Nigeria seeks UN’s help to demine ex-Boko Haram enclave, Sambisa forest

Nigerian troops patrol in Bama on March 25, 2015. Nigeria's military has retaken the northeastern town of Bama from Boko Haram, but signs of mass killings carried out by Boko Haram earlier this year remain. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLE SOBECKINichole Sobecki/AFP/Getty Images

The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has called for deliberate effort to remove mines from the Sambisa after the sack of the terrorists from the forest.

The Chief of Army Staff, who made the call in an interview in Maiduguri on Sunday, said that this effort will require the assistance of the United Nations, relevant NGOs and development partners.

According to Buratai, this is because such project requires much resources and effort that the country alone may not be able to finance.

“The army is currently doing a limited demining of routes in the forest to enable troops to move around for operations.

“Strictly speaking, we have not started demining the Sambisa forest.

“The areas we are concentrating on are where we are working, where our troops will have to move from one point to the other.

“These are the efforts we are making to create safe lanes for troops to pass from one point to the other.

“But, for our deliberate demining efforts, it will require much, much resources, much more effort, and we may even request for the civilian demining support in that regard.

“Demining is not restricted to the military only, there are several organisations that have been doing this, the UN is one and there are other NGOs that are involved which actually work under the umbrella of the UN.

“So, as comprehensive efforts, these bodies need to be invited to support what the military is doing right now in a limited capacity in that regard,” Mr. Buratai said.

He, however, said the army had acquired more equipment for the demining to make the areas where troops operate in the Sambisa safe for them.

On remnants of the terrorists, Mr. Buratai said of the three affected states by insurgency in the North-East, Yobe and Adamawa were now almost “100 per cent free of the insurgent’’ except Borno.

The army chief, however, said that some terrorists were still believed to be hiding in bushes in remote areas in some local government areas in Adamawa and Yobe. According to him, soldiers are trailing such terrorists.

Mr. Buratai said what was needed now was massive deployment of police and civil defence personnel in major towns, and communities where people had returned to.

“We need more policemen deployed even in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Bama, Damasak, Gubio, Monguno and Baga and other towns where people have returned; they – police need to really take over.

“Apart from the regular police, the Mobile Police also are key, we need them to be there.

“There are concerns all over that at this stage we really need the civil authority to come and take up their responsibilities fully,’’ Mr. Buratai said.

This, he said would relieve the army from civil job to enable troops concentrate and move deep into the bushes for clearance and mop up of remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists.

“Some Immigration and Customs personnel have been deployed. I am aware that they are in some border towns like Ngamboru Gala and Damasak, and some other areas,’’ he said.

On Amnesty International’s continuous accusation of human rights violations by personnel of the army, Mr. Buratai insisted that the army does not infringe on individual rights.

He said the army was guided by laws, including the 1999 constitution, its own rules of engagement and international law on armed conflict in its operations.

“We know what we are doing, definitely we will not infringe on individual rights.

“We have our own constitutional role; we have our own rules of engagement which are in tandem with our constitution, in tandem with even the international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict.

“If, in course of our duty, someone feels that something has gone wrong contrary to what they believe in and they go beyond to call for arms embargo and denial of certain weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military, I think the government will address that appropriately.

“This accusation or denial has been on even before the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the embargo has been on, and they have been denying the military of some quite important equipment but what happened, we still defeat the Boko Haram terrorists.

“That is what we are all acknowledging and indeed celebrating.

“By and large, I think it (arms denial) has no consequence for now even if they continue to deny us the equipment for us to prosecute the counter insurgency operation in the country.

“But that does not mean that we do not need such equipment. We need external support. We have a number of countries, who are supporting us and we are doing our best with whatever we have, we utilise them effectively,” he said.