*Declares loyalty to constitution, president
*Neutralises 37 terrorists in Uba-Askira’s reprisal
*Fintiri mourns Gen. Zirkusu, other soldiers killed in Chibok
*Ndume alleges ISWAP regrouping in Lake Chad
The country’s military authorities declared at the weekend that the armed forces remained loyal to the constitution and President Muhammadu Buhari and, therefore, had no plans to overthrow his administration. They were reacting to reports claiming that the Defence Headquarters had warned soldiers against overthrowing Buhari.
While dismissing claims that it issued such warning, the military said it did not require that caution because the loyalty of the officers and men to the constitution and the president was never in doubt.
The killing of the Commander, 28 Task Force Brigade, Chibok, Brigadier-General Dzarma Zirkushi, and three soldiers in an ambush in Uba-Askira, Borno State, weekend, also triggered a fierce response by the military, as troops battled and battered the terrorists, killing 37 of them.
But Adamawa State Governor, Hon. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, expressed his condolences to the families and colleagues of Zirkusu and the three soldiers killed in the fight against insurgency in Chibok.
Meanwhile, former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, declared that the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) terrorists were currently regrouping in Lake Chad.
Denying the coup report, the Defence Headquarters warned that it would deal decisively with any individual or group of persons out to tarnish the image of the military. It asked those it called mischief-makers to desist from dragging the military into partisanship.
A statetment by Acting Director, Directorate of Defence, Media Operations (DDMO), Brig Gen Bernard Onyeuko, said, “The military high command hereby warns all mischief makers and their proxies not to draw the military into their engagements. The Armed Forces of Nigeria remains apolitical and would not hesitate to deal decisively with any person or group of persons that want to tarnish its image or draw it into partisan politics.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria remains loyal to President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and also sworn to defend our democracy as well the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Army spokesman, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, in another statement, said, “The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to a misleading publication by an online newspaper, Naija News House, on Nigeria military warning politicians and officers against a coup which it credited to
“The publication is a handiwork of mischief makers and enemies of the state. It is a deliberate and calculated attempt to mislead the general public aimed at causing disharmony in the polity.
“The online newspaper manipulated with the intent of disinformation a previous message released in May 2021 by the then Director Defence Information, who is the current Army spokesperson. It is a malicious attempt to bring the military to disrepute. It is obvious that the online newspaper has its own sinister intention to cause confusion.”
Nwachukwu said the report, titled “Defence Headquarters warns soldiers against overthrowing Buhari’s regime,” was unfounded and the statement did not emanate from the Directorate of Army Public Relations headed by him.
He stated, “In any case, officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army do not need to be ‘warned against overthrowing Buhari’s government’ as their loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has never been in doubt. The Nigerian Army is a reputable national and patriotic institution that has fully subordinated itself to civil authority, having stood unwaveringly in defence of the nation’s democracy.”
The statement further affirmed, “The Nigerian Army will continue to be steadfast in defending Nigeria’s constitution and the much cherished democracy by providing aid to the civil authority, whenever it is called upon to so do.”
It contended that the said publication, which was riddled with outrageous lies and fabrications claimed that the “Defence Headquarters had denounced a call for the military to take over the reins of power. The online outlet went further to attribute its falsehood to Army Spokesman, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu.
“The only reason why this grossly unprofessional and blatantly irresponsible report is receiving any attention is the attribution of the false statement to the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu. The authors of the story must be the only news reporters, who do not know that Army Spokesman does not speak for the Defence Headquarters.
“However, for the sake of clarity and to keep the records straight, we wish to state that at no time did the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu issue any statement on the subject matter. It is, therefore, a figment of their imagination, which did not in anyway emanate from Brig Gen Nwachukwu.”
In a related development, the military, on Friday, deployed three fighter jets, one Alpha jet and two A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft as well as ground troops that engaged the insurgents in a fierce fire-fight that spilled over to Sunday morning.
The insurgents had in a reprisal attack over Friday’s aerial bombardment of their positions and killing of their members, ambushed the commander, killing him and three other soldiers at Bungulwa village near Uba-Askira while on their way to reinforce troops.
But in a counter offensive, troops engaged the non-state actors, killing an ISWAP Commander and three insurgents.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, following the development, directed troops to sustain the counter-offensive.
