The Nigerian Army has explained why the residents of Jakana, a town on the Maiduguri-Damaturu Expressway in Borno State, were evacuated from their homes.
The Deputy Director of Army Public Relations of the Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command and 7 Division, Colonel Ado Isa, disclosed that the decision was to avoid collateral damage in the course of operations.
He said there was an intense patrol ongoing at the fringes of the Lake Chad basin, code-named “Yanchin Tafki”, for which troops were providing blocking force in all areas of operations identified as possible routes for fleeing insurgents, including Jakana, Mainok, and other villages.
In an interview with Channels Television on Tuesday, Colonel Isa explained, “There is credible information that in that general area.
“We have to conduct clearance operations because we don’t want to disclose to them (the residents) so they will not panic and it is part of the military drill that whenever we want to conduct such operations after having a credible information on the activities of the Boko Haram Terrorists elements, we normally evacuate and relocate all the people within that community for the safety of their lives and property, so that we can get the latitude to go on with our military operations. So that’s what we did yesterday.”
Hundreds of villagers had arrived at the Bakassi Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The villagers have been profiled by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) at the camp which is located some 40 kilometres away from Jakana,.
Colonel Isa, however, distanced the army from allegations that the villagers were evacuated for being complicit by accommodating insurgents who were believed to have several routes and crossing points around Jakana.
He insisted that the troops had nothing to do with innocent villagers who had nothing to do with the insurgents.
“We are not after them; they did not commit any offence,” the Theatre Command spokesman said.
He added, “It is for their safety. The NEMA and the BOSEMA were all there, they profiled them, they registered them, and they are taking care of them and we equally announced to them that for those that have relations and loved ones within Maiduguri metropolis are free to go and stay with them.
“Nobody is denying them of their ancestral home. However, let them allow us to conduct our clearance operations because we don’t want to incur any collateral damage. So that is the main import of the evacuation since yesterday (Monday) and today. We were also at the IDP camp and we addressed all of them.”
Meanwhile, residents of neighbouring Damaturu, the Yoba State capital have reported an intense gun battle around the Red Bricks Estate in Maisandari, an estate situated at the entrance of the city.
Although it is not clear if the military is engaging armed assailants, residents have taken refuge in their homes as the shootout continues.
Damaturu is about 90 kilometres away from Jakana, where the military is conducting intensive clearance operations.
There are also reports of another attack in Gaidam Local Government Area of Yobe State on Monday, forcing residents to flee to nearby communities.
Information about both attacks is still sketchy at the time of this report.