Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Kenneth Minima, said on Wednesday that elections could be held in territories recovered from the Boko Haram insurgents.
Mr. Minima, a Lieutenant General, said successes recorded by the troops in dislodging the insurgents from some territories may enable the displaced persons to return back to their homes before the general elections which are scheduled to hold on March 28 and April 11.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, most of them within Nigeria, since the insurgency began in 2009. The electoral commission, INEC, had earlier said it could only hold elections in safe areas including legally recognised camps for displaced persons.
On Wednesday, the Army chief said he was impressed with the feat achieved by the soldiers and pledged that more Nigerian territory still being controlled by the insurgents will be retaken.
Mr. Minima arrived the Air Force base of the 79th Composite Group of the Nigerian Air Force, Maiduguri, at about noon via a military aircraft alongside other top officers. He was immediately conveyed in a military chopper to Kukawa Local Government.
Only a government television crew was embedded on the flight trip to Baga as the army could not provide transport helicopters for journalists to the recaptured border town.
At the border town, Mr. Minima reportedly addressed the troops on ground where he informed them that President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigerians were proud of them.
Promotion for victorious soldiers
Upon his return back to Maiduguri two hours later, the army chief told journalists that his visit was to boost soldiers’ morale.
“My visit there is on confidence building and to inform the troops that the entire Nigerians are singing their praises for their courage and urge them to keep up the tempo,” he said.
“They have made Nigerians proud. From today it is never again for insurgents to take hold of any of our territory. I told them that today it is going to be victory all the way because the war is almost ended.
“From here we move to retake Gwoza, Marte, and Madagali. With this, there is going to be no more Boko Haram; the slogan is ‘never again’ and even the President shares in this slogan.
“In the army’s usual a way of commending soldiers’ courage and patriotism, I have announced to them that every soldier that participated in the Baga operation, whether dead or alive, has been promoted to the next rank,” the army chief added.
The soldiers were said to be full praises and jubilation as officers conducted Mr. Minima and his team round parts of the town, recently recovered from the insurgents. He also inspected some of the weapons and vehicles recovered from the insurgents.
Mr. Minima said he is very confident that within the six weeks frame given to flush out Boko Haram, it is possible for all the displaced residents to return home and even cast their votes.
“It is achievable to end the Boko Haram activities very soon because we are still within the six weeks framework,” he said.
“But we should not see the six weeks as a must-accomplish time; this is war and we will try and do whatever possible to liberate more areas so that displaced citizens can go and resettle and possibly vote during the elections”.
INEC had postponed the elections, initially scheduled for February 14 and 28, based on the military’s stance that it could not guarantee security and would need six weeks for an onslaught on the insurgents.
The move was criticised by many Nigerians including some opposition parties who questioned why the onslaught was delayed until the time of the elections.