•Hails troops for taking Boko Haram stronghold
Nigerians yesterday received one of the most soul-lifting messages yet from President Mohammadu Buhari: the routing of the terror sect Boko Haram from its stronghold of Sambisa Forest in Borno State.
The entire 1300 square kilometre forest fell into the hands of the soldiers at about 1.35pm on Thursday, according to Buhari in what he himself called “the long-awaited and most gratifying news.”
He said he was delighted at the news and “most proud of the gallant troops,” which made it all possible.
He particularly acknowledged “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.”
He was briefed on the development by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.
Buhari confirmed that that the terrorists “are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide.”
His message: “I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.
“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.
“I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice.
“I, therefore, call on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that will expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.
“Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity. May God be with them.
“I also want to congratulate and commend the able leadership of the Nigerian Army in particular and indeed, that of the Armed Forces in general, for making this possible. This, no doubt, will go a long way in improving the security situation not only in the North East, but the country in general. But we must not let our guards down.
“Once more, congratulations to our troops and all who, in one way or the other, contributed to this most commendable and momentous effort. May the Almighty continue to be with you.
“I wish you a Merry Christmas and a most rewarding and peaceful Year 2017 ahead.”
Buratai separately lauded the efforts and sacrifices of “gallant officers and men of the Nigerian Army currently engaged in the counter insurgency operations in the North East and other operations across the country and abroad.”
He gave the commendation in a Christmas and New Year message to the personnel.
He congratulated them for their “bravery, doggedness and loyalty in these endeavours,” and urged them to “maintain the momentum and remain steadfast as we continue to professionally and responsively carryout our constitutional roles.”
He pledged to continue to “ensure that troops’ welfare and that of their families, remains my utmost priority.”
He also assured them of “Federal Government’s commitment to providing the Nigerian Army with the requisite support for us to perform our duties.
“The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, has pledged his total support to the Armed Forces to bring all ongoing operations to an end in favour of our dear country.
“This festive season heralds peace as well as a time for merriment, sober reflection and introspection. I enjoin us all to continue to pray to the Almighty God for the repose of the souls of our fallen comrades and the wellbeing of the families of our brave fallen heroes,” the army said.
While thanking the officers and men for the good job they had done in 2016, he said they should look forward to “making greater progress in 2017.”
He wished them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
However, the ouster of the insurgents from Sambisa does not necessarily translate into an end to other forms of terrorism by the extremists.
These include suicide bombings, and assaults on villages, gatherings and military locations in the Northeast.
The Sambisa Forest which Gen. Buratai last March said is about the size of Enugu State had served Boko Haram in various ways including its operational base, training camps, and hideout for its leaders, foot soldiers and their families.
Most of the over 200 Chibok school girls that were abducted in April 2014 are believed to have been kept in the forest for some time.
Some of the girls were released in October after protracted negotiations with the terrorists. (Punchng.com)