The major factor that hinders the Nigerian army from defeating Boko Haram is the lack of an “army aviation,” the man who heads the army’s operations against the terror group said.
Olusegun Adeniyi, who is the Theater Commander of the army’s Operation Lafiya Dole, said this when he received a delegation of the National Assembly joint committee on the army on Thursday.
Mr Adeniyi, a major general, took over the command of the military’s counter-insurgency operation about two months ago.
The visiting lawmakers, led by Borno senator, Ali Ndume, arrived Maiduguri on Thursday afternoon for a two days oversight assignment at the front line.
The war general said Boko Haram has never been a “formidable force” as they are perceived to be.
“The only thing that needs to be given to the army now is Nigeria Army Aviation,” he said.
“There is a way you solve a problem that will change the game. The army needs combat helicopters to end the Boko Haram war. If we have it, it will not be deployed like air force assets, air force jets which are for bigger strategic goals.
“These helicopters will sleep with us in the trench, they will be with us in the front line. These helicopters and the rifles are dispatched together.
“I know this has been on the table for years. When this is done, Nigeria can forget about Boko Haram.”
Despite the insurgents killing hundreds of soldiers in the past year, Mr Adeniyi emphasised his belief that they are not a formidable force.
“Let me say Boko Haram is not a formidable force, Boko Haram is not strong; Boko Haram cannot sustain 15 minutes of intensive firing. I personally exchange with Boko Haram in Marte, in Delta, in Gubio as deputy theater commander and as theatre commander,” he said.
Mr Adeniyi urged the lawmakers to “please go and tell Abuja that Boko Haram is not a formidable force that the military cannot defeat.”
He spoke more on the army’s request for its own combat helicopters, separate from those of the air force.
He said unlike the air force jets, the army aviation helicopters would perform more critical roles during attacks.
“Air force is doing a wonderful job, but their reach is too long;… it is what we call close air support.”
The visiting lawmakers had, shortly after their arrival, met with some of the troops on the battlefront.
The joint committee later had a closed-door meeting with Mr Adeniyi and his lieutenants who briefed them on the ongoing operation.
At the end of the closed-door meeting that lasted around three hours, Mr. Ndume, who is the Senate Committee Chairman on Army, and his House of Reps counterpart, Abdulrazaq Namdas, informed journalists at a joint briefing that they were pleased with troops’ commitment to end the Boko Haram war.
Mr Ndume said they were in Borno State as part of their oversight responsibilities to, specifically, interface with the troops with a view to finding out their challenges and what they need to effectively end the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The main reason the joint committee on the army is here is in line with our collective decision that there is a need for us to see things for ourselves and have a first-hand appreciation of what is going on here in Borno State,” he said.
“Now that the issue of the insurgency is resurfacing in this part of the northeast, it is the best time to visit especially as it coincides with the time the nation’s budget is being presented by Mr President.
“This affords us golden opportunity to seat and have a discussion with the officers and men on ground so that we can know what needs to be done for the troops immediately can be captured in the next budget.”
He said all the interaction the committee had with the men on the ground was “very useful.”
“We have discussed with the troops; but as you know, our deliberations cannot be made public because it pertains security.
“But I can assure you that the new leadership of the theatre and their demonstrated determination to this war is quite inspiring.”
Adamawa State Reps member, Mr. Namdas, said their interaction with Mr Adeniyi has inspired their hopes that with little support the troops will deliver.
“The commander and his troops are committed and very much ready to take on the fight and they are committed to it,” he said.
“All they need is to see our support and we have given them our words that we are going to give all the supports that they need because commitment is key. They have demonstrated it and we are comfortable with them and we would take it on from there.”
The NASS committee on army is expected to continue its tour of troops location around Maiduguri on Friday.
The Boko Haram insurgency which started about 11 years ago, has continued to drag on till now despite government funding for the troops. The federal government has repeatedly claimed the terrorists and their activities have been decimated and that Boko Haram is no longer a threat.
But the actions of the outlawed armed group in recent months during which hundreds of soldiers were killed have called to questions the claims by the government.