Lest we forget: The commitment, the sacrifices of the Armed Forces

Chief of Defence Staff General Leo Irabor

The task of securing a nation that is large, diverse and so complex is challenging even for a well-funded and sophisticated military. Like the global scene, in Nigeria, there were several the defence and security issues in the year 2022.

From  terrorism, insurgency and banditry in the North  East/ North west by Boko Haram/ Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), to oil theft in the oil rich Niger delta, to senseless killings by IPOB and kidnapping in almost all parts of the country, the Nigerian military indeed have it full.

Little wonder troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria are deployed to almost the 36 States of the country including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The military has no less than six operations running concurrently in different parts of the country. Some of them include Operation HADIN KAI in the North-east, Operation HADARIN DAJI in the North West, operation DELTA SAFE in the South South , Operation SAFE HAVEN among others.

In the North-east for example, troop of Operation HADIN KAI sustained and dominated their general areas of operation denying the terrorists freedom of action all through year. Consequently, eliminating thousands of terrorists in the process. Also thousands of terroristsof terrorists, their colloborators and logistics suppliers were also arrested.

It is worthy to note that some of those neutralized by our gallant troops are terrorists commanders, which was a great blow to their camps.

Also, the fire power of the military ground troops and the Nigerian Air force bombardment from the air left thousands of their terrorists and their families with no option than to surrender. Thus, the year under review witnessed mass surrendering of terrorists, their wives and children.

Significantly, Brigadier General Ishaq Abdullahi (rtd), Special Adviser to the Borno State government on Security Affairs recently said more than 90, 000 Boko Haram fighters and their families have so far surrendered to military and have been handed over to the Borno State government for screening and rehabilitation.

He noted that no fewer than 95 percent of Boko Haram Commanders diehard have been killed either through military operations or in fighting between the warring factions.

Some of the terrorists’ Commanders and kingpins eliminated include Khaids Abbah Tukur, Maimusari, Bakura,  Jega and several others eliminated on 20 December 2022 at Mantari in Gezuwa area of Bama Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno state.

Also, Airstrikes by Air Component of Operation Hadin Kaikilled two ISWAP kingpin, Mallam Ali Kwaya a key member of the ISWAP Shura Council and Mallam Bukar Mainoka at Belowa, Lake Chad Region in Abadam Local Government of Borno state on 6th November 2023.

In the same vein, bandits who have terrorised communities, raped women and kidnapped hundreds of school children were ‘spoken to in language that they understand and sent by our troops to their maker  in the North west.

The Abuja-Kaduna road was a hot bed of kidnappers has rid of the monsters by the military in collaboration with other security agencies. Motorists now ply the road without fear of being kidnapped.

This has no doubt boosted economic activities in the entire region. Just like in the North-east, many bandits including their leaders have been eliminated in the North west region. For example, two notorious banditry kingpins, Halilu Buzu and Alaji Gana in Zamfara and Kaduna states were neutralized.  While Halilu Buzu was killed on October 21, 2022, at Sububu, Maradun Local Government Area (LGA) of Zamfara state, Alaji Gana was eliminated on November 14, 2022 at Kidandan Forest in Giwa Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna state.

Also, a terrorist leader, Ali Dogo, Aka Yellow  was also killed after airstrikes undertaken by the Air Component of Operation WHIRL Punch targeted him at Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna state on 8 October 2022. 30 of his fighters were also neutralized in the airstrikes.

Likewise, I must state that the maritime domain and the shipping sector in particular constitute a critical driver of the Nigerian economy.

In the same vein, troops in Joint Task Force, operation DELTA SAFE in the South South Zone of the country in the year under review have continued the war against oil theft and illegal refineries and other criminal activities in the Niger Delta region through aggressive and increased tempo in raids and clearance operations as well as patrol amongst other activities.

Accordingly, the land, maritime and air component of the OperationDELTA SAFE conducted operational activities at the creeks, waterways, high sea, towns, cities of all the states in the Niger delta region.

In the cause of these operations, troops discovered as well as destroyed several illegal refining sites, cooking ovens, storage tanks,  dugout pits , wooden boats, barges,  tankers,  cars, 12 pumping machines, outboard engine,  speedboat and other equipment used by oil thefts. This has saved the nation billions of naira.  Also several oil thieves were arrested and handed over to security agencies.

 Another milestone recorded by military in 2022 was that Nigeria recorded zero sea robbery and piracy attacks in its waterways in 2022. This is inspite of the fact that about 70 per cent of maritime trade  in the Gulf of Guinea is conducted in Nigeria’s waters, and this places enormous responsibility on the country to keep its maritime environment and by extension, the entire Gulf of Guinea, safe and secure. The pursuing, capturing, subsequent repatriating of rogue vessel MT Herioc Idun to Nigeria and arraigning of crew members was one of the high points of the efforts of Nigerian Navy and securing the maritime environment.

It is worthy to state that sequel to delisting Nigeria from the list of piracy prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau in its  report of 3  March 2022, Nigerian Navy has sustained zero piracy attack within Nigerian waters till date and the reports from various Regional Maritime Awareness Capability centres indicates improvements in legitimate shipping activities with negligible crime rates. These achievements are attributable to sustained presence of Nigerian Navy ships at sea, increased regional and international synergy as well as maritime domain awareness .

On March 28, Nigerians were shocked and thrown into mourning when a Kaduna bound  train on its way from Abuja was attacked by bandits in Kaduna. Several persons were killed, dozens injured, while others were abducted.

However, six months later, precisely in October, a committee set up by the federal government and chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff General LEO Irabor, through non- kinetic operations,  successfully secured the release of the victims.

The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Nigerian military under the leadership of the CDS, who conceived and guided the operation from start to finish.

These feats were achieved owing to the political will of the President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi,  commitment of Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Farouq Yahaya, Chief of Naval Staff , Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu  Gambo and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo  Amao as well as strategic, operational and tactical commanders   and above all sacrifices of our troops some of whom paid the supreme prize.

As the Armed Forces of Nigeria continues to work with other  security services and stakeholders, the only way we can honour their sacrifices is to continue to support them to perform the task onerous task of defending our territorial integrity as enshrined in the constitution.

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