The Nigerian Army said on Wednesday that the need to reduce collateral damage has delayed the recapture of some towns and villages seized by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State.
Olajide Laleye, the Director, Army Public Relations, who gave the explanation while fielding questions at a news conference in Abuja, said “We are not interested in collateral damage.”
“The Nigeria Army is very careful about collateral damage. To that extent, our operations are carefully planned to make sure that collateral damage is reduced to the barest minimum.
“If certain areas have not been recaptured, it is because the Nigerian army is giving such areas very careful plans, the plans are ongoing.
“At the right time, you will see the outcome; we will not tell you, of course, beforehand, of what we intend to do; but you will see the outcome,” Laleye said.
The Nigerian military lost several towns to Boko Haram in Borno and Adamawa States during weeks of sweeping takeover by the insurgent group.
However, backed by local militias, the military recovered some key towns in Adamawa State, including Mubi and Hong, even as other local areas such as Michika remain under Boko Haram, while the militants also control large parts of Borno State, including Bama and Gwoza.
Laleye’s comments Wednesday were the first official explanations from the army why the insurgents have continued to control several towns despite the the military’s claim that it has the capacity to clear the insurgents from the northeast.
The comments also clearly refuted the claim by a presidential aide, Doyin Okupe, who said two weeks ago on television that government forces had since reclaimed Gwoza, Bama and other towns from Boko Haram.
According to Laleye, Nigerians will be pleased at the end of such operations that collateral damage is reduced to the barest minimum.
He assured that law abiding Nigerians in those areas would be rescued from the insurgents, while those towns and villages would completely be freed from terrorism and insurgency.
Earlier, he said Gombi, Hong, Uba, Makera, Holma and Vimtim, all in Adamawa, had been recaptured, adding that the current military offensive would be sustained until the enemy was “completely defeated’’.
Laleye said new strategies had been introduced in the ongoing war after formations and units involved were evaluated, adding that this had impacted positively on the counter-insurgency operations in the North East.
He said all officers and men involved in the operations in the region would undergo counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency training before being deployed in the theatres of operation.
The army spokesman explained that this followed the directive of the Chief of Army Staff that all Divisional Headquarters should set up schools for counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and special operations training.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to restate its determination to bring this counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations to a speedy and decisive end.
“Equally, the Nigerian Army seizes this opportunity to reassure Nigerians of its preparedness to support relevant agencies in the successful conduct of the 2015 general elections,” he said.
On the ongoing court-martial of some officers, Laleye explained that it was necessary to enforce discipline in the armed forces and achieve success in the war against insurgency.
He said success achieved so far would not have been possible if the army did not take steps to remain a formidable fighting force through time tested procedures and enforcement of regulations.
“The judicial process that led to the convictions and acquittals (of some officers) followed international best practices in the military law and also conforms to relevant Nigerian laws.
“Let me state categorically that a General Court Martial has the status of the High Court and is backed by extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The General Court Martial is not a final authority. Its processes are not only subject to confirmation by the appropriate superior authority but also subject to appeal,” he said.