Abdullah Tumburkai was at the media tour of North-East Nigeria organized by the Nigerian Army, (NA), to acquaint newsmen of the progresses the military has made in the fight against Boko Haram in the region.
The Nigerian Army, apart from its conventional role of fighting the Boko Haram insurgent, has also engaged in other development activities like road repairs, construction of bridges, provision of portable drinking water, especially in villages worse hit by the insurgency.
The Commander of 7 Division Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, BRIG-GEN ABDUL KHALIFA IBRAHIM, sheds more light on what the army had done since it began the fight against the insurgents.
Can you shed more light on the development projects embarked upon by the army?
GEN IBRAHIM: Following an assault against the Boko Haram when they were pushed out of Bama and they retreated to areas around Gwoza, where they declared as their headquarters, the Boko Haram destroyed the bridge leading to Banki Junction. They bombed the bridge and it could not be accessed.
It was the NA engineers that reconstructed that bridge. The bridge is now used by both the military and civilians.
More so, that road is an access road not only for Borno state. You can go through it to Gwoza as you head to Liman Kara and Madagali in Adamawa state, from where you can get to Michika and other places.
Does your command extend to Adamawa state?
GEN IBRAHIM: Yes. I have soldiers working at the northern parts of Adamawa and in Borno states.
Before going to Bama there was also a road that was said to have been repaired by the army?
GEN IBRAHIM: You see there are certain things that we soldiers do that lots of Nigerians are not aware of. I will tell you today that when you leave Maiduguri and arrived Konduga, from Konduga to Bama, our men use bomb scanners along the road to detect possibly planted bombs by the Boko Haram.
This is done to avert explosions that might affect both the military and civilians. So we do that every morning to clear the road for use. We scan the road from Konduga to Bama to ensure that there are no bombs planted along the road.
Also from Bama to Banki Junction and Pulka is taken care of by the Brigade at Bama who do the same. Then from Pulka to Gwoza is taken care of by the Battalion at Pulka and the Brigade does the same all along to Adamawa.
It is when we finish that at 9:00am daily that we allow vehicular movement along the routs. If we had not embarked on this, a lot of lives would have been lost to planted bomb attacks along the roads.
Is it true that soldiers embark on provision of drinking water in villages and even teaching of school pupils?
GEN IBRAHIM: There is what we call the civil/military relationship or civil/military cooperation in which we work along with civilians to ensure that things are working in order.
It is not just an issue of military attacks, is beyond that. For instance, in a place like Gwoza we have soldiers that teach in their schools. They assist them. We did that because there were not enough teachers in the school and if the children are left unattended to they will end up becoming a nuisance to the public. That is why we introduced that.
I must say that we are grateful that his Highness, Emir of Gwoza expressed his appreciation of this and this is also a boost to us. Because places like Pulka have problem of portable drinking water, although I have seen boreholes sunk for them recently, but before that, we use to take water to them using water tankers to assist them or we contract NGOs to take water to them.
These are some of the things we do apart from provision of school books. Just of recent, the Chief of Army Staff, General Buratai, gave the order in Kaduna that books be provided to schools. We gave out 20,000 copies of text and exercise books to schools.
If we review the successes achieved in this region so far, we see that there are cases of Boko Haram attacks and ambushes, what is the course of this despite the successes?
GEN IBRAHIM: Like I said earlier, the Boko Haram used to fight like conventional military where they attacked and took over some towns. At that time it was very easy for us to simply attack them back, fight them and retrieve the towns from them.
Now they have changed their patterns, they engage in guerrilla attacks. Vehicles can come and pass and nothing will happen especially when the vehicles are strong, but some days when one or two cars come to pass you will see them coming out.
They will stop a vehicle by the road side, deliberately bring out the Christians in the vehicle and kill them in order to instigate crises across the country. But by the grace of God we are taking steps towards squashing this also.