At least six soldiers died in two separate Boko Haram ambushes in Borno State, military and civilian militia sources said on Tuesday.
Four troops were killed and 12 injured on Sunday when their convoy was attacked near Damboa, 90 kilometres (56 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of the state.
Two soldiers were killed in the same area last Saturday, the sources told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to talk to the media.
A military officer in Maiduguri said the Sunday’s ambush happened when troops were on patrol between the villages of Nyeneri and Falawani.
“The terrorists came in huge numbers and attacked the convoy using IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and gun trucks,” he added.
A member of the civilian self-defence force Civilian JTF gave a similar account, and said the jihadists made off with weapons before reinforcements arrived.
He added: “Two soldiers died last Saturday when the six vehicles they were travelling in came under heavy attack from Boko Haram near Bulaburin (village).”
The attacks came days after the military replaced the officer leading troops fighting Boko Haram following a surge in attacks, including against military outposts.
The army maintains the redeployment of Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru was routine, and the officer himself said suggestions he was sacked are “far from the truth.”
He said in his farewell speech to troops yesterday that his move was “a normal exercise” and his redeployment to army headquarters in Abuja was a “call to higher responsibility.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of people displaced by the violence deserted a makeshift camp in Birimari village in the Nganzai district of Borno State, some 80 kilometre North of Maiduguri.
Troops had been sent to the village, which is the birthplace of Borno State governor Kashim Shettima, two years ago but soldiers were withdrawn last week, locals said.
One of the displaced, Idrissa Karim, fled with others to Gajiram, the district headquarters, as fears spread of a possible attack.
A bus driver who plies the route from the garrison town of Monguno to Maiduguri, which passes through Birimari and Gajiram, confirmed the displaced people had moved on.
“The IDPs (internally displaced persons) were packing their tents and few belongings from the camp at Birimari and heading to Gajiram for fear of Boko Haram attack after soldiers left the village,” the driver said.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday tasked the Nigerian Army to intensify its current efforts on the fight against Boko Haram and work closely with other security agencies to develop new strategies that will address the current security challenges facing the country and ensure total eradication of the insurgents and other criminal elements in our country.
Represented by the Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, President Buhari who lauded the military and other paramilitary organisations for the success over Boko Haram, enjoined them to quash the remnants of the insurgents with a view of returning peace to the troubled areas of the country.
He spoke in Ibadan at the opening ceremony of the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference 2017, which had the theme, ‘Re-appraising the Nigerian Army’s operational efficiency in containing contemporary national security challenges’.
At the event, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maj. Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), delivered a lecture titled: ‘Safeguarding Nigeria’s unity and sovereignty: A patriotic and constitutional imperative for the Nigerian Army’, while Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State played the host.
The president also decorated 10 new pilots of the Nigeria Army Aviation with wings at the event, charging them to contribute to the nation’s fight against insecurity.
In his address, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, said the 10 young pilots were the first set to complete their pilot training from the NAA, while the coordinator of the establishment, Maj. Gen. Johnson Olawumi, commended them for their focus during training.
While commending the Nigerian Army for the success recorded against the insurgents Boko Haram so far, Buhari said: “The spectacular achievements of the Nigerian Armed Forces against terrorism, insurgency and militancy underscores my earlier position that these existential threats can be faced and defeated with the necessary measures within the ambit of the law.
“The Nigerian Army must therefore intensify its current efforts and work closely with other security agencies to develop new strategies that will address the current security challenges facing the country and ensure total eradication of the insurgents and other criminal elements in our country.”
Buhari added that he was pleased with the involvement of local manufacturers of specialised military equipment in Ode-Remo, Ogun State and Nnewi, Anambra State. According to him, the two companies involved in the production of the equipment would enhance capacity building needed for self-sufficiency in the security sector.
“I urge you to continue to patronise our local manufacturers to enable them perfect their products and compete with their peers globally,” said Buhari.
The Chief of Army Staff, Buratai, said that in addition to various special training for the army personnel to combat insurgency and other insecurity, the Nigeria Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies, Biu, Borno State, would be upgraded to the Nigeria Army University, which would be different from other conventional universities in Nigeria.
He added that the army personnel were being encouraged to study French language at the Nigerian Army Language Institute and the Nigerian Army School of Education. He said that the NA was waiting for a report of the presidential committee that was looking into alleged human rights issues involving the army, saying that various operations against militancy and other social devices would continue in 2018.
“The three major Nigeria Army exercises (like exercises Eguoke 3 and Crocodile Smile 3) will be sustained in the coming year. They will be geared towards creating a peaceful and stable environment in 2019,” said Buratai.