MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AA) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday made a surprise visit to the country’s insurgency-wracked northeastern region.
“What you are doing is not easy,” Jonathan told troops of the Nigerian Army’s Seventh Division in Maiduguri, the provincial capital of Borno State.
“Terrorism is a global phenomenon. We are working day and night trying to curtail this madness,” added the president.
Jonathan was accompanied on the trip by top military brass and senior members of his administration.
The visit comes several months after he was repeatedly heckled for failing to visit troops and the traumatized families of Boko Haram victims, including relatives of over 200 schoolgirls abducted in April of last year.
“We will assist you to succeed in your effort,” Jonathan told army troops. “We will give you what is due to you. The government will make sure you get it.”
Jonathan insisted that the military – which has been criticized by the opposition for alleged inefficiency in the face of a festering insurgency – is in a better position to counter Boko Haram than it was only a few years ago.
“The Nigerian military is now better off in term of equipment than it was in the past,” he said. “We will continue to do our best to ensure the armed forces are better equipped.”
Jonathan commended troops for their efforts, saying they had made huge sacrifices to ensure the insurgents were kept at bay.
“We appreciate your dutiful service, loyalty and commitment,” he said.
The visit is Jonathan’s second to the restive region. He promised to return to the area when he first visited it in March 2013. But he had refrained from doing so despite mounting pressure to visit Chibok following the kidnapping of the schoolgirls last year.
For the last five years, Nigeria has battled a fierce Boko Haram insurgency that has ravaged the country’s volatile northeast and claimed thousands of lives.
The year 2014 proved to be the insurgency’s bloodiest year yet, with increasingly frequent attacks, higher death tolls and a deluge of displaced persons.
A seemingly emboldened Boko Haram recently stepped up its militant activity, seizing several areas of Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, where it has since declared a self-styled “Islamic caliphate.”
Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday that a total of 981,416 people had been displaced by the violence while as many as nine million had been “directly or indirectly affected.”
Jonathan also visited over 900 displaced persons from Baga at a camp in Maiduguri, spokesman Reuben Abati said in a press release.
He commiserated with displaced persons over the losses they had sustained during last week’s attack on their town by Boko Haram.
Jonathan promised them that the federal government would strive to make their stay in the camps more comfortable.
“I assure you and other displaced persons that the government is working very hard to ensure that you do not remain in these camps for too long,” Jonathan said.
“I know that many of your houses have been destroyed. We will assist you financially so you can rebuild your homes and return to them gradually,” he promised.
Amnesty International asserted on Thursday that satellite imagery had revealed that Boko Haram’s recent assaults on the northern towns of Baga and Doron Baga caused massive destruction.
It said satellite images of Baga, a densely populated town located some 160km from Maiduguri, showed that 620 structures had been damaged or completely destroyed.
More than 3,100 structures, it added, had also been damaged or destroyed in Doron Baga, a town located 2.5km from Baga.
On Tuesday, William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said nearly 12,000 people had fled to neighboring Chad after the attack.
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