The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, has said no officer of the Nigerian Armed Forces is being tried on allegations of providing information and arms to the Boko Haram terrorists.
In an exclusive interview yesterday aired by ARISE Television, a THISDAY sister company, Badeh said reports that some generals and other officers were being tried for providing arms and information to the Boko Haram were not true.
“I was with the Chief of Army Staff this morning and I asked him if what I had read today in the papers was true and he said he did not know where they got the story from,” he said, adding, “No general is being tried.”
Badeh was reiterating the statement issued by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), which had denied the news report published last week that 10 generals and other officers in the Nigerian Army were being court martialled for divulging intelligence to Boko Haram terrorists.
Badeh, during an interview with the THISDAY Board of Editors at the weekend had said rather that it is information passed on to Boko Haram by people in communities in their area of operations that was a factor militating against the ongoing campaign against terror in the North-eastern part of the country.
He said some of the people in communities where soldiers are deployed see the military as enemies and specifically noted that there were a lot of Boko Haram sympathisers in Borno, a state which has recorded several deadly attacks in recent times.
“The people see us as enemies and we are not. We are there to protect the state,” he said.
“Human intelligence is very difficult in that area; we have caught people, even those that would not strike you as leaking information to the enemy,” he added.
Buttressing his point, Badeh said: “When we deploy, because you don’t know where they are, you are deployed in a particular place to defend a town, and then the number of those in that town can be ascertained, but they pass information. Don’t forget that in Borno State, there are too many sympathisers in the communities.”
Revealing, however, that the federal government was making efforts to win the hearts of the people in those areas, he said efforts made in the past had been frustrated by Boko Haram.
Last year, he said: “Government gave lots of food aid to the three affected states. I also remember the army trying to win hearts and minds; it went and dug boreholes and gave the people good water, but Boko Haram came and destroyed all the boreholes that we dug.
“So its not going to be a quick fix, but gradually as we take over our communities, we give them what they require.”
Speaking on the options before the military with respect to the rescue of over 200 female students of Government Secondary School (GSS), Chibok, who were kidnapped almost two months ago, the CDS said: “All cards are on the table to bring them back safely.”
Badeh, who was being cautious in releasing sensitive information about the girls, also assured Nigerians that based on available information, they (the girls) are presumably safe.
“I don’t want to commit myself to say that they are safe or not, we just know where they are, from information obtained from different sources, its still assumed that the girls are safe.
“I don’t want to commit myself on that, as I said all options are on the table and we are working with our international partners, the people who have offered us help, we are discussing and building things up,” he added.
He further added that despite the challenges of intelligence gathering confronting the military in the North-east, the war on terror was ongoing and was certainly winnable.