By Joyce Matthew
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the Nigerian Army recorded its greatest onslaught so far against the evils of banditry, insurgency and terrorism in Nigeria.
This year has seen the Nigerian Army tackling all forms of insecurity in the almost all the geopolitical zones in the country with tangible and verifiable results!
The previous year, 2019 had not been a bad year for the military as it killed and flushed out Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists from most parts of the Northeast Nigeria which saw them fleeing to neighbouring African countries like Chad, Cameroon and Niger and made it possible for elections to be conducted successfully in all parts of the country including Borno which had high rates of security challenges.
But as internally displaced persons returned to their communities and the military was trying to consolidate on gains of the previous year so that complete normalcy would return, some of the terrorists who had fled from the superior fire power of the Nigerian Army and settled in Chad rose against the Chadian government and killed over 100 of President Idris Derby Itno’s special squad.
The killing saw the Chadian government moving against the terrorists, killing quite a number of them which forced many of them to run back to Nigeria.
The Nigerian military detected that the return of the insurgents was going to pose fresh security challenges for Nigeria and it quickly took action.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai offered to lead the operation that would check this challenge and flush the terrorists out of Nigeria for good and offered to relocate to Borno State to lead the troops from the front.
Some of the Chadian escapees who ran with their weapons by then have started showing signs of desperation due to hunger and had started raiding communities and killing innocent villagers to feed and dispossess them of their property.
But the relocation of the Chief of Army Staff to the theatre of war stopped all that as it introduced new strategies in the fight against insurgency and the Nigerian Army is sustained operations made it impossible for the insurgents to operate.
In one of such incidents, the Nigerian Army stationed in Damasak, Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State, repelled attacks by Boko Haram insurgents who swarmed the area at about 2:30 pm.
The insurgents had arrived in about 13 gun trucks and one gulf car and attempted to attack the military location from different angles by trying to envelope their camp, but soldiers countered them and the insurgents took to their heels.
Within the period, the Nigerian military also penetrated the fortresses of the insurgents and brought many down on their knees.
The military killed hundreds of terrorists in different locations in Kwalaram, Ngilewa, Sabon Tumbu, Bukarmairam, Wulgo in the Marte and Gamboru Ngala and in Gorgi, Damboa local government and in Buni Gari all in Borno State.
The Army also overran the camps of the terrorists in places like Durfada, Allafha, Timbuktu, Bulajibi and Gonikurmi near the Sambisa forest which led to surrender of the 11 of the ISWAP members.
Attempts to attack Maiduguri were twice repelled by the army and also in Damboa, Banki, and Madagali and other places with heavy casualties on the side of the insurgents.
Within two months of Butatai relocating to the Northeast, the military neutralised about 2,000 of the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists while many were seriously wounded or arrested.
But as the military was pummeling the Northeast, the insurgents who could not bear the heat on them ran to the Northwest and Northcentral parts of the country to continue their criminal acts.
This agains drew the attention of Lt. General Buratai who by then had gone to submit reports of the success of the operation he was leading in the Northeast to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The new challenges posed by the worsening security situation in the Northwest states of Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kaduna, moving up to the Northcentral state of Niger, again compelled the Army Chief to personally move there.
By then the Northwest was becoming notorious for the rate of killings and abductions on a daily basis where entire villages are sacked by bandits, houses were being torched and valuables forcefully taken away.
On a particular day, the terrorists attacked several communities in Katsina and Sokoto States and killed hundreds of people.
In response, the Chief of Army of Staff, On the 6th of July 2020, as part of activities marking the Army Day, flagged off Operation SAHEL SANITY in Katsina State.
The operation was to complement Operation HADARIN DAJI in stemming the tides of the activities of armed banditry, cattle rustling , kidnapping, incessant killings and other crimes in the North-West zone of the country and before the end of July, the gallant troops of Operation SAHEL SANITY carried out series of clearance operations, ambushes and other aggressive and confidence building patrols within Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara States which led to the rescue of kidnapped victims, recovery of rustled cattles, arrest of suspected armed bandits, arrest of bandits informants and collaborators.
The troops also recovered large cache of arms and ammunition as well as motorcycles and other bandits logistics.
In less than a month, troops of the Operation SAHEL SANITY eliminated armed bandits, recovered 943 cows, 633 sheep/rams recovered; 33 suspected bandits arrested; 7 AK47 Riffles, 1 GPMG and 16 Dane guns captured.
The troops also rescued 17 kidnapped victims and arrested 14 bandits informants and collaborators and also penetrated several bandits’ camps including the notorious Dangote Triangle and destroyed their logistics bases.
The Army also mounted sentry in areas hitherto occupied by bandits making it impossible for them to regroup or launch fresh attacks.
Within a month of launching the operation, the people of the North-West Zone began to have sighs of relief as thousands of people that ran away from their communities after bandit attacks, began to return.
But last week was the icing on the cake when the army rescued 342 boys who were abducted at a secondary school in Kankara, Katsina State without casualty.
The operation was so successful that many have called to commend the Nigerian Army for bravery and efficiency. The year 2020 is indeed a great one for the Nigerian Army and its proactive leadership.
Matthew is an author and public affairs analyst based in the United Kingdom.