Lagbaja And Banditry Battle In North-West Nigeria
By Zagazola Makama
The asymetric warfare that involves the Nigerian military on one hand, and the twin crimes of terror-banditry and kidnapping on the other, in Northwest Nigeria has raged on over the last eleven years in a startling fashion; much akin to what obtains in every other clime tormented by any form of terror across the globe.
The warfare has raged on in the fashion of the wild bushfire, with both sides unrelentingly beefing up their arsenals, refining their strategies and upscaling their combat-readiness.
The military deployed more troops, weapons and equipment, as the banditry sponsors do same, with the recruitment of more bandits, unleashing a more devastating terror across the Northwestern and parts of the Northcentral Nigeria.
Residents in Northwest Kaduna witnessed increasing threat of banditry, a type of organized crime that includes kidnapping, armed robbery, murder, rape and cattle-rustling.
The Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād Boko Haram terrorist organization, which aimed to expand its base beyond Northeast Nigeria, largely due to the sustained intensified intelligence-led aerial and ground coordinated offensives begun forming alliances with bandit groups.
The situation generated a growing set of intricacies in the warfare, requiring not just the deployment of more troops, weapons and other equipment at the front line, but a genuinely patriotic, committed and exceptionally-intelligent command to guide the operations of the troops in their combat with the criminal non-state actors.
This command is, perhaps, the most-critical component of the military prowess required in its operations against, not just the non-state actors, but every other enemy force in every other form of warfare.
The 1 Div of the Nigerian Army headquartered in Kaduna, coordinating the operations of lower formations across the Northwest, has, all along, commanded the operations of the ground troops combating the global-scale menace in the Northwest, in collaboration and synergy with the Air Task Force component of the military, the government of Kaduna State and other security agencies.
Successive General Officers Commanding (GOCs) 1 Div, had to, therefore, employ exceptional patriotism; committment to the oneness, peace and security of indivisible Nigeria; and intelligence for proper coordination of the operations of troops in asymmetric warfare.
The GOCs had, since 2011, when terror-banditry first erupted in Zamfara, played commendable roles in combating the menace in their respective ways with the resources available to them during their respective tenures.
The present tenure of Maj.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, as the 39th GOC complements the past efforts with outstanding innovation and improved strategy.
Spurred by his flawless understanding of the complexities of the asymmetric war tactics of the Bandits/Boko Haram terrorist sect, General Lagbaja, in line with the clear directives of the military leadership, evolved a winning strategy that fosters complimentary roles between the Nigerian Army, Air Task Force and the Joint Task Force executing the campaign in the frontline.
In a landmark rejigging of strategy, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, inducted Special Forces Battalion into Northwest Operation Forest Sanity, supervised by Gen. Lagbaja to match whatever new strategies the terrorists may have evolved to outwit and overwhelm the capacity of the army to tackle them.
Before the deployment of the Special Forces, military operations were, hitherto, limited to roadblocks and checkpoints, escort duties and providing security for road construction workers. Battles are seldom carried to the main Boko Haram and Bandits camps.
The induction of the special forces, especially the 402 SF Brigade with her 2 Special Forces Battalions comprising of the 134 SF and 198 SF as well as the 167 SF And DHQ SOF, significantly changed the pattern of the operations of the troops in terrorised Kaduna State
Troops of the special forces sleep in the jungle, a gladdening confirmation of the fact that the military now takes the offensive to the terrorists rather than mounting road blocks and check points. This has enhanced the endurance of the troops for more successful combats with the bandits.
With the refinement of combat strategies by the Lagbaja-led 1 Div, the military began to write spectacular success stories in its battle against terror-banditry in the larger chunk of the Northwest, especially in Kaduna State where the ongoing wave of onslaughts against criminals in their enclaves has drawn significant praises.
The team’s act of bravery and commitment influenced the defeat of the terrorists in the axis of Kuriga, Manini Chikun, Pole Wire, Birnin Gwari, Ungwan Namama, Kwalba, Rafin Dawa Dende,Ungwan Madaki, Buruku, Udawa, Doka, Maganda, Dogon Dawa, Sabon Layi-Kuriga-Maganda-Farin Ruwa, Sabon Birni, Kuyelo,Farin Ruwa, Damba to Kangon Kadi, Labi,Udawa river Apewohe, Dakwala and Kunai among others.
The unit’s contributions also led to death of many terrorists, in Maidaro, Kagi Hill, Kusharki, Zartake, Ungwan Lima Riyawa, Tungan Madaki, Gengere,Kaso Gwagwada-Chikun-Sarkin Pawa Kidandan, Giwa LGA. Galadimawa, Dogon Dawa, Saulawa, Maidaro, Maganda, Goron Dutse, Sararai, Kushaka, Kuriga, and Yelwa among others.
The successes recorded on the operations led to the capturing of several enemy weapons, motorcycles, rescue of captured victims and destruction of terrorists enclaves.
The team artfully ensured that flashpoints within the Kaduna General area were kept in check to prevent any form of dissent or criminal activities from any quarter.
So delightening have been the success stories of the army operations against the bandits that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, felt obliged to rain commendations on the troops under 1 Div for their gallantry and urged them not to relent until terrorism and other criminalities are brought to an end in the region.
Though unsung in the pages of Nigerian newspapers or television screens, the numerous successful operations which had resulted to the death of yet-to-be-specified number of terrorists and destruction of their sanctuaries and strongholds can never be downplayed.
Zagazola is a Counterinsurgency Expert and Security Analyst.