Troops may leave N’East in 2017, says Buratai

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The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Monday said troops fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East would be returned to the barracks in 2017, when the fight would have been over.

Although twin blasts, suspected to have been coordinated by the Boko Haram fighters, killed 56 persons and injured 77 in a market in Madagali, Adamawa State on Friday, the army chief said the military was sure of success over the insurgents.

Also, on Sunday, another suicide attack on Monday Market, Maiduguri, Borno State, claimed three lives and injured 17 persons, but Buratai, who visited troops in the Damboa Local Government Area of the state, said the army would continue aggressive actions against the insurgents.

The army chief, who visited the 81 battalion on Monday, added that success over the Boko Haram remnants in the area would also facilitate the return of the Internally Displaced Persons to their homes.

He said, “Going by my first message in December, we must work to get out of this place. We must work to get out of this operation very quickly. We must defeat the Boko Haram. I was in one of the barracks and I have assured the families of our troops that many of you will go back in 2017.

“This battalion has done well. It fought along with the Cameroonian troops in this battle which means it is better placed to deal with these criminals. We must continue with the aggressive actions, patrol and ambush.

“We must move into all the hideouts of these criminals and fish them out. Other troops in the Sambisa Forest are dealing with them as well.”

Buratai said the army would do more to enhance the welfare of troops, adding that there would be a rotation of soldiers every six months of deployment.

The COAS also visited Alpha Company of 25 Brigade in Damboa to assess the new headquarters of the brigade.

Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Adamu Kamale, on Monday debunked claims by the Federal Government that all communities hitherto occupied by Boko Haram insurgents had been completely liberated.

Kamale, who represents Michika/Madagali Federal Constituency of Adamawa State, said contrary to the claims of the authorities, particularly the Nigerian military, not much had changed in the territories.

He spoke exclusively with The PUNCH in response to last week Friday’s twin bomb explosions in a popular market in Madagali, which resulted in the death of at least 56 people.

Kamale explained that many villages in his constituency share common boundaries with the dreaded Sambisa Forest, the main base of the Boko Haram insurgents.

He stated that insurgents infiltrated the communities, occupied the villages for as long as it pleased them, kidnapping and killing defenceless villagers in the process.

The lawmaker added, “Madagali still has challenges. I am the representative of this area and I know what I am saying. Many of our territories are still under the control of the insurgents.

“They kidnap and slaughter our people at will. Before last week’s attacks in Madagali market, three people were kidnapped and killed a day earlier in the same place.

“Some of these incidents are actually unreported and because they are not documented, the impression is created that all is well.

“The claims by the authorities that only pockets of insurgents are still operating are not true. The insurgents are still very much in control of many of our villages close to the Sambisa Forest. They still occupy these territories.”

Kamale told The PUNCH that though the insurgents would try to retreat whenever they sensed the presence of the military, he insisted that they always returned to “terrorise the villages and occupy them as soon as the soldiers move to other locations.”

The lawmaker said the solution was for the government to provide “adequate security for these communities in Madagali” by ensuring that the military had a permanent operational base there.

“We need the Federal Government to come to the aid of these defenceless villagers,” he appealed.

Kamale added that he felt embittered each time the government asked displaced villagers to return home on the excuse that their communities had been fully liberated.

“Let the people have adequate security; the psychological loss to our people is devastating.

“Their problem is beyond sharing food items to them or merely asking them to return to homes that are not secured,” he said.

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