For the second time in her checkered history, the intervention of Russia in Nigeria’s security challenges has proved crucial in dealing with difficult situations. First was the three years civil war (1967-70) and presently, the supply of the right arms and ammunition that have helped to turn the tide of war against the Boko Haram terrorists in the north-eastern part of the country.
Investigations have revealed that following the reluctance of America and the suspicious response of the West to Nigeria’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts, federal government turned to the East for help.
THISDAY was informed by sources within the presidency and security circle that the botched $15m arms deal, which exposed America’s hypocrisy, forced Nigeria to look for alternative sources of arms supply.
According to one of the sources, the outcome of such strategic move is the acquisition of the right kinds of armoury that has helped to change the game against the terrorists with the recent liberation of many towns and communities from the stronghold of the insurgents.
They noted in particular that the role of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPS) Vehicles from South Africa and Russia was crucial in the recent liberation of Baga where terrorists’ mines proved ineffectual against the military onslaught.
The top intelligence source commended the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), for taking the bold initiative in the desperate efforts that brokered the deals with Russia, South Africa, and China, amongst others.
“When the Americans refused to assist and we found out that they were playing games with us, citing human rights violation, several countries were willing to assist. You already know how Israel wanted to assist, and still do. Now Russia, China and some others have been cooperative.
“This does not mean we have done away with our American and Western allies but our national security comes first and any useful assistance will suffice”, the source said.
In the same vein, a security source said that the “game changing tactics deployed by the Federal government to boost the efforts of the military against the insurgents has been greatly enhanced by these new deals in both the Army and Air Force”.
“Apart from the arsenal and equipment in the regular inventory of the military which were procured and put into action to combat the insurgents, some specialized and high grade weapons and equipment as well as tactics proved to be a game changer in the efforts of the military”, the source said.
THISDAY was informed that the list of procurement of high grade military arsenal in the Nigeria Army includes the “T-72 Russian-made tanks deployed to support troops’ advance at all axis, RM 70 multiple rocket launchers, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPS) vehicles from South Africa, Russia, Czech Republic.
“For the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), we have the MI35 attack helicopters from Russia and associated weapons and accessories, Agusta 109 support helicopters, Super PUMA helicopters from France, F17 Bombers with precision guided munitions, and the ever present Alpha Jet bombers”.
In addition, the source noted that special procedures were also designed to inflict maximum misery on the terrorists “such as the operations of Special Forces – used for specialised operations such as cut-off operations, town clearing, helicopter support operations”.
“We also have specialised night helicopter operations that seriously degraded Boko Haram leadership, round the clock aerial surveillance by strategic surveillance platforms, which provides round the clock intelligence to ground troops before, during and after operations.
“This is also followed up with specialized ground to air communications between surveillance platforms, aerial attack platforms and ground troops”.
THISDAY had also reported how a change of battle plans, regional alliance, and especially the acquisition of the right weapons has helped to change the battle situation in the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency offensive against the Boko Haram terrorists.
It noted that since the latest arrangements, the terrorists have lost strategic towns including Mongonu, Marte, Gamboru Ngala, Dikwa and other surrounding communities, all thanks to the game changing weapons and arrangements.
Accordingly, with the official confirmation of Baga’s liberation due to the game changing strategies, it’s a matter of days or a few weeks for the remaining frontiers in Borno State such as Bama, Sambisa and Gwoza to be recaptured.
The source singled out two of the major game-changing factors that turned the tide of the battle to include the regional agreement with the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to destroy Boko Haram safe havens within their contiguous boundaries, as well as the stockpile of new sophisticated weapons like drones, battle tanks, attack helicopters and night vision technology.
Actually, the source noted, major issue people are asking is that if we have not been able to deal with these issues in the last two to six years how can we resolve same now? According to the source, the answer is simple, adding, before now there was no agreement or cooperation with our neighbours; even the hot pursuit arrangement was not honoured but now they have all agreed.
“The first thing is the sincerity and commitment of our neighbouring countries on the task of eliminating the terrorists”, the source said.
Two, the source added, for the first time, the Nigerian military has stockpiled all armaments not brought in bits and pieces but some brought at once with bigger transport aircraft.
The source said: “They brought some of these game changing tanks and armoured vehicles. The APCs, T-72 battle tanks, T55 armoured tanks with mine sweeping capabilities, which are used in Baga and currently in Sambisa and Gwoza; and the attack helicopters, especially the Cobra equipped with night vision capabilities have turned the tide against Boko Haram.
“There are more use of drones but we don’t want to name all of them for security reasons because Americans that don’t want us to have these weapons may have a different motive. Look at when one of the drones was sighted in Adamawa, the US were said to be angry, asking how we were able to secure them”.
