By Rafiu Ajakaye
Nigeria has announced a new military operation to clear out the remaining Boko Haram militants in its northeast and around Lake Chad as it seeks to end a nine-year insurgency.
Major General David Ahmadu, army chief of training and operations, said in a statement late Friday that the operation would last four months and involve the deployment of an additional six army brigades and other military assets in Borno state, where the insurgents remain active.
The army acknowledged for the first time that the insurgency has survived heavy military bombardment owing to its ‘complex and adaptive nature’, resulting in attacks on soft targets and mass abductions.
“It has become expedient for the Nigerian Army to change operating tactics, techniques and procedures in the northeast region. Accordingly, the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2018 will be commemorated with the conducting of an operation tagged Operation LAST HOLD in Northern Borno within the North East Theatre,” the statement said.
“The operation is [also] intended to facilitate the clearance of the Lake Chad waterways of seaweed and other obstacles obstructing the movement of boats and people across the water channels.”
The army said the operation will also ensure the destruction of Boko Haram terrorist camps and strongholds in the Lake Chad Basin and facilitate the rescue of hostages. It said the goal of Operation LAST HOLD is the total defeat of the Boko Haram terrorist sect. Strategically, the operation will help ensure 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 to their communities.
Full-blown military operations were launched in 2013 after former President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the region which partially rolled back the militants’ advance. But the insurgents later extended their reign in much of the region, declaring a caliphate with its own government and headquarters in Gwoza town.
A renewed military onslaught in early 2015 again pushed back the militants, who were then dealt huge blows after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in May of that year.