Last weekend the chilling news broke that the Nigerian military had sustained some heavy casualties following a surprise attack on an army post on the border with the Republic of Niger.
According to the report, which was first broken by international media, Boko Haram fighters in trucks stormed the base on Thursday in Zari village in Guzamali Local Government Area of Borno State and briefly seized the base after a fierce battle.
The French news agency, Agence France Presse (AFP), which broke the story, said military sources told them: “At least 30 Nigerian soldiers were killed in combat with Boko Haram jihadists who overran a military base in the North-East near the border with Niger.
“Scores of jihadists in trucks stormed the base at Zari village in northern Borno State late Thursday and briefly seized it after a fierce battle in which 30 soldiers were killed…”
Sunday Telegraph’s investigation revealed that the soldiers killed were elements of 2 Division Nigerian Army, who were deployed on Operation Last Hold.
A highly-placed source who spoke in confidence with Sunday Telegraph on the development alleged that the same location had come under attack previously.
But, the spokesman for Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, while confirming the attack, denied that the Army suffered casualties. Nwachukwu insisted that several of attackers were killed, even as their equipment was recovered.
“That information is not correct. It’s true that we had an encounter with Boko Haram at a location called Zari…The Boko Haram came to attack that community, and our troops deployed few kilometres away from the location, countered the attack.
“The ground troops were supported by the Air Task Force, and several Boko Haram Terrorists were killed, and we also destroyed many of their equipment, weapons. On our side, I’m yet to receive casualty figure on my desk, if there was any. So, I cannot confirm that we had (any) and I think it’s very untrue for anyone to (say we had that casualty figure).” He drew attention to a statement earlier issued on the Zari incident.
However, despite this denial, on Monday AFP followed up with another report on the incident revising the death toll upwards from 30 to 48!
“The casualty toll now stands at 48 with the recovery of 17 more bodies of soldiers in surrounding bushes in Zari by search and rescue teams,” a military source who did not want to be named told AFP. Search operations are still on-going and more bodies are likely to be recovered.”
Another military source confirmed the new death toll.
There is no doubt that our gallant military have successfully check mated the previously growing threat brought on by the surge of the militant group, Boko Haram especially during the tail end of the former government.
In the run up to the 2015 elections, the menace of the insurgent group that played no small measure in many Nigerians opting to vote out the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in favour of then opposition, All Progressives Congress (APC), whose mantra of change resonated with the electorate.
Back then the militant group held last swaths of land in Borno with many citizens forced to defer to Boko Haram as the “legitimate government” controlling their day-to-day lives including collecting “taxes” and dispensing justice.
However, while admittedly although this is no longer the case under the present dispensation, but the menace has not totally been eradicated as last week’s raid on a military base shows. Besides the militant group has also let people know that they are still alive and dangerous with a number of suicide bomb attacks, albeit more infrequently now!
Sadly, though as often is the case once one of these infrequent bombs go off or attacks take place the tendency is for the populace to wonder what the true situation of things actually are viz-a-viz the war on terror.
It is, however, a given that even in more technologically advanced countries terrorists are still able to strike.
And whenever these occasional incidents take place they send shockwaves through the citizens. Such incidents have happened in France, Germany, Belgium and even Holland in recent years.
But while the impact on the citizens is the same in those countries and in Nigeria, however, the major difference is that those in charge of securing the citizens in those countries are quick to own up whenever it is clear that their failings allowed the dastardly action happen.
Following the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda-inspired attack on the US, the American security agencies admitted that they had erred and immediately took steps to enhance their capabilities which has ensured that no major terrorist attacks on that scale has ever taken place since.
However, back home maybe because as Nigerians we never like admitting our weaknesses, the first thing we often do is to mask the true situation of things and try to give the impression that all is well or is not as bad as the public fears.
And it is this attitude that has ensured that despite repeated claims by the police that they are on top of the situation, that kidnapping and violent crimes are on the increase across the land so much so that the military has become more involved in helping the men in black.
It is not, however, limited to the police, as the military has often told us that Boko Haram has been defeated and yet the group is still able to carry out such assaults like it did last week in Zari village.
How many times have we been told that Sambisa forest has been liberated and that even Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau himself has been killed?
Incidentally, the position often taken by our military is not just a “Naija” thing. For instance, on January 25 last year, Somali Islamist group, Al Shabaab carried out a surprise attack on a Kenya military base claiming to have killed more than 66 soldiers from the East African nation.
But in responding, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna said that al Shabaab’s fighters had attempted to attack their base in the southern town of Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border, but were repelled!
However, days later numerous burials of Kenyan soldiers were carried out to the anger of the citizens who accused their government of hiding the truth from them.
In as much as nobody likes hearing bad news, the first rule in public relations is to tell the truth as much as possible so as not to leave room for speculations and totally wrong information!
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