Sunday, 7 February 2016

As the federal government continues with its audit
of the military hardware procured by the past
administration for the war against Boko Haram, it
has declared that whatever weapons were
procured by the Goodluck Jonathan administration
were substandard and could not have been
responsible for the string of successes recorded by
the military in recent months.
In a statement issued in Abeokuta yesterday, the
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai
Mohammed, described as unfortunate and
unsubstantiated the statement credited to former
President Jonathan attributing the recent successes
in the war to the weapons allegedly bought by his
administration that were delivered after he had left
office.
He said the present administration has a duty to set
the records straight, especially because the issues
raised by the former president were of public
interest and border on national security.
“The weapons, munitions and equipment which the
former president said he bought were refurbished
and lacked the basic components and spare parts.
“Additionally, the ammunition bought for both high
calibre and small weapons have mostly expired,
were incompatible with weapons and grossly
inadequate.
“It is pertinent to state that the ammunition he was
referring to were back loaded because they explode
within the barrel when fired, thus leading to deaths
and injuries among soldiers,” Mohammed said.
He explained that the troops also lacked the much-
needed lift and operational vehicles and other
equipment required for the effective prosecution of
the war, until the present administration ameliorated
the situation.
“The situation was so pathetic that soldiers were
often transported in Civilian JTF vehicles, civilian
vehicles, trailers and water tankers when going to
the theatre of operation.
“The revelations on the sorry state of things in the
past, which have emanated from the investigative
panel so far, point clearly to the kind of legacy
bequeathed to this administration by the past
government.
“That explains why troops remained largely static
and were unable to effectively deploy to completely
rout the Boko Haram terrorists in all their known
enclaves.
“The high level of casualties sustained by our
gallant soldiers was most unprecedented and
cannot be compared to any known military
operation in recent times, all because of the terrible
state of affairs suffered by the military under the
Jonathan administration,” the minister said.
He said because the former president could not
understand how credible and dedicated leadership
could impact positively on the morale and
performance of troops, he had chosen to denigrate
the system for the unprecedented feat that was
achieved within the first six months of the Buhari
administration – “something that he could not
achieve in all of six years!”
“It is also clear, as has been shown so far by the
outcome of the panel probing past arms deals, that
the purchase of substandard weapons apparently
resulted from the massive corruption that enveloped
the deals, the kind of horrifying graft that saw the
purchase of refurbished choppers that lacked
rotors, or fighter jets that could not be deployed to
the theatre of war because they were not up to par.
“The needless loss of lives of many of our gallant
troops, resulting from the lack of standard
weaponry and low morale in the past, is not a
matter to be trivialised under any circumstance,” he
added.
But as the minister took a swipe at the former
president over the quality of weapons procured by
his government, Amnesty International (AI)
yesterday condemned the present administration
over the reinstatement of Major-General Ahmadu
Mohammed, a former commander of the 7 Division
in Maiduguri, Borno State, who was implicated by
the London-based rights group for mass murder in
the North-east.
Amnesty said in a statement that his reinstatement
underlined the government’s “monumental failure”
to stamp out impunity for war crimes.
The rights group last year called for an investigation
of nine senior commanders including Gen.
Mohammed for possible criminal responsibility for
war crimes including the deaths of more than 8,000
detainees since 2011, reported the Associated
Press (AP).
General Mohammed was commanding officer when
soldiers killed around 640 unarmed detainees after
Boko Haram extremists attacked Giwa barracks in
Maiduguri, according to Amnesty.
Buhari in June promised to investigate the
allegations and deal with all alleged abuses by the
military, but nothing has been done.
General Mohammed was the commander of the war
theatre when Boko Haram took control of a large
swath of Nigeria's North-east where the extremists
declared an Islamic caliphate, and when the
insurgents kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from
Chibok town.
Dozens escaped on their own as the army failed to
send a rescue mission. More than 200 girls remain
missing.
