DAYS after Boko Haram decimated Auno, a border town near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, many of the houses and shops that were set on fire by Boko Haram terrorists are still smoldering.
The town, about 20 kilometers from Maiduguri, was deserted by residents when Saturday tribune visited the place on Thursday. A couple of civilian JTF and vigilance members were seen moving around to ensure that the evacuated residents stayed away.
“Our town has been constantly in the eyes of the storm. As a matter of fact, this is the sixth time the insurgents would be attacking this town. We are tired and worried. The Federal Government should do something quickly to save us and the people of Maiduguri so that they do not shut them down.
“We want President [Muhammadu] Buhari to give our soldiers more weapons and more men and come up with new strategies so that this war could come to an end. We are really getting tired and that is what the enemy wants to happen to us,” Said Abubakar Mohammed, one of the men of the CJTF who were securing Auno when Saturday Tribune visited the area.
Trouble started Sunday evening about 10.00 p.m. when Boko Haram insurgents stormed Auno on foot after parking their vehicles about 200 meters away from the town where deep trenches are dug.
“They had to come on foot because their vehicles could not cross the trenches and because they did not want to alert the soldiers about a hundred meters away so that the residents will not discover what is going on and alert them [the soldiers]. They stormed the area in the dark when almost a hundred cars were parked in the place waiting for the first light to drive through to Maiduguri because the military had closed the gates of the street based on their directive,” a military source said.
According to the source, the army and the Borno State government had agreed that the only way to ensure that people were secure or that the men of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) did not inadvertently ferry people into the hands of the insurgents was to have the road closed at night.
“So, most of them were stuck, having arrived after the 5.00 p.m. deadline. And these people were the ones affected the most in the crossfire in which at least 30 of them were said to have lost their lives,” Said Abubakar Mohammed.
Mohammed shares his experience on that day when the insurgents arrived: “They came in large numbers, about two hundred of them storming the town from a distance not far from the military checkpoint. Using underage kids as shield, the kids were in front, while the terrorists approached from the back. They even commanded the kids to run and catch two of my colleagues but they escaped being abducted.
“They were armed with Ak47 rifles, anti-aircraft guns, autocycles and even wooden carts used by water sellers so they could steal from people. And they did, carting everything they had, including foodstuffs and phones.
“There were many cars parked but most of the occupants who could escape did so. Those who could not escape were either captured or killed,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed, who showed Saturday tribune his sister’s home, said, he had not had a good time and since Boko Haram started tormenting them, this was the worst torment.
“I know that there are fifth columnists inside this prolonged war and they should fish them out, please we are tired. This is the sixth time they have entered this place and they have destroyed about 200 homes this time around. This one is devastating.”
Military’s reaction to the incursion
The Theatre Commander, Operation Lafia Dole, Major-General Olusegun Adeniyi, warned commuters to stop sleeping along the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road when travelling from Borno or Yobe. He decried the gathering of commuters at Auno border community with the Borno State capital Sunday after the closure of the road against commuters. According to him, the standing order from the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, is that the road must close by 5 p.m., five and a half hours before the commencement of curfew.
The theatre commander, who addressed newsmen in Maiduguri on Monday, said it was sad that many people still disregarded the warnings of the military against risking their lives on the road. The news conference was a reaction to the attack on commuters who drove into Auno only to sleep at the checkpoint so they could rush into Jimtilo and then Maiduguri first thing in the morning.
“Indeed, Boko Haram attacked Auno on Sunday evening. They came with machine gun trucks and autocycles. They parked them at a distance and trekked to where the commuters were and started attacking them.
“I am sad and disturbed because this would not have happened if they were not there risking their lives. Let me assure Nigerians that this will never happen again because we will do more to ensure that a thing like this does not repeat itself here.
“Again, for your information, a counter insurgency programme is ongoing and they have been working 24 hours in securing the Maiduguri-Damaturu Road.” Said the theatre Commander
Adeniyi said as soon as it is 3.00 p.m., commuters should, in their own interests, sleep in Damaturu or Maiduguri instead of driving through the route beyond the period the military has indicated that traffic should stop.
“It amazes me on how Nigerians, in the name of hurrying, will endanger their lives. People should stop coming into town after 3.00 p.m. in their own interests. Pass the night rather in a safe place, not in Jakana, Manioc or Auno where commuters risk their lives,” he said.
On long vehicles carrying goods, he said: “Big trucks should try and come in between 12 p.m. and 1.00 p.m. If not, sleep where you are and make the journey in the morning, not in the night when most of our troops are out in operations.
“Mark you, soldiers cannot afford to leave night operations and come down to protect you after we have closed the road to commuters after the road has been closed by 5.00 p.m.”
The theatre commander, however, confirmed that 10 people were killed and not 30 as being quoted by some online media.
Students should stop putting on uniform while travelling —Military
Meanwhile, Adeniyi called on education authorities in the North-East war theatre to stop forcing schoolchildren to put on uniforms when commuting through the roads. He said the boarding uniforms used by students in the region exposes them to insurgents who are constantly on the lookout for women and girls to abduct for sex slavery.
Reacting to the abduction of three kids on Sunday who were freed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ibrahim Yusuf and his team, including the CJTF, General Adeniyi said that the kids would not have attracted the insurgents if they were not in uniform. The three kids, Rukaya Gambo and Adama Gambo of Government College, Maiduguri and Mustapha Bukar were in the same vehicle travelling from Gubio to Maiduguri when they were intercepted by insurgents in eight gun trucks. They were about driving them into the bush when they were stopped.
“It was while they were driving them into their hideouts that the military led by Lieutenant-Colonel Yusuf intercepted their vehicle and rescued them,” said Adeniyi.
Abduction has become commonplace on the Damaturu-Maiduguri and Mongun-Maiduguri roads.
Shootings Wednesday night
Just a couple of hours after President Muhammadu Buhari left Maiduguri after a visit to commiserate with Borno people over the killings in Auno, Boko Haram insurgents penetrated the city through the Molai axis.
Hundreds of residents fled the Molai area through Kano Road into the town, just as people on Damboa Road had their hearts in their mouths.
The daring move of the insurgents was repelled by the military.