By Olukayode Michael, in Maiduguri
The Nigerian military is pushing to push Boko Haram from its only remaining stronghold around the Lake Chad with the launch of Operation Last Hold.
Last Hold is a military operation in Northern part of Borno State which emerged as the new stronghold of Boko Haram after they were pushed from the Sambisa Forest about a year and half ago.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai on Tuesday said the military is now ready to uproot the insurgents from Northern Borno and allow for quick return of Nigerians from the area to return to their homes.
Many of those that fled the area at the heights of Boko Haram expansionist agenda, are displaced both within Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
The COAS, who was represented by Major General Abba Dikko at the launched of the new operation against Boko Haram, Operation Last Hold, in Maiduguri said it was aimed to uproot the insurgents from the extreme northern part of Borno state.
Dikko, who is the Commander of the new operation, said this is aimed at reinforcing the ongoing operations in the theatre command of Operation Lafiya Dole, troubled North East, so as to clear the areas, provide an enabling environment for the returning IDPs, allow for farming, fishing and security of lives and property as well as return of normal life to the people.
He said despite the complex and adaptive nature of the Boko Haram insurgency, which has resulted in the dissident group still sometimes engaged in abductions, attacks on soft targets, Improvised Explosive Device attacks and suicide bombings, “the Nigerian Army was undeterred by the mutating posture of the Boko Haram.”
The COAS added that the Nigerian Army was determined to consolidate on its recent gains in the ongoing push, especially in the extreme Northern part of Borno state.
He added that this is part of this year’s Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL).
He said, the operation was designed to deploy personnel and equipment to showcase the combat efficiency of the NA and thereafter conduct operations to totally destroy Boko Haram locations in the Lake Chad Basin general area.
He added that the operation was also expected to last for four months and it will entail deployment of additional manoeuvre brigades and other critical assets in Borno State which will facilitate the clearance of the Lake Chad waterways of sea weeds and other obstacles obstructing the movement of boats and people across the water channels.
He explained that the operation will also ensure the destruction of Boko Haram Terrorist camps and strong points in the Lake Chad Basin general area as well as facilitate the rescue of hostages.
He recalled that the Nigerian Army was engaged in the conduct of several counter-insurgency and other operations most prominent of which is Operation Lafiya Dole in the North East region for some years with considerable successes
According to him, the end-state of Operation LAST HOLD is the total defeat of the Boko Haram Terrorist Sect in northern Borno while it will also pave way for the return of local administration and people to their responsibilities and communities.
“Strategically, the conduct of Operation LAST HOLD will facilitate the restoration of fishing, farming and other economic activities in the Lake Chad Basin.
“Additionally, it will facilitate the relocation of Internally Displaced Persons from IDP camps back to their communities.
“Operation LAST HOLD is conceptualized to involve the conduct of population influence activities targeted to improve Civil-Military relations in the North East region,” Buratai said.
He also enjoined all law abiding members of the public in Northern Borno State not to be panic as their safety and well-being have been deliberately factored in the operation.
General further called on the public to remained vigilant and be security conscious, as suspected insurgents may be fleeing from military operations in the North East in search or finding safe haven amidst communities.
He also urged the public to report any suspicious activity or movement to the nearest military formation or other security agencies for prompt action.
He said “media have always been our partners in progress; hence we are using this opportunity to request you to give this operation widest publicity in your respective media.”