we have already started the process of ending the insurgency,” the President said.
He disclosed that in the course of the over five hours meeting he held with heads of Nigeria’s Armed Forces and security agencies on Tuesday, on-going operations against Boko Haram were reviewed for better results.
President Buhari said that because of the peculiarities of terrorism, the movement of terrorists across borders and the unconventional nature of the war against terror, Nigeria will continue to seek the support of neighbouring countries in its bid to overcome Boko Haram.
The President said that his visit to Niger was to seek more support from the country in bringing a quick end to the atrocities of Boko Haram.
President Buhari said he would hold similar meetings on security and the war against terrorism with the Chadian authorities after leaving Niamey today.
The President said Nigeria would also require the assistance of other nations and multi-lateral institutions to rebuild areas that have been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and rehabilitate displaced persons.
Niger President commends Buhari
In his remarks, the President of Niger commended President Buhari for making Niger the first country he will visit after his inauguration.
“Your decision to move the military command of Nigeria to the North-East has further strengthened our conviction that the war against terrorism will soon come to an end,” he told President Buhari, while assuring him that Niger will continue to support Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.
“Niger is ready to help flush out Boko Haram and protect its borders, its people and their property,” Issoufou said, adding that a new multinational force of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin to combat the insurgency in the Lake Chad region will become operational in the coming weeks.
At the opening of bilateral talks between Nigeria and Niger earlier, President Buhari praised his host’s contributions to the on-going multi-national effort against terrorism, insurgency and cross-border crimes.
“Permit me also to acknowledge the consistency with which the government and people of Niger Republic have stood beside Nigeria under all circumstances. I would like to convey the appreciation of Nigeria for the sacrifices by Niger in the on-going efforts to counter the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Niger Republic has over the years, proven to be a reliable ally to Nigeria both at bilateral and multilateral levels. It is our hope and aspiration that this special relationship would be further consolidated during my administration.
“My administration will bring new impetus and a renewed commitment to the efforts to wipe out the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents. As a first step, we have directed the relocation of the command post of the counter-insurgency operations to Maiduguri until such a time that the insurgency is completely defeated.
“Another issue of concern to us which is closely associated with the insurgency in the region is the influx of refugees and other displaced persons. We are aware that currently, there are over 150, 000 displaced persons comprising refugees and returnees taking refuge in various parts of Niger.
“Our administration will work closely with governments of the affected states to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced persons and their host communities.
“The ultimate objective, however, remains to end the insurgency and facilitate their return to their homes,” President Buhari said.
Minimah, Badeh, Amosu relocate to Maiduguri tomorrow
Meanwhile, in compliance with the directive by President Buhari that the Command and Control headquarters of the Nigerian Armed Forces should relocate to Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram terrorist group, Vanguard can report authoritatively that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah is to lead principal staff officers and some directors to Maiduguri tomorrow.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu will also relocate to Maiduguri with a contingent of his principal staff officers and some directors at NAF headquarters.
Vanguard gathered that both the Army and the Air Force, which are directly prosecuting the war on terrorism from the air and land, are critical to the plan of the Buhari administration to rout Boko Haram out of the North East, while the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin will move to Maiduguri next week.
Already, Vanguard was told that temporary office and accommodations are being erected for the service chiefs and PSOs relocating to Maiduguri.
In the first instance, it was learnt that the Chiefs of Operations, Chiefs of Logistics, Provost Marshals’ and Directors of Intelligence and Information departments of the Army, Air Force and Defence Headquarters will move to Maiduguri for effective coordination of the onslaught against Boko Haram.
Aside the movement of the Command and Control top brass of the armed forces, Vanguard gathered that the Army High Command has directed the deployments of more troops from the 81 and 82 divisions of the Nigerian Army while more aircraft from the Special Operations Group, Logistics Command and the Mobility Command are to be deployed to swell those from the Tactical Air Command for the operation.
Asked if the issue of funding which was cited as one of the major problems for delay in wiping out the Boko Haram terrorism menace has been tackled, the military source said:
“The President has taken care of that issue. He said nothing will stand in his way to clear out the embarrassment that is Boko Haram. That is why the movement is immediate.”
On what becomes of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army whose headquarters is located in Maiduguri, the source said, there will be no problem or clash, noting that a separate location and office is being created for Army headquarters.
“Due to the urgency of the relocation, the office of the Chief of Army Staff and his personal aides will be in place, the principal staff officers will be accompanied with maybe one or two critical directors and of course, there will be various support staff in place drawn from the services headquarters”, the source added.
It will be recalled that President Buhari had a four-hour meeting with all the service chiefs during which he was briefed about the security situation regarding Boko Haram terrorism and what it will take to carry out his directive to move the Command and Control headquarters to Maiduguri, Borno State.
Asked how long the Command and Control Centre will be in Maiduguri, the source said, “as long as the Commander-in-Chief wants, but since the relocation is not for a jamboree, the objective will be to get the job done as soon as possible which is military fashion.
“But that does not mean other security challenges confronting the country will be given less attention. The economic livewire of the country, the maritime domain will continue to receive adequate attention as well as other contemporary challenges in several parts of the country.
“That is why we have GOC’s, AOC’s and FOC’s in various divisions and equivalent.”
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