The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has assured that Baga town in Borno State remained under the control of the Nigerian military, despite reports that insurgents had sacked the troops and taken over the community they had occupied in the past.
Buratai, speaking in Maiduguri, the state capital, during the flag-off of Operation Egwu Eke III (Python Dance), stressed that although the insurgents tried to overrun the town, the military successfully repelled their attacks and remain in charge in the town.
This was corroborated by Chief of Army Training and Operations, Maj-Gen. L.O. Adeosun, who said: “Our troops have taken control of Baga town and its environs. Baga, as I speak with you, is not in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents. They contested it, but lost the battle in the last 24 hours of attacks on our base.”
Meanwhile, thousands of Baga residents, who fled to Maiduguri with their personal belongings, were seen at the motor park, yesterday morning.
The residents, comprising women and children, were yet to be provided with shelter and food by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) as at late afternoon.
“We are just arriving from Baga town, after paying N10, 000 taxi fares to reach Maiduguri. Even though none of my family members and neighbours was killed, I fear that the insurgents may kill us.
“The insurgents could not capture Baga military base since last Wednesday when they attempted to overrun the battalion headquarters,” Modu Abba told The Guardian at Baga Road Motor Park.
He further disclosed that more fleeing Baga residents were expected to arrive at the Maiduguri motor park by evening.
The suspected Boko Haram terrorists were earlier reported to have attacked two military bases in Baga and briefly seized the headquarters of a multinational force, comprising troops from Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroun. They were even reported to have hoisted their flag in the town.
The attackers were said to have sacked a naval base in Mile 3, about five kilometres from Baga. But fighting around Baga continued yesterday morning.
During the flag off of Operation Egwu Eke III (Python Dance) Buratai said the military had observed an upsurge of security challenges, such as stockpiling of arms by criminal groups, formation of ethnic militias and violence induced by political activities, noting that Operation Egwu Eke I and II, which took place in year 2016 and last year respectively in the South East, yielded positive results in checkmating the security challenges being witnessed in the region then.
He stated: “Exercise Egwu Eke III is significant because, for the first time, it will be conducted simultaneously across the country.
“It is also a reassurance of the resolve of the Nigerian Army and indeed the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria, as well as other security agencies, to ensure that law and order is maintained as we approach the forthcoming general elections.
Buratai assured that the Nigerian Army would continue to conduct internal security operations in combating criminality and other security challenges in the country in line with its constitutional mandate of military aid to civil authority.
He noted: “These challenges, coupled with other security threats across the country, such as terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and banditry, portend that dissident groups and criminal elements could cash in on the situation to perpetrate large- scale violence before, during and after the elections.
“Drawing from the my vision, ‘To have a Professionally Responsive NA in the Discharge of its Constitutional Roles,’ the NA troops need to be prepared and equipped with requisite skills to professionally and effectively respond to these challenges and security threats, in collaboration with Nigerian Police and other para-military organisations.
“The successes recorded so far in all conducted Nigerian Army level exercises is fulfilling both training and operations objectives of the Nigerian Army.
“I also believe Exercise Egwu Eke III, with its mandate of combating the upsurge of security challenges as we approach the general elections, will be a success.”
The COAS added: “Let me use this opportunity to call on the good people of Nigeria to provide our men and women in uniform adequate support, especially timely information, to enable them deliver on the mandate of Exercise Egwu Eke III.
“I want to also reaffirm the commitment of the Nigerian Army in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in our country. I wish you all well, as we flag off Exercise Egwu Eke III, which will be conducted across the six geopolitical zones of the country from January 1 to February 19, next year.”