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Boko Haram: A trip to Maiduguri, Mafa– Michael Abimboye.
Michael Abimboyewho was recently on a visit to Maiduguri and Mafa in Borno state on the invitation of the Nigeria Army Resource Centre (NARC) writes about life in the two communities which were once under heavy attack by Boko Haram terrorist group.Life gradually returning to Maiduguri“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories”– Sun TzuWe are at war! A war against a group of persons hiding under the disguise of religion- Islam – to control a certain part of Nigeria, but we shall win this war. How soon is left to Nigerians.Overtime, I have written about the activities of both Boko Haram and the Nigerian Army from the comfort of my air-conditioned office in Lagos, so when the opportunity to visit the troubled region came, I took it with both hands.From Lagos to Abuja then to Maiduguri, I was never scared, I wanted to visit Mallam Fatori (Which was attacked again the night we arrived Maiduguri), Gwoza, Baga, Bama but it was too risky, so we visited Mafa, a community which is 1 hour away from Maiduguri and formerly controlled by Boko Haram.
A destroyed building with bullet holes in MaiduguriThanks to Azman air, we arrived Maiduguri late but I was compensated as I was received by my course mate during my post graduate studies in Unilag. Emeka prepared my mind of a likely ambush by BH but said “nothing go happen”.On this trip were senior editors of national newspapers in Nigerian and a few from the online section. Ali Adoyi and Fisayo Soyombo of Daily Post and The Cable respectively were my gist partner. Mr Babajide Otitoju of TVC provided additional and inside information on various issues from Boko Haram to politics, Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari.We were warned against taking unnecessary pictures as it could give us away. (you don’t need to be told that some residents of the townmight be Boko Haram’s informant).Commercial activities going on at Gamboru-Ngala roundabout in MaiduguriMaiduguriI was surprised to see beautiful houses in Maiduguri. I thought I would meet a ghost townwhich is just returning to life. I was also shocked to know that there are a few strip clubs in the city- who could have thought of that?We arrived around 4pm and it was obvious thatcommercial activities had ended. Only a few shops were open. We went straight into the Theatre Command headquarters, otherwise known as Operation Lafiya Dole in Mainmalari and we were briefed by the Theatre Commander, operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor.According to General Irabor activities of the Nigerian Army so far includes aggressive mobile patrols , ambushes on likely BHT crossing points, maintaining blocking positions, rescue operations, picketing of routes, clear main supply routes of BHT.He entertained questions from the editors who wanted to know more about the war, and gave much more details into the activities of the Army, the challenges and hopes.I the next day, I saw a town that looks like Lagos! Shops, schools were opened. Students walking in groups to school as commercial activities were going on. Life has truly returnedto the state capital which was once under heavy attack by the BHT.Aside interaction with the hotel receptionist, I never had the chance to talk to residence of the town and this is understandable- you don’t know who is who.The receptionist commended the effort of the army; “the army has really helped us. Before, we can’t be sure of a sound sleep. Those boys (Boko Haram terrorists) can come at anytime.”He didn’t know much about Internally Displaced Persons in the town. “Oga, I don’t know about IDPs, but if I can arrange for you togo there (visit their camp). That never happened.Life gradually returning to MafaMafaThe convoy was heavily armed. Two anti-aircraft gun vehicles, armed soldiers with RPGs, long range guns, and the usual AK-47. The trip was led by a fine officer, Col. Anka , who wanted me to stay back and visit Mallam Fatori.At Gamboru-Ngala roundabout, where the customs office is located, we were told that the BHT would hang on tress and shoot at persons, army that makes use of the road. But today, life has returned. The market at the junction was busy with buying and selling activities.As expected, all eyes were on us as we drove by.As we drove, all I saw was a massive expanse of land that should be used for agriculture but littered with building full of bullet holes. At a point, GSM network went off. This was deliberate so as to cut BHT informants from communicating with the leaders in the forest. This was also a move to prevent detonation of IEDs with the use of mobile phones.Life in Mafa, former controlled by Boko HaramAt Mafa, the town is yet to fully bounce back tolife. We were received by 122 Task Force battalion headed by Lt. Colonel BN Egbulem who briefed us on the activities of the 122 TF battalion.He said the 122 task force battalion was integral in the recapture of Chibok, reinforcement of Konduga, reinforcement of Damaturu, recapture of Mafa.The task force also secure the main supply route from Maiduguri to Mafa just as they havedestroyed BHT camps in Mafa, Dikwa, and Gamboru Ngala as well as the capturing of BHT equipment.Lieutenant Colonel Egbulem also disclosed that his unit was chiefly behind the successful return of displaced persons to their base.The people, Arms, Neighboring countries and Foreign assistanceIf we must win the war against BHT, people in the north east must begin to do more by providing more information to the security agencies. While the army noted that the peoplehave been a bit cooperative, they believe they can do more.Truth be told, the Nigerian army need more sophisticated weapons. Refurbished Ak-47s that stops working after hours of shooting won’t help us. We also need night vision glasses for our troops as most ambush by BHTis done at night.While the army recognize the effort of the foreign assistance by US and UK, of what use is this assistance if they keep blocking us frombuying arms to fight BHT? It’s better we get arms from black market and win this war without losing more soldiers than wait for clearance from US to buy arms while our soldiers die almost on a daily basis.life in Mafa, Borno stateDo we have cooperative neighboring countries? It’s a Yes/No situation. The earlier we realize that this battle to a very large extentis a Nigerian battle, the better for us.We must not expect a country like Chad to start attacking the Chadian rebels whom manybelieve provide support for BHTs. Cameroun has being cooperative in recent times as they have also suffered attacks from BHTs.The Nigerian ArmyWith the liberation of some towns and villages from BHTs, the job is far from over for men of the Nigerian army. The current challenges faced by the troops are IEDs which the BHTs have planted across the forests in Borno and suicide bombers.Vigilant soldiers killed 3 female suicide bombers in a village very close to the Mainmalari barracks in Maiduguri.
Let me state categorically that we have an Army that is willing to fight for the unity and peace of this nation and in no time, it will recover Malam Fatori (which has actually been recovered by witness frequent attack), Moba and Marte which are current strong holds of the remnants BHT.