The Nigerian Army said it would, in 2017, consolidate on the gains recorded by troops in the fight against insurgency in the North-East.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, gave the assurance in Abuja while reviewing exercises and operations conducted by the army in 2016.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had announced the fall of “Camp Zairo,’’ the last stronghold of the boko haram terrorists in the Sambisa forest to the army, in his Christmas message.
“We will continue to accord high priority to training, regimentation and welfare of the troops.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has directed that the next Nigerian Army Small Arms Competition (NASAC) 2017 be conducted in the Sambisa forest.
“Already, efforts are on by the Nigerian army engineers to open more routes and construct bridges into the once Boko Haram haven to facilitate access to the forest,’’ Usman said.
He also disclosed that in 2016, the army promoted 17,000 soldiers to various ranks in 2016, including 9,000 soldiers deployed in operations to tackle the boko haram terrorists in the North-East.
Usman said that during period, 184 Warrant Officers were elevated to Master Warrant Officers.
On the exercises and operations in the period under review, he listed them as exercises “Shirin Harbi, Harbin Kunama, Crocodile Smile and Python Dance ’’ and operations “Crack Down and Rescue Finale’’.
According to him, those terrorists holed up in Sambisa forest were further defeated during the operation rescue finale which penetrated deep into sambisa forest and dislodged the sect members from their headquarters in Parisu and Camp Zairo.
Usman explained that exercises Shirin Harbi and Harbin Kunama, apart from improving troops’ proficiency and testing of equipment, addressed security challenges in Bauchi and Zamfara axis.
He said that under the two exercises, 9,865 cattle rustled by bandits at Dansadau forest in Zamfara were rescued and handed over to their owners.
“Many armed bandits and livestock rustlers were also arrested during the operation.
“It is believed that the menace of criminal gangs and bandits in the North-Central and North-West zones of the country would be reduced to the barest minimum due to such field training exercises,’’ he said.
On exercises Crocodile Smile and Python Dance in the South-South and South-East, Usman said that they also helped in dealing with contemporary security challenges in those areas.
He added that the exercises also contributed to the hitch-free celebration recorded in those regions during the Yuletide.
Responding to a question, Usman said that troops had been “fully deployed’’ in Southern Kaduna to address security challenge in that area.
He said the army was working with sister security organisations, including the Police, DSS, and civilian populace to address the problem, adding that a military formation would soon be established in the area.