Images of the Nigerian Army as they reclaim Baga from Boko Haram sect. [PHOTO CREDIT- SANI KUKASHEKA USMAN, Brigadier General, Director Army Public Relations]

The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, dispatched ‘a special commendation’ message to thousands of Nigerian troops and their commanders who have been actively engaging Boko Haram insurgents across the country’s northeastern flank.

Buratai reserved no words in his appreciation of his men who were said to have dislodged Boko Haram elements from Baga, Borno State. The community, which the military considered strategic in its counter-insurgency campaign, was occupied by extremists following a lengthy exchange of gunfire with soldiers between December 27 and 28, 2018.

In its initial reaction on December 28, the Nigerian Army fiercely rejected reports, that Baga was feared retaken by Boko Haram nearly four years after insurgents were dislodged from the agrarian and fishing community in early 2015.

The attack, which comes as the military was reeling from successful Boko Haram attacks on bases resulting in the deaths of hundreds of soldiers, worsened fears that the extremists might expand into large swathes of Nigerian lands ahead weeks into the general elections in February 2019.

The army, however, said land and air raids were being conducted to chase out some extremists who gained a forceful entry into the town and lurking in strategic positions in its crowded areas.

The military also countered fears that Boko Haram might have regrouped since the devastation it suffered between early and mid–2015 — the biggest in its 10-year deadly campaign — and was now aggressively taken over Nigerian communities across the North-East, especially in Borno and Yobe, as witnessed between 2013 and 2014 under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

But the language of Buratai’s statement on January 10 confirmed reports that the troops were dislodged from Baga, during which a military base there was also attacked and temporarily incapacitated.

“I am very delighted to receive the good news of your triumphant entry, clearing of the strategic town of Baga and neutralising the Boko Haram terrorists that tested our might some days back,” Buratai stated in a Facebook message by the Nigerian Army. “Your efforts and open display of gallantry, as well as patriotism that brought about this unprecedented feat, gladdened my heart, all Nigerians and indeed, peace-loving people around the world. I am very proud of you all.”

The army chief commended all the commanders of the operation, including those of the Nigerian Air Force, and promised improved living conditions for all those on the frontlines. He also condoled with families of fallen heroes and sent his thoughts and prayers to wounded soldiers recuperating at various hospitals.

He urged troops to “consolidate on these gains by continuous pursuit of these criminal terrorists and neutralise them to eternity.”

“You should be more proactive and continue with the clearance operations on any known Boko Haram terrorists hideouts in your respective areas of responsibilities. The Nigerian Army will continue to provide all the needed support to ensure that you succeed in this noble task.

“I have directed for more replenishment and special welfare packages for you all which will be made known by your various Commanders. I want you to invoke the spirit of courage and bravery that the Nigerian military is noted for, the world over. Victory is very near,” Buratai said.

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