The Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, yesterday in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, vowed to end attacks on Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram insurgents.
The minister was in the state to assess military operations in the North-east region.
He was received by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, and top commanders prosecuting the ongoing war against Boko Haram.
Later in the evening, Mr Magashi had dinner with the Borno Elders Forum led by a former governor of the state, Asheik Jarma.
During the event at the conference hall of Operation Lafiya Dole, the minister assured the elders that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ending the Boko Haram menace and restoring peace in the northeast.
He said the troops will get “all their entitlements as at when due” and will be “motivated to take the fight to the insurgents.”
Mr Magashi said: “The Commander-in-Chief has promised to give the full assistance needed for us to succeed in this operation.
“I have vouched for my officers because they are competent and capable to carry out any operations in accordance with universal standards.
“The officers are competent to face any challenges, be it conventional warfare or insurgents’ operation. The days that the insurgents thrive or take troops unaware, or the seizing of any community, will not be allowed any more.
“We will take the war to them and do our best in defeating them.”
Mr Magashi, who retired from the Nigerian Army as a Major-General, said President Buhari is committed to improving the welfare of soldiers in the front line.
“As a retired general and the political head of all the military operations in the country, I will do my best in providing all that is needed by the theatre command to bring this war to an end. The government will soon make all of you happy.
“I want to talk to my troops who are out there in the bush. I want to send this message through the commanders in the field that the Commander-in-Chief is very much aware of their welfare need and he is going to take it more seriously than ever before.
“Their need for kits, for food, their operational requirements – be it weapon or otherwise – that will give you the needed motivations, we are all aware of them. This would also go to the families of soldiers and officers who have lost their lives during the course of this war.
“We will make sure that entitlements of officers and soldiers are promptly paid, those who died are paid their gratuities and their families are well taken care of.
“I promise you that this is my personal responsibility and I will never let that elude my focus. So, send the message to all the troops, let us bring this thing to an end; we can do it and we must do it.
“The president and Commander-in-Chief is ready to support anyone that is ready to work to achieve the success we all need. ”
Waves of Kidnapping
The minister said the government is concerned about the waves of violent crimes in the country, especially kidnapping.
“We also know of some of the other problems, we know that there is kidnapping and other crimes; we know that one is something that is alien to this country, ” he said.
“But we also understand that poverty and the situation in the country is pushing some people into this. It also makes some people aspire to certain positions in this country where they acquire what they can acquire in order to live.
“Well, I don’t know what they use all the money for, but I think it is … life is all about struggle, we must work hard and pursue a legitimate career that will give us a satisfactory life which is all we wanted.
“Let me tell you that security of this country in all ramification is dependent on the Ministry of Defence. Defence does not only mean securing the territorial integrity of this country alone but including other internal affairs and all problems that pertain (to the) safety of our lives.
“Everyone has a role to play in their homes, in their local governments; and there are people responsible that must be respected and those respected must deliver the goods so that we can have a decent society. If we don’t do that then we have a bigger problem to confront.
“But I think despite the situation, we will sit down with all the security agencies and map out our strength and strategy that will enable us to effectively solve the problems of defence and security. May God help us.”
Borno Elders Speak
The chairman of the elders’ forum, Mr Jarma, said the coming of the minister meant a lot to the people of the state.
The Second Republic governor said for the minister to make the Borno visit his first official duty signifies commitment toward ending the Boko Haram insurgency.
“We thank the Honourable Minister because he has made Borno visit his first official visit,” Mr Jarma said.
“Thank you very much for giving us this consideration and paying attention to the seriousness of the situation we have in Borno State.
“From what I have seen tonight, we know that the minster is ready to make us all happy.
“The recent exploits of the Theatre Commander who took over some few days ago has truly dispelled our fears because he has shown that he meant business when it comes to ending the ongoing war.
“We have been on our feet praying for the soldiers to succeed and praying us to get peace; because without peace nothing can be achieved.
The secretary of the forum, Bulama Gubio, said the appointment of the minister and new Theater Commander “has calmed the nerves of the people of Borno State.
“We are happy because we know what the Chief of Army has been doing for us since he was appointed, ” said Mr Gubio, a former Borno state Head of Civil Service.
He added that “within the last 48 hours of knowing the theatre commander, I think our temperature has been calmed. I was told that the Theater Commander was in the bush with his troops throughout yesterday, and we appreciate him.
“All we pray is that this should come to an end so that our dear soldiers can go back home to rest with their families.
“We have always organized prayers in our churches and mosques for the safety of our soldiers and for peace to return to us, and for Boko Haram to have a change of heart and surrender.
“And we have been speaking to our people trying to disabuse their minds from all the negatives they post on the social media against our fighting forces and their operations.
“We know that they are doing their best; in a conventional war, we appreciate how difficult it is, talk more of guerilla warfare like this. So we know how difficult it is.”
The minister had on Sunday had a briefing session with the Chief of Army Staff and other top commanders.
He was later escorted to Magumeri and Gubio towns that were recently attacked by Boko Haram, where he is expected to address troops and assess the situation on the front line.