The Nigerian security forces have declared war on terrorist group Boko Haram, as warplanes carry out air strikes against militant bases at Bama, Borno State, a senior official said yesterday.
The official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that Nigeria’s military was battling Boko Haram fighters at Bama, 70 km (45 miles) southeast of the Borno state capital Maiduguri.
Strikes have been carried out “on all the Boko Haram bases”, the official said, adding that this reflected President Goodluck Jonathan’s order for a “fully-fledged war” against the group which has waged a bloody insurgency since 2009.
“Bama today is the centre of the military battle with the terrorists … Boko Haram is being repelled by the Nigerian troops as we are talking now,” the government official said, without giving details of the operations or casualties.
The battle over Bama, and Boko Haram’s storming of towns and villages to the north, east and south of Maiduguri in recent weeks, has raised fears of an attack on the Borno state capital, prompting hundreds of civilians to flee.
“Even today, we can see so many people leaving … the buses are going out plenty now,” Musa Sumail, a human rights activist in Maiduguri who reports on the violence in the northeast, told Reuters. He said he had seen at least one or two Nigerian government fighter jets in the skies above Maiduguri.
In the same vein, the Defence Headquarters said the armed forces will do everything to defend the nation’s sovereignty.
In a statement by Major General Chris Olukolade, Director of Defence Information, the armed forces said: “DHQ wishes to reiterate the pledge and commitment it made while briefing the Joint Committee on Defence of the National Assembly to the effect that everything will be done to reverse the situation and defeat the rampaging terrorists.
“While welcoming all the concerns shown by Nigerians and a section of the international community following the increased menace and activities of terrorists, it is necessary to reassure all that the Nigerian Armed Forces is more than ever determined and committed to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria, regardless of any odd.
“It is not only the pride and reputation of the military that is at stake but that of the entire nation. We therefore urge our citizens not to lose hope or be disenchanted but to remain steadfast and supportive of the military as all steps are being taken to ensure the success of the counter-insurgency operations, especially at this crucial time when our sovereignty is being challenged.
“With this in mind, it is important to reiterate that the Nigerian military is fully conscious of its obligations to the Nigerian state and remains willing and ready to perform its duties with utmost diligence. Therefore, what the military requires at this critical period in the nation’s history is not pillories but continued support from all stakeholders and comity of nations.
“Indeed, this is not the time to despair or shift blames. Rather it calls for concerted effort by all and sundry to stop the agents of darkness who seek to destroy our country and civilization. On its part, the Nigerian military as a fighting force, assures Nigerians once again that this battle will be won.”