The military has commenced the mass eviction of civilians from barracks across the country, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, said on Thursday.
The eviction of non-soldiers from barracks is coming on the heels of two successful attacks by suspected terrorists in the first two days of this week.
Two car bombers had on Sunday struck at the St. Andrew Military Protestant Church inside the prestigious Armed Forces Command and Staff College, in Jaji, near Kaduna. The college houses the officers and men of the Infantry Centre and School as well as the Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Centre .
Also on Monday, gunmen, numbering 40, launched an attack on the office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja, where suspects were being held. Two policemen and one of the gunmen were killed in the incident.
Ihejirika said at the closing of the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Asaba, Delta State, that he had already issued a directive to commanders in charge of military formations to take immediate action in ridding the military formations of illegal occupants.
The COAS also warned that the leadership of the Army would ensure that reported lapses were treated decisively.
He said, “That one (purging the barracks of illegal occupants) is obvious. I have already informed the commanders and they know. The commanders would not wait for the Chief of Army Staff before taking action. Rather, from next week, I want to see action in respect of illegal squatters and similar things.”
The Commander in charge of Army Engineering, Maj. Gen. Olaniyi, who took the last presentation at the conference, had called attention to the fact that barracks being rehabilitated were accommodating a large number of civilians in places like the Ikeja Cantonment and Asaba.
Olaniyi, who said that the Ojo Cantonment had become haven for criminals, warned that unless decisive steps were taken, even foreigners would be more than soldiers in some rehabilitated barracks.
He had said that the number of civilians living in the cantonment was even more than that of soldiers.
Ihejirika insisted that the bombing at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College was avoidable, stressing that absence a perimeter fence did not offer any commander an excuse to allow such an incident to happen.
He said that about 80 of the barracks in the country had not been fenced and urged the commanders to put in their best in the area of intelligence gathering and security maintenance.
Meanwhile, Ihejirika has promised Nigerians “a more comprehensive action by the military and all the security agencies” in 2013.
He said that the military would be decisive in 2013, stressing that it was part of the decision of the conference that unit commanders must pay more attention to effective liaison, supervision and monitoring of personnel under them.
The COAS said, “Nigerians should expect more comprehensive action by the military and all the security agencies. Part of the decisions arrived at is that unit commanders should liaise more and they should supervise and monitor their personnel more closely than they had done in the past. So 2013 would be decisive.”
He said that the Nigerian Army had been collaborating with other security agencies, including the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Intelligence Agency and foreign bodies to enhance intelligence gathering and dissemination.
He said the conference also agreed on the need for “national intelligence fusion” to enhance intelligence gathering.
He said, “The conference also emphasised the need for national intelligence fusion. What it means is that all the various measures are going to be fast tracked to ensure that intelligence is further enhanced.
“And you should know that it is a running battle because the people you are fighting are people within the country. So they know what measures you are even taking. They know that. So that is why I also drew the attention of commanders to devise new tactics in dealing with the problem.
“Certain groups are going to be set up too to monitor the commanders in the field and, no mistake about it, command responsibility is one area we will emphasise more next year.”
Ihejirika also ordered the painting of all operational vehicles of the Nigerian Army donated by state governments, corporate bodies, in Army colour.
He also said that the different uniforms of the Army should be used only for authorised specified activities.
Also on Thursday, the Agence France Presse reported that Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, had expressed solidarity with global jihadists, saying the United States and Britain “should witness that we are with our mujahedeen brothers.”
Shekau, in the 39-minute video posted on jihadists forum, was quoted to have said in Arabic that, “The world should witness, and America, Britain, Nigeria and other crusaders, meaning America and Britain, should witness, and the Jews of Israel who are killing the Muslims in Palestine should witness… that we are with our mujahedeen brothers in the cause of Allah everywhere.”