A war update issued Saturday by Nigerian Army Headquarters said the army chief commiserated with the families and relations of the fallen heroes and directed the troops to continue the ferocious counter-offensive and hot pursuit to eliminate the remnants of the fleeing terrorists.
It was gathered that the Nigerian troops, which had tactically retreated, regrouped, reinforced and ambushed the ISWAP commander and eliminated his fighters at Uba-Askira.
A military source confirmed that over 30 bodies of the insurgents decimated on Saturday were recovered yesterday though troops were still combing surrounding bushes for more bodies.
It was further gathered that nine gun trucks, an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and one Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) were destroyed while some other equipment were recovered.
“This morning while we are still mopping the area, we have so far counted 37 corpses of the terrorists while one of their leaders, a commander, who was arrested for further investigation died in custody this morning. We also recovered dozens of sophisticated guns during the clearance operation,” a security source said.
Reports indicated that normalcy had returned to Askira-Uba as the villagers hailed the proactive response of the military after the sudden invasion of their community.
Fintiri, in a press release by his press secretary, Mr Humwashi Wonosikou, yesterday, noted that he was saddened to hear how the insurgents launched an attack on an Army Base in Askira Uba Local Government area of Southern Borno. Fintiri commended the bravery of the Special Forces with the support of other troops, who repelled the attack by the insurgents.
Fintiri stated, “General Zirkusu and the three others were brave soldiers, who died in the line of duty while fighting terrorists.
“I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest sympathy and that of the government and people of Adamawa State to the families and loved ones of the fallen heros. I stand with you. Nigeria stands with you. I deeply appreciate the sacrifice made by your loved ones in defence of our democracy, our peace and our security.”
While urging the citizens to remember the families of the deceased in prayers at “this difficult time”, Fintiri also urged their families, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff to take heart over the irreparable loss, knowing that their loved ones died in active service and paid the supreme sacrifice.
He said, “We will not be cowed by these cowards. Our armed forces will continue to fulfil our mission-defeating terror. Our Soldiers’ blood will not be shed in vain.”
The governor expressed confidence that the day was coming when Nigerians would look back at this moment in history and say, “Thank God there were courageous people willing to serve, because they laid the foundation for peace for generations to come.
“We are on track to victory against evil. My thoughts and prayers go out to families of troops killed in war everyday, not just on the loss of these brave soldiers, but all who laid their lives in supreme sacrifice for the freedom of Nigeria.”
Ndume alerted that ISWAP members had begun to regroup in Lake Chad. However, he said he was optimistic that the Nigerian military had the capacity to tame as well as defeat the terrorists in the on-going onslaught against them.
Reacting to the killing of General Zirkusu and three soldiers, Ndume said the military had been informed about this and the Air Force were giving the necessary back up to fight the terrorists.
He said, “The ISWAP are regrouping around Borno North. That’s Lake Chad axis. The military is aware and the Air Forces are providing surveillance in the area. It was a revenge mission.”
While condoling with the Army over the recent killings by insurgents, the chairman of Senate Committee on Army, stated that the killing was a revenge mission by ISWAP terrorists, who had of recent been victims of military operations in parts of Borno State.
Ndume stated, “For now, we will assume that it was an isolated case. But the intensity with which they came is worrisome. They came with more than 10 gun trucks. It was a revenge mission. The Army has been taking out key ISWAP commanders and they had their revenge.
“ISWAP terrorists attacked a town there. They knew that the General was the major obstacle to their operation. They laid an ambush and rammed a bomb-ladened car into his vehicle. He was a gallant soldier. He took the fight to the terrorists.
“The General’s death has sent a panic to people in that area. I am aware that some people around that Chibok area have started thinking of relocating. Some want to go to Mubi and other places. We are trying to urge them to remain there. The insurgency is coming to an end.
“This is not the end, but the beginning of the end of terrorists. I know that the Army has what it takes to take the fight to them. There is need to urge other security agencies to give the Army the needed support. We also need to urge vigilante groups to assist them.
“Last week, for instance, they abducted relatives of the Emir of Askira. They also abducted some passengers along that road. If the Army sustains the temple, we will win this insurgency. The equipment is arriving gradually. We are monitoring. As a committee, we will go and see what they have brought into the country. This is an improvement. The Army is very rapid in responding.”