With military officials and the government of Borno State quietly backing away from claims that the strategic town of Bama was still in the control of Nigerian soldiers, at least 12,000 volunteers gathered today in Maiduguri to offer their
in the war against the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram. The volunteers, who gathered at the Maiduguri palace of the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar Ibn- Garbai Elkanemi, urged the Nigerian government to accept their services in the war against terror.Our correspondent reported that thousands of ex-service men, hunters, and youths said they were ready to become part of the increasingly critical war against Boko Haram, which recently has captured several towns in Borno and Yobe States and killed more than 2,000 civilians in the first half of 2014, according to Human Rights Watch.
Some of the ex-servicemen, who had served in the military, the police, and with the SSS, said today that they wished to join youths in the civilian joint task force (JTF) to stop Boko Haram’s incessant attacks and recent string of triumphs over demoralized Nigerian soldiers based in the violence-ravaged northeast of Nigeria.
The prospective volunteers trooped today to the palace of the Shehu of Borno to seek his support and cooperation in their desire to combat the seemingly energized and increasingly more brutal Islamist insurgents. Some of the vigilante volunteers vowed to enter Sambisa forest and other hideouts to hunt down Boko Haram militants and bring an end to the ongoing insurgency.
Over the last three weeks, Boko Haram insurgents launched a series of attacks on several towns in Borno and neighboring states, including Damboa, Gamboru Ngala, Bama and Banki. The terrorists have seized numerous towns and engaged in widespread slaughter of civilians. Thousands of people have been displaced, some of them taking refuge in neighboring west African countries.
Some of the volunteers said their goal was to resist Boko Haram’s reign of terror and to reverse the insurgent group’s seizure of important towns.
Ex-staff sergeant Yahaya Suleiman, who fought in Nigeria’s civil war, urged the Nigerian government to accept the offer from him and others. “We are fully ready to join the military in fighting against terrorism. Enough is enough. All we need is support from the federal government to stop this madness.”
The dramatic gathering came a day after the Shehu of Borno suggested that people of different faiths observe three days of alms, prayers and fasting in order to restore peace to the state and the country at large.
The Shehu also called on members of the vigilante youth, popularly known as ‘Civilian JTF,’ to always abide by the rule of law while discharging their civic responsibilities.
Addressing the volunteers, the traditional ruler commended the effort of the civilian JTF in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency. He urged them to always follow the directives of the military and other security agencies. He added that the civilian JTF had helped to dislodge the sect from Maiduguri and surrounding areas. He encouraged other besieged towns and communities to set up their own volunteers to help fight terrorism.
“I want to thank you for this visit and the effort you are collectively and voluntarily making in order to fight Boko Haram who are bent in not only destroying our social and economic structures, but also killing innocent lives. I want to also appeal to you that you should desist from politics, religious or ethnic considerations while discharging your duties.”
The Borno State coordinator of the civilian JTF, Abba Aji, said the residents of the beleaguered states had suffered enough at the hands of Boko Haram. He said he and other volunteers were determined to go after the insurgents “even if we are not well armed. We are optimistic that, with our sticks, Dane guns and other local arms, we will raid all terrorist hideouts and kill them when given permission by the federal government.”
Mr. Aji added that members of the civilian JTF were now more motivated with the support and assurance they received from retired military men, local hunters and other patriotic citizens who have expressed their willingness join the group to end the madness perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists.
The passion displayed by the volunteers came as US authorities tacitly confirmed that the insurgents had indeed seized the town of Bama, contrary to earlier denials by the Nigerian military and Borno State officials. Bama is less than 45 miles from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Its capture by Boko Haram raised fears that the group might try to seize Maiduguri as well.
A top US official announced plans to offer a border security initiative designed to help Nigeria and other threatened West African countries to contain the Islamists.
Speaking in Abuja, Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, described the situation on the ground in Nigeria as “worsening.” Noting that attacks by Boko Haram insurgents had “grown more acute,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield added, “This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride.”
The official stated that the US was “very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri.”
Speaking to SaharaReporters, an official of Borno State backed away from earlier claims that Bama was still in the hands of Nigerian soldiers. The source blamed the deputy governor for spreading the misleading information, admitting that Bama was under the control of Islamist insurgents. The official said he was confident that Nigerian troops and civilian volunteers would drive the terrorist fighters out of Bama and other seized towns in Borno State.