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The military takeover of Sambisa forest – The Sun

By The Citizen
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The Nigerian military gave the nation a wonderful Christmas gift on December 22 with its dislodgement of the last elements of the Boko Haram insurgency from the Sambisa Forest. It was gratifying seeing our gallant military officials holding sway at the 'Camp Zero' stronghold of the sect in the heart of the forest. The fall of Sambisa to the Nigerian military is a major milestone in the fight against the murderous insurgency that has held the nation captive for over six years.

Troops of Operation Lafia Dole displayed vital insignias of the Boko Haram group, including the flag of its leader, Abubakar Shekau, as spoils of war to an impressed audience on national television. Many Nigerians, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, have since expressed their relief and praised the gallantry of the Nigerian military. About 1,240 suspected associates and members of the dreaded sect captured in the forest were paraded before the people. They are made up of 413 men, 323 women, 251 male children and 253 female children.

We salute the Nigerian military on this remarkable success and call for even greater vigilance to maintain the hold on the forest. The military and, indeed, Nigerians in all parts of the country must remain watchful to ensure that the insurgents who escaped from the Sambisa fortress do not infiltrate civil society or build another stronghold to continue their nefarious activities. The fleeing remnants of the sect are likely to take cover in other parts of the country. The recent arrest of one of the dispersed insurgents in Ikorodu, Lagos State, and another in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, indicates that nowhere is immune to infiltration by the sect members. The implication of this is that we must all remain vigilant. As it is said, the price for peace is eternal vigilance.

This is certainly not the time for us to be complacent, thinking that the war against Boko Haram has been won. We are still far from that milestone. The war that the insurgents are waging against Nigeria is of the asymmetrical kind. It is one that is long drawn and fought with unconventional weapons and methods. It is also a war in which the enemy hardly ever surrenders, preferring to continue launching sporadic attacks on soft targets for as long as it can. It will, therefore, be naive for the Nigerian government and the military to drop their guards, or think that the end of the war is here already.

The insurgents are likely to be all out to prove that they are still capable of causing mass harm and misery. So, we must be at alert and ready to stop them. All security measures that have helped the country so far in the many successes it has recorded against the insurgency should be sustained. The government must continue to prioritise the welfare of the military and its collaborators in the war against this insurgency. It must also ensure that all the measures required for their continued motivation and war-effectiveness are taken.

In this wise, the para-military services, civilian JTF and the generality of the public have key roles to play. The Customs and Immigration services must heighten their surveillance of our numerous porous borders to ensure that fleeing elements of the insurgency, or new recruits, do not gain entry into the country. Citizens are called upon, too, to display the highest form of patriotism and show total commitment by ensuring that all new arrivals and suspicious movements around their homesteads and neigbourhoods are reported to the security agencies. We have lost too many valuable lives and assets to the insurgency and we cannot afford to lose more.

President Buhari once said that the war against Boko Haram cannot be said to have been won when all the Chibok girls are not yet found. He is right on that score. We are proud of the military for its achievements so far, especially the recovery of about 24 of the girls from the insurgents in the last three months. We call for the intensification of efforts in this regard so that a final closure can be brought to this festering national sore. Some 197 of the Chibok schoolgirls are yet to be accounted for. The nation must find them by all means.

We are glad that the military is ever mindful of this challenge. Getting the girls back and winning the war against Boko Haram are critical assignments that the current administration must undertake. There should be no looking back until both objectives are achieved.