“The beauty of it is that these drones are doing very well and has enhanced our capacity and battle success. We are now having more drones; China, Russia and other countries have been helping out in this regard. We mainly Surveillance drones that can convey real war situation, and can maneuver the terrorists. It’s actually these drones that helped to identify the terrorists’ camps”.
In the same vein, THISDAY gathered from the military authorities, that readjustment at the tactical and operational levels also helped to transform the fortunes of the Nigerian military.
One of the top senior officers informed THISDAY that the increasing involvement of the Generals in leading the battle has helped to instill confidence in the rest of the soldiers and junior officers.
“Another point is that the senior officers who are increasingly leading the battle are now encouraging the soldiers to get involved. Before some of the Commanders used to be from the Colonel downwards but now you see Generals leading the charge from the battlefront. Like the battle that is going on now in different parts of Borno like Gwoza, Baga and so on are being commanded by the Generals.
“Also the change of attitudes of the senior officers who have left their cozy offices into the battlefield has helped to boost the soldiers morale. This has actually ‘gingered’ the soldiers and discouraged those who wanted to desert, saying ‘if such generals could be on the battlefront that means nobody is just sending them to go and die. So this is one of the reasons we are winning the battle”, the source said.
Also, a military source disclosed, there is intensive training and retraining of the troops in non-conventional warfare.
Speaking further, the source explained that “the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency training being given to some of our forces are beginning to bear fruit in addition to arrival of more special forces to join the fight.
“Boko Haram were more active before in the night but with the acquisition of night vision technology our troops have had the upper hand”.
Suicide Bomber Strikes Potiskum Market
But despite the valour of the Nigerian troops, the terrorists are yet striking, this time resorting to more of suicide bombings as Potiskum, for the second time in a month, witnessed another suicide bombing when a female suicide bomber attacked the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) market in Yobe State’s biggest commercial town, leaving five dead and 46 others injured.
It would be recalled that just about a month ago, many persons were killed and injured at the same market in what has become a frequent incident in Potiskum.
In Potiskum and the state capital Damaturu, suicide bombers, especially females, have continued to hit motor parks, GSM market, restaurants and several public places in recent times, leaving several lives lost, many persons injured and property also destroyed.
A mobile phone accessories seller at the market, Yusuf Jubrin told THISDAY on phone that a female suicide bomber hit the entrance of the GSM market located in the heart of Potiskum town around 1:15 pm.
He said the attack resulted in her death and four other persons with many left severely injured.
He said, “We saw the girl and we became suspicious of her movement and when one of us tried to confront her, the bomb on her went off, killing both of them and three others, while several others sustained injuries and have been taken to the General Hospital in Potiskum.”
A source at the hospital told THISDAY on phone that five corpses from the attack were deposited at the morgue and 46 persons were admitted for treatment.
When the source spoke to THISDAY at about 3pm yesterday, he said “some of those injured have minor injuries and some may need to be referred to bigger hospital outside the state as their injuries were serious.”
The source did not rule at a rise in the death toll, insisting that some of the injured persons were hanging to life, “I pray that they will be able to make it as their situation is very serious.”
The Police Public Relations officer, ASP Toyin Gbadegesin, who confirmed the incident on phone to journalists, said he was yet to be furnished with the details of the blast yet.
He however promised to make the number of casualties known to the press immediately it is made available to him.
Gbadegesin said; “Yes, I can confirm to you that there is a blast at the Kasuwan Jagwal market (GSM market) in Potiskum where it happened last month but how it happened and the casualty figure are not yet known”
Suicide bombing has become rampant in Potiskum, the commercial town of Yobe state.
Abandoned Boko Haram Arms Recovered
But the sign that the days of the terrorists are numbered was evident in the fact that troops engaged in cordon and search in Baga have continued to discover more arms of various background and shapes abandoned in some houses and the surrounding by fleeing terrorists.
Heaps of weapons most of which were strange looking or destroyed are still being gathered. Many abandoned or destroyed motorcycles have also been discovered.
A soldier was stabbed while another was shot during a close quarter battle which ensued as troops involved in cordon and search caught up with some of the fleeing terrorists Sunday evening. A number of individuals who claimed to be residents are also being interrogated in order to ascertain their identity and motive.
The group consisting mostly women continued to hail and cheer the troops as they conduct thorough search in the area. Wanting to be sure the group was not working for the terrorists despite the excitement, they had to be placed under watch.
The cordon and search as well as patrol of the localities continue while the offensive on terrorists is progressing in other areas of the theatre of the counter terrorist campaign.