Chris Steven, Abuja
A team of international observers made up of journalists, CSOs, NGOs and social media influencers have lauded the Nigerian Army for making the north-east impenetrable for Boko Haram Terrorists to seize any of its territory again.
At a press conference in Abuja today after a fact finding mission report on the activities of Boko Haram in Gundunbali, Damask and Garshigar of Borno state, the team leader, Daniel Furnard, said his team decided to embark on a 10-day tour of the areas following the avalanche of conflicting reports emanating from the North East.
The team leaders who had worked with the British Broadcasting Coorporation, BBC for over 20 years said the tour has put to end speculations about developments in the area.
The team leader said, “A team of international journalists including, Francois Deburo, local journalists, humanitarian workers and a coalition of civil society organisations undertook a tour of some communities in Borno state in a bid to form an independent assessment of the operations of the Nigeria military, the current state of the war against insurgency and conflicting reports in the media.
The group also consisted of organisations such as Victims and Disaster Management Initiative (VDMI), Peace Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Initiative (PRRI), Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency as well as participants drawn from various media houses in Nigeria, as well as selected social media influencers in the country.
He said, “It suffices to state that the overarching objective of the tour was to put paid to speculations about Boko Haram occupying territories in some communities in North East Nigeria after some attempts by the terrorists to invade Nigerian communities under the control of the Nigerian Army.
” Consequently, the team decided that there would be no military escort for the duration of the project”he said
It should be noted that the coalition of CSOs that participated in the tour have been actively involved in humanitarian activities in the region and also conversant with the terrain and guided by local guide selected on the spot.
He said the team was on the ground for one week beginning from 25th September to October 4th, 2018.
“In the course of the trip, the members of the group were divided into clusters and each with a local tour guide that assisted with language barrier challenge. Each cluster visited communities and observed their daily activities whilst all the activities were videoed and pictures collected .
“The team discovered that there is no territory under the control of Boko Haram terrorists anywhere within the geographical entity called Nigeria . Using the case of Garshigar as an example, the town enjoys relative peace. Here, indigenes went about their regular businesses, but for the presence of military personnel in strategic locations.
The team also interacted with soldiers from Nigeria Army’s 145 battalions on the ground, and they gave insights into their operations in these communities. In the case of Garshigar, it was gathered that Boko Haram terrorists have made several attempts to gain entry into the town, but were repelled by the Nigeria Army. One of the commanders of the 145 Battalion also hinted that some years back, Garshigar used to serve as one of the training bases of the Boko Haram terrorists until the Nigeria Army dislodged them, hence the repeated attempt to attack the community, but the Nigeria Army has always repelled them”.
The team said in the case of Damasak, indigenes went about their regular businesses without fear, adding that visible signs of unrest were the buildings that were demolished in previous attacks.
He said as a fact, farming and fishing activities are ongoing in large scale.
“Damasak is bustling with economic activities, so much so that people from neighbouring communities of Dogomolu, Douro, and Chemba frequent Damasak to trade. There was also a strong military presence in the town at strategic places. Upon interacting with the indigenes’, they heaped praises on the efforts of soldiers in the military base stationed in Damasak.
“The team also observed a high return rate of people that were once displaced by Boko Haram terrorist in times past. Also, there are lots of construction works ongoing in homes and schools. There was also a high presence of humanitarian workers providing health services in the rebuilt general hospital.
In Gudumbali, the story is also the same as that of Garshigar, where Boko Haram terrorists have made several attempts to gain entry into the town. It was discovered that two weeks earlier, (September 8) there was an attempt by the Boko Haram terrorist to attack the town, but they met stiff resistance from the Nigeria Army. Scores of indigenes were seen going about their regular business.
There was also a heightened security presence in the community which is as a result of the constant attempts by dissident Boko Haram terrorist to launch an attack in the town.
Upon interaction with soldiers stationed in the town, the singled out the Chief of Army Staff for praise as they stated that he has been consistent in matching his words with action. They stated that he takes the issues of welfare and military hardware seriously, hence why the soldiers have been able to repeal several Boko Haram attacks in these communities”, he said.