Despite denials by the Nigerian military, Boko Haram fighters seized Baga, Doron-Baga, Kross Kawwa, Bunduran, Kekeno and Kukawa towns of Borno State after three days of fierce battles from Wednesday to Friday last week, Daily Trust learnt from impeccable military and political sources in Maiduguri yesterday.
All six towns are major population centres in Kukawa local government area of northern Borno. There are currently no Nigerian or Multinational forces in the areas, Daily Trust learnt from multiple sources last night.
The insurgents, driving in a convoy of more than ten fighter vehicles, used the main road from Kros Kawwa to launch coordinated attacks on Wednesday last week, December 26. They overrun the Multinational forces’ headquarters, a naval fighting base and a Marine Police base in some of the attacked areas, the sources said.
The insurgents first attacked a base of the multinational forces located in Mile Four (an area outside Baga town) at about 4pm and the military responded. Fighting took place till midnight after which the insurgents took control of the military base while our soldiers retreated. Commander of the multinational force, whose name was given as Brigadier General Hassan, was said to have escaped at night to a police base in Baga town alongside some of his men. The following day, Thursday, the Nigerian military deployed fighter jets between 6 to 7am, bombing the multinational forces base hoping to prevent Boko Haram from carting away weapons in case they didn’t do that the previous night. The insurgents said multiple sources, then attacked Mile Three, where the Navy had a fighting base, close to the military. The Navy was said to have put up stiff resistance but eventually lost control on Thursday. A commander of the base whose name was given as Air Commodore Degel escaped to Monguno.
On Friday, the insurgents moved to another naval base located about three kilometers north of Baga in an area popularly called Fish Dam on shores of the Lake Chad, through which imports and exports take place between Nigerians and Chadians. The naval fighters were safeguarding Nigerian waterways which the insurgents occasionally attempted to use in order to attack communities. The insurgents took over the base after a fight, it was learned. About 40 naval fighters escaped on a ship and local boats through portions of Lake Chad to a village called Kaiga in the Republic of Chad, where they were received by Chadian authorities.
The Navy fighters, sources said, tried to escape with weapons into the lake even though the insurgents may have had their hands on some. The insurgents entered Baga town and attacked a marine police station on Thursday. They however spared residents, saying they were after military and civilian JTF fighters. The insurgents gave civilians the choice to stay or to freely leave the town. Majority of residents numbering about 2,000 trekked sixty kilometres to Monguno using bush paths. Commander of the Multinational forces and members of the civilian JTF were said to have joined the residents, whose knowledge of the terrain helped the party to reach Monguno.
Daily Trust learnt that only a trailer driver was killed by the insurgents when he was seen carrying soldiers who jumped into the truck in an attempt to escape. It was not clear what happened to the soldiers.
Sources added that the insurgents were also in Doron-Baga where hundreds of residents fled through the lake on local boats. The residents are said to be taking refuge in a border village under the control of Chadian authorities. On Friday, the insurgents made attempts to take over the army’s 8th Brigade in Monguno town but the military repelled them. The insurgents, however, overran an army base in Kekeno (a town in Kukawa local government area), our sources said. The sources said the insurgents are currently in control of the six major towns in Kukawa making them in full control of the local government area with waterways accessing Chad. It was gathered that weak old men and women are currently trapped in the six towns even though majority have freely left.
Daily Trust reporters in Maiduguri said yesterday that of the tens of thousands of the residents of the fishing and farming communities that fled out of Doro and Baga, thousands still missing in the bush between Baga and Maiduguri. Thousands who made it to Maiduguri by both trekking and motor commuting have gathered adjacent to the popular Baga Road Market, Maiduguri, over the last couple of days, sleeping in the open, partly waiting for the possible arrival of their missing relations.
A Borno State Civilian JTF leader in Borno State told Daily Trust yesterday, “As I am talking to you now, you cannot find 300 residents in Baga and Doro and other communities put together.” He added, “Soldiers themselves fled from the Kukawa LGA communities (including Baga and Doro) to Monguno on Friday, but a military reinforcement was quickly mobilised there between Saturday and Sunday. While thousands have found their way to Maiduguri from Baga and Doro and surrounding communities, my members have reliably reported to me that no fewer than two thousand fled to Yobe State through Damasak and Gaidam.
“The Divisional Police State at Baga is empty as the DPO and his men there fled because an insurgent happened to be arrested by the police and his fellow insurgents had vowed to get him out at whatever cost. This is the much I can tell you. Security there is very fragile and, if there are people there at all, they may not be up to 500 as at today (Sunday),” he said.
Since Saturday, the usually vehicle-packed space adjacent to Baga Road Market, Maiduguri has been heavily crowded by the fleers. Some of them recounted their ordeal to Daily Trust.”As I am speaking to you now, thousands of our returnees, including my father and mother and many of my family members and friends, are still missing in the bush between Lake Chad and Maiduguri,” Muhammad Bukar from Kangarwa near Baga said.
“The insurgents invaded our town on Wednesday,” Garba Adam of Doron Baga said. “When they came, they told us not to fear, that the town had now become part of Daula [Islamic State], and that whoever wished to stay as a resident of the Daula could do so and whoever wished to leave could also do so. So on Thursday, we left the town. Residents fled in different directions.”
Borno State Government, which was celebrating the rebuilding of communities and return of IDPs to the seized towns in Kukawa, has now been forced to establish new camps for displaced persons. The State Emergency Management Agency and humanitarian workers are engaged in settling displaced persons in camps with medical and food supplies. Displaced persons had earlier been resettled in 14 of the 20 local government areas once controlled by Boko Haram. Over 30,000 homes, hospitals, water installations, schools and palaces of traditional rulers were rebuilt before displaced persons returned.
The UN and other international development agencies were initially against the return of displaced persons until the Nigerian military gave assurances. Apart from Kukawa, 13 other local government areas where displaced persons returned are under the military even though there are reports of fears in areas like Bama, Ngala and Mobbar LGAs which were hitherto occupied as well.
Due to the deteriorating security situation in northern Borno, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State will today host an emergency extraordinary security meeting in Maiduguri to be attended by heads of security establishments, leadership of the Civilian JTF and hunters, traditional rulers and Borno elders. The state’s three Senators, 10 House of Reps and 28 state assembly members, selected chairmen and commissioners from local government areas affected by recent attacks, leadership of the University of Maiduguri and selected tertiary institutions, chairmen of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigeria Bar Association, Nigerian Union of Journalists, National Council of Women Societies and Nigeria Legion in Borno State are also expected to attend.
The governor’s spokesman Isa Gusau, who announced this in a statement issued on Friday, said the meeting will hold at 4pm during which participants will review the situation in view of recent developments, make suggestions and come up with a resolution that will be delivered to President Buhari by a delegation.
The state government and other institutions concerned by aspects of the resolutions will take necessary and immediate actions to implement them, the statement said.
Gusau recalled in the statement that Governor Kashim Shettima has on different occasions, including in recent weeks, met with President Muhammadu Buhari and other security stakeholders over matters of security in Borno State and the President has regularly proved his empathy, commitment and determination to end the Boko Haram crisis in order to create enabling environment for the aggressive rebuilding of destroyed communities, rehabilitation and resettlement of victims which the Borno government has been doing since 2015.