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The tragedy at Gorgi

The reported killing of scores of soldiers in an apparent ambush by Boko Haram terrorists in the village of Gorgi in Borno State last week once again brings to focus the dangerous dimensions of the on-going war against insurgency in the North East.

This latest incident which is similar to the attack by the same insurgents on civilians at a check point at Auno near Maiduguri last month bears the hallmark of the asymmetric tactics of the insurgents which they now employ at soft targets.

From information available the insurgents, apparently supplied with information about the movement of a convoy of soldiers on their way to engage them, attacked ferociously from the rear with their sophisticated weapons. Although caught unawares in the ensuing fire-fight the gallant soldiers were able to give a good account of themselves but not without losing a significant number of their ranks.

Were it not for the raging COVID-19 pandemic, this incident would surely have been the major talking point in a nation obviously weary with what has now become routine occurrence in the North East. Like the other similar incidents before it, this one too is a tragedy both in terms of the number of lives lost and in the way and manner it occurred. It is now clear that the terrorists, having seen the futility of carrying out their war on a direct engagement with the regular forces, decided to embed themselves in our midst thus opportunistically taking advantage to strike at both civilian and military targets at will.

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In view of this, we join the overwhelming majority of Nigerians to urge the military authorities and the federal and state governments of the states directly affected to devise new strategies to cope with the situation. In doing so, we have to take a holistic approach involving all the identified military, political and community stakeholders that have one role or the other to play in tackling the issue.

For the military, there is a clear and urgent need to change or devise new tactics. Most prominent and urgent in this is the review of operational intelligence procedures regarding need-to-know information on battle plans to officers and men in the theatre of operations.

While not calling for a state of paranoia and witch hunting, the military authorities need to subtly investigate and fish out those within their ranks that may have been collaborating with the insurgents leading to such incidents that result in the loss of lives. Closely tied to that we again reiterate the need for our forces to be well equipped with the necessary equipment to do the job.

From their mode of operation and weaponry, the insurgents are not the rag-tag bunch we have come to think. They are a well-structured army well led, well supplied with operational intelligence, equipment and logistics to do maximum damage both physically and psychologically to our society.

For the civil authorities, there is need to ramp up social vigilance among the populace. It needs no emphasising that the insurgents have now dissolved into the populace to avoid detection and to better carry out their deadly activities. The authorities must admonish people in our communities of the dangers of harbouring or cooperating with the insurgents in this regard. In the wake of the massacre of civilians by Boko Haram terrorists at a checkpoint in Auno last month, an exasperated President Buhari had admonished community leaders to step up their vigilance in the communities and cooperate with the military authorities in providing timely information on suspected terrorists in their midst.

These attacks have now become one too many. Just within three months so far into the new year, the death toll arising from such attacks has gone beyond a hundred and counting. This is clearly unacceptable and all necessary hands must be on deck to firmly put a final check on this deadly scourge.

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