Governor Kashim Shettima wept yesterday when he led elders of Borno State to meet President Muhammadu Buhari over the Boko Haram crisis.
He arrived at the Presidential Villa at about 2.30 p.m. looking despondent and went straight to the council chamber, venue of the meeting, where he spoke amid tears.
The meeting was a follow up to an emergency security session in Maiduguri last Monday, which deliberated on the resurgence of Boko Haram activities in parts of the state.
The governor nevertheless expressed confidence in the ability of the president to restore normalcy to the troubled state.
He said: “Between 2013 and 2014, we witnessed the most daring and most vicious evil of Boko Haram, losing 20 local government areas. We have rushed here because of the recent upsurge in the activities of the demented monster called Boko Haram especially in northern Borno senatorial district. We are here because since 2015, Mr. President, you were able to restore our hope.
“Sir, you have demonstrated empathy for Borno and an overriding commitment to ending Boko Haram. This is why we rushed here upon witnessing some setback. We are here because we thought that Allah would use you to fully reclaim Borno’s traditional glory of being the home of peace. We are here as a people who worked, prayed and waited for your presidency in the firm belief that with you as Commander-in-Chief, Boko Haram will become history in Borno.
“Mr. President, we have not, and insha Allah, we will not lose hope in you because we have witnessed and survived worse moments before you came. We do not feel hopeless. Our hopes are very much alive and they are very high.
“We came with some observation and 10 requests for urgent presidential intervention. These observations and requests are products of discussion in the aftermath of our extraordinary security meeting held one week ago. We didn’t rush to come after the meeting. We felt the need to travel to northern Borno and interact with displaced persons and the military, so as to strengthen public confidence.
“I will seek the understanding of journalists in not making public any of our observations and requests. They are matters of security, which we hope to discuss with Mr. President behind close doors.”
The meeting, which was initially opened to the media, later went into a closed-door session with lawmakers representing the three senatorial areas of the state, members of the House of Representatives, All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate, traditional and religious leaders in attendance.
National Security Adviser (NSA) General Babagana Monguno, as well as the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS) Yusuf Magaji Bichi and his National Intelligence Agency (NIA) counterpart, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, were also in attendance.
According to a statement signed by the president’s special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari told the delegation that the collective safety and security of civilians would continue to remain paramount in his administration’s strategy to restore peace and stability in the region.
“Having been a former governor in the northeast, a GOC in the region, and very familiar with the terrain, I assure you that as Commander-in-Chief, I’ll raise the standard of the Nigerian Armed Forces and get the resources to encourage them to do better than what they are doing,” he said.
“I am getting, at least, a weekly situation report from the services and, of course, from other sources. I encourage the commanders to remain committed. I have an idea how much you are doing and I very much appreciate it. I’m sure that has earned you more respect from the people.”
Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole meanwhile have neutralised 100 terrorists and destroyed Boko Haram gun trucks. The action was conducted in three communities in Borno and Yobe states.
Army spokesman, Brig-Gen. Sani Usman, in a statement yesterday disclosed: “In their determined efforts of wiping the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists, troops have embarked on aggressive clearance operations on suspected terrorists’ hideouts and crossing points at Goniri, Cross Kauwa and Monguno. Specifically, the 120 Battalion and the newly formed Nigerian Army Special Forces Command have neutralised over 100 terrorists in various encounters. The Nigerian Air Force Air Task Force component of Operation Lafiya Dole has been giving close air support to ground troops.”
He added: “Buoyed by the Chief of Army Staff’s presence and motivation, the troops in the frontline are in renewed positive fighting spirit across the theatre.”