Boko Haram insurgents currently holding 219 schoolgirls hostage in their hideout in Sambisa Forest, North East, have laced the vicinity with sophisticated landmines and posted snipers on tree tops to look out for intruders, thus preventing the military from rescuing the girls.
This disclosure was made yesterday in Abuja by the spokesman of the Nigeria Police, ACP Frank Mba, while briefing newsmen on some of the factors militating against the rescue operation.
However, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, yesterday assured that the Federal Government would eradicate all forms of terrorism and violence in the country.
Mba, who spoke at the National Security Information Centre, Abuja, at the briefing presided over by the Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mike Omeri, added that another factor is the desire of the military to strictly observe the rules of engagement, reduce casualties among soldiers and bring back the girls alive.
He explained that the entire forest, especially areas occupied by the insurgents, were ringed with dangerous landmines and sharp-shooters who pick out approaching targets with ease even though the practice of using landmines has been banned by international laws.
“We are fighting what can be described as unconventional warfare. There are obvious challenges, since we are operating at unusual times and fighting unusual war,” he stated.
“The security agencies and the Nigerian military are guided by some rules of engagement which must be strictly obeyed. The insurgents, because they are criminals, do not observe any rules and do not operate within the confines of the law.”
“The Boko Haram insurgents are not regulated by any rules of engagement. So, they engage in acts that are clearly criminal and even their modus operandi are criminal. So, oftentimes, legitimate military forces are faced with challenges when dealing with such criminal situations. You will recall that the use of landmines has been clearly prohibited by international laws and the use of landmines in war theatres was banned. Most countries of the world have stopped using it. Nigeria is a signatory to that treaty but the criminal group uses landmines against the laws.”
“In the police, for example, because we are guided by laws, no matter how much we want to arm our policemen, we cannot turn them into soldiers or infantrymen. The weapons the police use must fit the establishment, because it is still the police force and not a military unit.”
Adding to the statement of the police officer, Omeri, assured Nigerians that the Federal Government has done everything necessary to properly equip its soldiers and stationed sufficient military personnel on the ground in the northeast to bring to a conclusive end the insurgency, apart from rescuing the Chibok girls.
He also disclosed that the military has intensified patrols, with local groups, around the communities near Chibok, following reports of renewed attacks on villages by Boko Haram insurgents.
Omeri assured that the government will never waiver in its commitment to protect citizens of the nation no matter how remote their communities may be located.
Minimah gave the assurance in a keynote address at the Armoured Vehicles West Africa Conference held in Abuja.
“The army, indeed the armed forces had taken adequate measures in collaborating with relevant government ministries, departments and agencies to stem the tide of insecurity and ensure public safety and human rights.”
“We have also partnered with these bodies to ensure the rule of law, in line with our constitutional roles.”
“One of these measures is the modernisation of equipment to enhance our operational capabilities in line with contemporary threats,” he stated.
Minimah stated.that these measures were complemented with improved training, enhanced troops welfare and relevant doctrinal review.
He stated.the measures would also regenerate the military force and strengthen their posture to deal with national and global security challenges.
“This conference is therefore important to us as it will afford us the opportunity to interact with a wide array of equipment experts to discuss trends of advancement of technology especially for armoured platform.”
“Our interactions over the next two days would enable us to gain strategic insight into innovation that could increase the mobility and survivability of our troops in both internal security and peace support operations.”
The army chief re-emphasised the importance of closer interface between the producers and end-users of defence and security related platforms and equipment.
He stated.this was critical because innovations in the defence and security continuum were driven by threat dynamics which in turn shaped the needs of each nation’s armed forces.
Minimah explained that this closer interface would bring about the ability to federate and incubate ideas that would not only boost confidence and engender deeper partnership between stakeholders, but would also speed up innovation and enterprise within the entire chain.