Unlike a year ago, when Nigerian troops would run away from Boko haram militants after running out of ammunition or for possessing inferior weapons, the Nigerian soldiers are now better armed, better equipped and better motivated.
Nigeria has bought helicopters, drones, armored personnel carriers, tanks, rocket launchers and other armaments. This includes helicopter gunships that are being used in the Sambisa Forest to scatter the militants and drive them away from their captives.
“What we never had, we now have,” Mike Omeri, government spokesman on the insurgency, said.
“We have drones, we have aircraft, we have APCs, and so on, and we are getting to where we should be to rebuild the armed forces, returning it to its glory, “he said.
Apart from this, the management of the troops has changed.
Battle-weary troops who had been on the front lines for two years recently have been allowed to stand down and the forces have received new weapons and ammunition. In the past, there were reports that troops going into battle had only 30 rounds of ammunition each, with corrupt commanders diverting resources into their own pockets.
With the borders with Niger, Chad and Cameron now manned by the countries’ forces and the pursuit of Boko Haram into Nigeria’s territory by the neighbours armies, Nigerian troops are now ready to deliver the coup de grace on the religious zealots that have for 6 years been a menace in Nigeria’s north east.
Apart from getting the weapons needed for the war, Nigerian troops are finally receiving the N15,000 hazard pay that they had not received until this year.
Today, Nigerian soldiers are rescuing hundreds of kidnapped girls and women from the last forest stronghold of the Islamic insurgents.
Nigeria’s military has announced that it has recaptured all major towns seized by the insurgents and that Boko Haram’s main fighting force is hemmed into the Sambisa Forest, where it is being pounded by air raids and attack helicopters.
While the government forces are stronger, Boko Haram is growing weaker by the day.
Women rescued in recent days from forest camps said that now it is the insurgents who are running out of ammunition, along with food and fuel.
That could explain why — when the captives refused to follow fleeing Boko Haram members last week — the militants did not shoot them. Instead, they stoned the girls and women, killing several of them.
Last year, Boko Haram fighters were able to escape across Nigeria’s borders to evade capture. Now, they are blocked by the troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon. With Nigeria’s permission, Chad and Niger have even sent their forces inside Nigeria to pursue the extremists.
Routes used by Boko Haram to transport fuel and ammunition have been reclaimed by the military. On Sunday, military intelligence officers arrested a man who allegedly supplied fuel and food to Boko Haram, reported Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade.
Last year’s toll of people killed by Boko Haram was estimated at 10,000 — more than in all the previous four years of the insurgency combined. The group carried out cross-border attacks with impunity, seized a swath of northeastern Nigeria the size of Belgium and created a wave of 1.5 million refugees fleeing the self-declared Islamic caliphate.
President Goodluck Jonathan did not take a strong stand until this year — too late to save him from losing re-election in March as disgusted Nigerian voters opted instead for Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader, who had the record of thrashing a similar insurgency several decades ago .
Jonathan was slammed for being too slow to act when Boko Haram last year April abducted the more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok — initially denying it had even happened and losing precious weeks in the mass kidnapping that sparked outrage worldwide.
*From reports by AP