The Federal government on Monday reassured of adequate return of peace in the country, maintaining that the worst period of insecurity threats across all zones is already in the past.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed gave the assurance at a joint press conference in Abuja addressed by himself; Ministers of Defence, Bashir Magashi; Interior,
Rauf Aregbesola; as well as Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi. The meeting also had the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor in attendance.
“As far as the daunting security challenges we face are concerned, we can tell you that the worst is over. Never again will terrorists and bandits and their cohorts hold sway in our country.
“Today, we are here to tell you that while we may not be there yet, our military and other security agencies have succeeded – and are succeeding – in substantially restoring security across the nation,” Mohammed told the press.
In recent times, insecurity has dominated discourse across the country, as terrorism, banditry and kidnapping heightened in the North-East, North-West and
North Central; separatist violence and crude oil theft in the South-East and South-South; as well as cultism, armed robberry and sundry crimes in the South-West.
Consequently, President Buhari had directed the military to crush those terrorising Nigerians, and gradual return peace and security to the country.
In his speech, Mohammed acknowledged heightened insecurity under the Buhari-led Administration, which have become the greatest threat to the national peace and security since the civil war. But he said directive by the president has seen some level of calm being witnessed across the country.
In his words: “Some said the security challenges have overwhelmed the military, but the military has now demonstrated that no group of ragtag criminals can ever overwhelm them. Terrorists and bandits and co can run but cannot hide, as has been demonstrated by the arrest of those who attacked a church in Owo.
“These criminals can run but cannot hide, as we have seen in the decimation of the cowards who ambushed the Brigade of Guards troops in Abuja. Our military and other security agencies have been decimating the top echelon of ISWAP and Boko Haram, armed bandits camps and resources have been destroyed, and the capacity of IPOB/ESN has been substantially degraded.
“I want to repeat, that the worst is over and peace and security are gradually returning to the land.”
He however, clarified that though there may still some isolated cases of security challenges, it will not be on the scale that have been witnessed, particularly in the recent past.
“We are not saying the battle is over. What we are saying is that our military and other security agents have been able to contain the daunting security challenges we face, and that the worst is indeed over. We have now put the terrorists, bandits and their ilk on the run and we will not relent until they have been crushed.”
He further urged citizens and media to be patriotic and collaborate with government in efforts to restore security to the country.
Speaking at the meeting, Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, equally reassured of commitment by the joint security agencies to facilitate the federal government’s drive of guaranteeing the safety of lives and properties across the country.
He said for instance, that the military objective of total defeat of terrorists in the North East, is already being achieved through synchronized ground and air operations. This has led to huge casualty on the terrorists, with many of their commanders and families surrendering in droves, while Internally Displaced Persons are now returning to their homes.
“In the past 4 weeks, more than 3,407 Boko Haram Terrorists including members of their families have surrendered. Additionally, 66 terrorists were neutralized including one of the key ISWAP Commanders, Alhaji Modu Chaka Bern Bem and 20 of his fighters, while 55 were arrested and 52 civilians were rescued. Also troops recovered large quantities of ammunition and illicit drugs.
“The surrendered and arrested terrorists have been subjected to profiling and the relevant legal processes,” he stated.
The minister further noted that the military operations in the North Central Zone have helped quell herders-farmers conflicts, wanton attacks/killing of rural villagers, livestock rustling, kidnapping for ransom and banditry, amongst others.
He said so far, several kidnappers hideout have been raided in Kaduna and Plateau States and 4 notorious kidnappers were arrested with assorted weapons. More so, 8 suspected terrorists were arrested in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja as well as weapons and large quantities of items suspected to be cannabis sativa were also recovered.
Again, the activities of Operation WHIRL STROKE have continued to make the environment safer in the North Central Zone.
Also, the Operation WHIRL PUNCH which covers Kaduna and Niger States, which was recently re-organized to also cover the critical Abuja-Kaduna Expressway has restored security on that highway and its environs, as evidenced in the volume of more than 30,000 vehicles which ply the road on weekdays and about 50,000 vehicles during weekends.
According to him, the most notable operational achievement in the South South zone was the prevention of crude oil theft worth more than $500 million, over the past few months.
In the past 4 weeks, several illegal refinery sites, which consist of 493 dugout pits, 512 storage tanks, 413 cooking ovens and 59 wooden boats were destroyed, with several weapons, vehicles, vessels and equipment were recovered, he said.
Also, about 25,800 barrels of crude oil, 3,200 litres of Premium Motor Spirit and 2,000 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene were recovered during various operations while 21 pipeline vandals were arrested.
In the South East, the military efforts, in collaboration with other security agencies, are achieving set objectives, especially with the arrest of a member of the IPOBIESN in Ebonyi State and recovery of dangerous ammunitions and equipment as well as motorcycles and ballistics materials.
He said that the collaboration among the security agencies in the South West zone has led to the recent arrest of one Kuje Custodian Centre escapee and other terrorists in Ondo State by military personnel and the Department of State Service.
There was also the arrest of 6 suspected gunmen including the mastermind responsible for the unfortunate Owo church massacre which occurred on 5 June 2022, who will be paraded in due course after completion of ongoing investigation.
Other operational achievements in the South West include the recovery of 1,542 jerricans filled with Premium Motor Spirit, 311 bags of 50kg foreign rice grid a truck loaded with substances suspected to be cannabis sativa.
With respect to the morale component, the minister noted that the welfare of the fighting troops is being enhanced across the Services whilst ensuring that enthusiastic commanders with requisite experiences are given responsibility to command.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Raul Aregbesola, also acknowledged the enormous security threat faced by the country, but also reassured that the security forces would continue to work to deter those elements.
“The security agencies have risen to the challenge and largely degraded the groups and persons constituting the threats. What we face mostly are flashes of cowardly attacks from the rumps of groups that have been routed in one location, moving to another to give the false impression that they are still strong.
“Our ultimate goal is to eliminate them altogether and restore total and lasting peace over every inch of Nigerian soil.
“We are therefore here to assure Nigerians that they are safe. We shall bear the full powers of the government to secure every inch of our land. We shall not rest until peace is fully restored in Nigeria,” Aregbesola assured.