The Metele set­back

Sunday Trust - - COMMENT -

The Novem­ber 18 at­tack by Boko Haram ter­ror­ists on po­si­tions of the 157 Task Force Bat­tal­ion in Metele, Guza­mala Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of north­ern Borno State was a ma­jor set­back that caused an­guish and anx­i­ety in this coun­try. For weeks there were signs that in­sur­gent at­tacks were on the in­crease and the Metele at­tack was only the cul­mi­na­tion of that.

The Army was slow in giv­ing de­tails of the at­tack, which al­lowed ru­mours to take over. Sev­eral me­dia out­lets claimed that 44 sol­diers were killed in the at­tack. This fig­ure was later es­ca­lated to “more than 100.” When the army fi­nally spoke on Thurs­day last week, its spokesman Bri­gadier Sani Us­man said 23 of its men were killed and 31 oth­ers wounded dur­ing the Metele at­tack. Us­man how­ever added that be­tween Nov. 2 and Nov. 17 the in­sur­gents at­tacked troops’ po­si­tions at Kukawa, Ngoshe, Kareto and Ga­ji­ram. He said troops re­pelled those at­tacks but 16 sol­diers were killed while 12 oth­ers were wounded. To­gether, these high ca­su­alty fig­ures are a real source of con­cern and a con­fir­ma­tion in­deed that in­sur­gents have stepped up their at­tacks and are far from be­ing routed, as the mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment have been say­ing in re­cent years.

Many things quickly fol­lowed the Metele in­ci­dent. The Chief of Army Staff’s An­nual Con­fer­ence, sched­uled to take place in Benin, was moved to Maiduguri, nearer the source of ac­tion. Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari at­tended the con­fer­ence last Wed­nes­day. The Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar ibn Gar­bai El-Kanemi, did not mince words when the pres­i­dent vis­ited him in his palace. He said Borno was still un­der siege by in­sur­gents. He said no­body dared to move 10 kilo­me­tres out of Maiduguri with­out be­ing at­tacked, and that farm­ers are be­ing killed and kid­napped on their farms on a daily ba­sis.

Two days later, Buhari was in N’dja­mena, cap­i­tal of Chad, and at­tended a hastily con­vened meet­ing of the Heads of State and Gov­ern­ment of the Lake Chad Basin Com­mis­sion, of which he is the chair­man. Present at the meet­ing were Pres­i­dent Idris Deby Itno of Chad, Pres­i­dent Ma­hamadou Is­soufou of Niger Repub­lic and Prime Min­is­ter of Cameroon Phile­mon Yang, who rep­re­sented Pres­i­dent Paul Biya.

In the com­mu­nique they is­sued at the end of the meet­ing, the Chad Basin lead­ers re­solved to change the modus operandi, col­lab­o­rate more and re­new as­sault on all forms of ter­ror­ism and crim­i­nal acts un­til whole­some peace was re­stored to the re­gion. Pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Femi Adesina later said Buhari ral­lied his col­leagues from Chad, Niger Repub­lic and Cameroon to a fresh on­slaught against in­sur­gents.

This is the min­i­mum that is re­quired at this time, a joint, multi-pronged, well-co­or­di­nated on­slaught backed by air and naval power in the Lake Chad basin of the kind that was un­der­taken some years ago, and which for a time se­verely weak­ened Boko Haram and ISWA. The pace with which Op­er­a­tion Lafia Dole was be­ing pur­sued vis­i­bly slack­ened in the past year. Many re­ports al­lege that the mil­i­tary is short of weapons of the right cal­iber, in­clud­ing APCs and tanks. If this is true, the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion must take the most ur­gent steps to pro­cure these weapons from any avail­able source. If West­ern coun­tries are slow in pro­vid­ing these weapons, there are op­tions in Rus­sia, China, Ukraine and other coun­tries. We com­mis­er­ate with the Army High Com­mand and with the fam­i­lies of sol­diers who paid the supreme price in the ser­vice of the Fa­ther­land. Un­nec­es­sary losses of men and ma­te­rial must be avoided in fu­ture by am­ply sup­ply­ing the mil­i­tary with the right cal­iber of weapons to end this war once and for all.

If West­ern coun­tries are slow in pro­vid­ing these weapons, there are op­tions in Rus­sia, China, Ukraine and other coun­tries

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