The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen, Kenneth Minimah, has relocated to the North-East to personally supervise the war against Boko Haram insurgents in the zone.
Our correspondents gathered that the decision of the COAS to join his colleagues in the other services in the zone was largely responsible for the recent successes recorded by the military.
There had been a public outcry over the increased rate of the massacre of innocent civilians, including schoolchildren, by Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and the Army, George Sekibo, confirmed the development to The PUNCH on Sunday
Sekibo explained that Minimah’s relocation was in compliance with the committee’s resolution directing him to move to the zone to personally coordinate military operations there.
When asked what action the committee would have taken if the COAS had not heeded the February 26 directive, the committee chairman replied, “What action do you want again? The Chief of Army Staff has already relocated.”
A source said that Minimah was collaborating with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Olusola Amosu, whose men provide air support for the Special Forces drawn from the Army, the Nigerian Navy, and others.
The Senate committee had in a two-page statement, explained that it came up with the decision that the COAS should move to the North-East after a two-hour brainstorming session with him on the way forward out of the Boko Haram menace.
It also directed the Army to re-strategise on possible new ways of curbing Boko Haram excesses in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states by mobilising all available military resources for the purpose.
The statement read in part, “The Senate Committee on Defence and Army condemned the atrocity being unleashed by Boko Haram elements on innocent citizens and in particular the massacre of students of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State.
“The committee has by this, issued a directive that the Chief of Army Staff take the following actions (a), Re-strategise on possible new ways of curbing these excesses, (b) mobilise all available military resources and face the insurgents, relocate his office to Maiduguri for urgent actions to curtail the repeated attacks by the insurgents on innocent Nigerians.”
Minimah has also embarked on a major overhaul of the army hierarchy in the North- East to better position it to crush the insurgents.
Investigations revealed that Minimah had replaced the Commander of the 7th Infantry Division, Maj.-Gen. Junaid Bindawa, with Maj.-Gen A. Mohammed.
A military source described Mohammed, nicknamed ‘bandit,’ as one of the most effective Major-Generals in the army.
Curiously, when the list of postings and appointments were released by the new Army Chief on February 12, 2014, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Olajide Laleye, was silent on the change in the leadership of the 7th Infantry Division.
Laleye had said that Bindawa was retained as the GOC, 7 Div. which was created on August 19, 2013 to take over the prosecution of the campaign against the terrorists in the North-East.
It was further gathered that Mohammed took over from Bindawa a fortnight ago.
Our source said, “The GOC has been replaced by Maj.-Gen. Mohammed. He has since taken over. The man is very rugged that is why he is called the ‘bandit.’
“He was very rugged as a young officer; in fact one of the most rugged military officers. He is very fearless.”
Our correspondents learnt that Minimah also redeployed the Commander of the 21 Brigade, Maiduguri, Brig. Gen. Yusuf, and replaced him with Brig. Gen Ogundele.
Yusuf was said to have handed over to Ogundele in Maiduguri on Saturday.
It was learnt that the redeployment exercise also affected some officers who occupied the positions of Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff to the former Brigade Commander.
Since the 7th Infantry Division was established six months ago, it has had three GOCs.
The first GOC, Maj.-Gen. Obadiah Ethan, handed over to Bindawa on December 28, 2013.
The Director, Army Public Relations confirmed the leadership change in the 7 Division in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
“It is true that a new GOC has been appointed to head the 7th Div. He resumed about two weeks ago; it is not true that the Nigerian Army hid it from the public. It is not a secret because you cannot hide him,” he said.
However, Laleye said that he was not aware of the redeployment of the Commander of the 21 Brigade as he had been out of the office since Friday.
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen Chris Olukolade, he said that he “was not disposed to discussing the location of the Chief of Army Staff.”
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