Now that Sambisa forest has fallen…

Now that Sambisa forest has fallen…
December 30 10:49 2016

By Abdullahi M. Gulloma

The news of the capture of Sambisa Forest, last week, though pleasing to our ears and, maybe long awaited, came with no surprise to us. For too long, arguably with little success, the military had pushed to bring the Boko Haram hideout under its control.

Thus, sooner or later, we all knew that the forest will be conquered and the insurgents killed or banished. So, it happened and praises heaped on our gallant soldiers.

Officially breaking the news of the fall of the forest into military hands, President Muhammadu Buhari in his goodwill message to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole on the successful capture of Boko Haram enclave in Sambisa Forest on Saturday, said he was delighted at the news and proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army.

“I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at ‘Camp Zero,’ which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa Forest,” the President said. “I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35p.m. on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide.”

The President urged the troops to maintain the tempo by pursuing the terrorists and bringing them to justice. He also called on Nigerians to support members of the security agencies by providing useful information that would expose terrorists in their hideouts.

The President said efforts would be intensified to free the remaining Chibok schoolgirls still in captivity, praying that “May God be with them.”

Expectedly, leaders across the political spectrum in the country, including governors, have congratulated the President and the military soon after the takeover of the Sambisa forest from the Boko Haram insurgents.

In their message of congratulations, the governors assured the President that the whole country is behind him in his efforts to secure the country and make it safe for all. They said that meaningful development cannot take place without security.

The governors, however, urged the President to mobilise resources, both human and material, to sustain the gains made in the fight against terrorism and economic sabotage. They also called on the United Nations, United States, the European Union, rich countries of Asia, Middle-East and international aid and donor agencies to keep supporting Nigeria in order to quicken the pace of resettlement and rehabilitation of the millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps across the country.

The Boko Haram, until now, has been even more deadly than Islamic State. And each time the country’s army seemed to have made substantial inroads toward dealing the group a fatal blow, the group, instead, has quietly rebuilt itself.

Its members cut the throats of schoolboys, casting them aside to bleed to death in the sandy dust, beheaded victims, like Islamic State, while videotaping the atrocities.

Boko Haram, originally modeled on Afghanistan’s Taliban, was at its lowest ebb in 2010, with Nigerian authorities confident they had brought the organisation to its knees after killing, allegedly, about 700 of its fighters in a battle in 2009.

But, the group went underground, regrouped and launched many attacks. In 2014, it became the world’s most deadly terrorist group, according to the Global Terrorism Index released by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a think tank, last year.

Now that the military appeared to have finally overpowered the insurgents, the Nigerian government should maximise its ability to detect future attacks and deter those caught engaging in terrorism. Satellite and other surveillance apparatus should be utilised to detect nocturnal movements and to preempt terrorist activity.
Entities like the Nigeria’s Nigcomsat Company must be fully repositioned to maximise their operational capabilities for national security purposes.

The chunk of the population of the terror-prone zones should be relocated to safe locations and the exited areas thoroughly combed to isolate the terrorists.mThis includes evacuating Sambisa forest of regular villagers, identifying and interning them in a safe camp, and completely deforesting the Sambisa forest to ensure that no one can hide under its leaves again. The same strategy should apply to Gwoza hills where the terrorists must be uprooted from the caves and crevices.

Doing so will ensure that the areas, now and in near future, cannot be utilised by criminals to cause mayhem on innocent people and sabotage the Nigerian state.
For now, however, it’s all congratulations to our victorious soldiers.