General Mohammed was retired in 2014 after a
mutiny by soldiers who shot at his vehicle and
accused him of knowingly leading them into a Boko
Haram ambush around Chibok in May 2014. More
than 70 soldiers were killed in the ambush.
However, he was quietly reinstated last month by
the Muhammadu Buhari administration, according to
the military at his own request, while the soldiers
who mutinied were handed various sentences by a
general court martial.
“Young men and boys, rounded up by the military,
were either shot, starved, suffocated or tortured to
death and no one has yet been held to account,”
Amnesty International said in a statement.
“It is unthinkable that Major-General Mohammed
could resume command of troops before an
investigation has even begun.”
His reinstatement “makes mockery of commitments
to end war crimes” and “underlines the monumental
failure of the government to stamp out impunity for
war crimes at the highest level”.
Meanwhile, the Borno Police Command announced
yesterday that it had demobilised materials
suspected to be improvised explosive devices
(IEDs) planted near the office of the Borno State
Pilgrims Welfare Board in Maiduguri, the state
capital.
The Public Relations Officer of the command, Mr.
Victor Isuku, made the disclosure in an interview
with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in
Maiduguri.
He said that the IEDs, which were planted by people
suspected to be members of the Boko Haram terror
group, were demobilised by a joint security team.
“I can confirm that it was a joint police/military
operation that demobilised the IEDs, but thank God
no life was lost or injuries recorded,” Isuku said.
This is just as the National Emergency Management
Agency (NEMA) yesterday denied the reported
suicide attack on one of its camp in Maiduguri on
Saturday.
Speaking to journalists, the Zonal Coordinator,
North-East of the agency, Alhaji Mohammed Kanar,
said the bomb explosion was near the Dalori
internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) camp and not
inside the heavily-populated camp.
According to him, some people fleeing from Dalori
village, some metres away wanted to gain entry
into the camp, when the village came under
massive attack by Boko Haram terrorists, but since
it was after 6 pm they were not allowed to enter in
line with the camp’s rules.
He said they decided to take refuge under some
trees and some moments later a blast was heard,
killing some of them, adding that a suicide bomber
might have infiltrated the gathering of fleeing
villagers.
On the number of casualties from the Dalori attack,
Kanar confirmed 65 persons had so far died from
the unfortunate incident, while 136 persons were
injured.
He disclosed that emergency workers had to work
all through the night on Saturday to evacuate the
corpses and to assist the injured to hospitals.
Kanar said normalcy had returned to the area, as
those that fled in the wake of the attack had
returned home.
He noted that NEMA had deployed needed materials
to the attacked community to begin its rehabilitation.
But in furtherance of his government’s quest to end
the Boko Haram insurgency, Buhari will today
depart for an official visit to France and Britain
where he will hold talks with leaders of both
countries on the assistance they can render in the
war against the insurgency.
A statement issued in Abuja yesterday by his media
aide, Mr Femi Adesina, said Buhari would stop in
Strasbourg, France, tomorrow where he would
address a special session of the European Union
Parliament to be attended by members of the
executive and legislative arms of the European
Union.
Adesina said the president’s address is expected to
focus on terrorism, violent extremism, corruption,
Nigeria and Africa’s current security, economic and
developmental challenges, as well as the need for
greater support from the European Union and
advanced nations for their rapid resolution.
The statement said: “Buhari will also hold talks with
the President of the European Parliament, Mr.
Martin Schulz and the President of the European
Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker on the same
issues before leaving Strasbourg for London to join
other world leaders at the Supporting Syria and the
Region Conference scheduled to open in the British
capital on Thursday.
“The president will use the opportunity of his
participation in the conference, which is being co-
hosted by Britain, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the
United Nations, to continue his push for more global
understanding, collaboration and support for Nigeria
and other countries in the frontlines of the war
against terrorism that are striving to overcome its
very adverse effects on affected populations.”
The statement said Buhari would return to Nigeria at
the weekend.

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