By Toby Prince and Lawrence Audu
It is well known that the convoy of the Borno State governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum has been attacked two times within a spate of two months by suspected Boko Haram terrorists while the governor was on a working to the northern part of the state.
What however is yet to come to the public domain, is the number of times Nigerian troops have prevented attacks on the governor and some politically exposed persons and the number of times troops have taken the bullets for them.
The first time the govenor’s convoy was atacked was on July 29, in the town of Baga where shots rang from different directions and the Governor was covered until it was safe for him to come out and the second time on was on September 26, when his convoy was attacked while it was travelling to meet join him at Baga.
While the two incidents have generated sympathy for the govenor, it has been used to question the professional integrity of Nigerian troops as some accuse the troops of being lax.
But investigations conducted by our correspondents have revealed that troops have put their lives on the line several times to save the Borno State governor and other government officials from harm without his knowing.
Our reporters established that usualy before politically exposed persons take to routes considered as risk prone, troops usualy conduct intelligent surveys to ascertain the degree of safety.
The road that leads from Maiduguri to Baga has, due to ongoing military operations been avoided until cleared by the military.
But when high profile persons are to be on they route, troops, relying on surveys and intelligent reports, usually comb the bushes to rid them of terrorists elements who may be hiding to launch surprise attacks.
Our reporters confirm that the Boko Haram terrorists have, since been degraded, have been looking for opportunities to send the message that they’re intact.
Hence in the course of such clearance operations, troops were able to detect mines planted on the routes and many been killed and injured in the process.
At a few occasions, they were able to trace elements of the terrorists hiding in shrubs and valleys and arrested them.
But such incidences have not come out to the public domain due to the swiftness and near hundred percent success of intelligence network.
“A security expert who spoke with our reporters say normally in a military exercise, people don’t get to hear of avoided calamities because they were not allowed to happen.
“If intelligence coordinates are able to prevent attacks and save situations, it would appear normal and nobody would talk about them as against when there’s a kinetic action and casualty,” he explained.
Our checks reveal that the Boko Haram terrorists have resorted to the planting of mines on rural roads as their strength have been depleted and can no longer confront troops on ground.
The effective combination of air assaults together with the ground operations have also led to the killing of the terrorists.
The September attack on the convoy of the governor, according to our findings, was facilitated through the explosion of mines by terrorists before they were later subdued when troops started firing an a reinforcement was alerted and closed in on the terrorists killing many while others fled.
A tour of the area by our reporters confirmed that troops on the field have pushed the terrorists out of Southern and Central parts of Borno and that the Boko Haram terrorists are only hiding in the fringes of the northern Borno close to the border.
The troops, reliable sources have indicated, are on the verge of completing the process of pushing the terrorists from the northern zone and the state entirely.
Reports have it that though the Borno State governor has prefered to visit the northern Senatorial zone of the state ahead of the conclusion of the final assault that would push the terrorists out, troops have several times ensured that he is adequately covered.
An intelligent source said ideally, the governor should have waited until the final operation to visit such areas but that since he has chosen to take advantage of the presence of troops to visit IDP camps, the troops have no option but protect him.
A source in the Borno Government House said on two occasions, the presence of troops made the insurgents who were desperate on launching attacks, to retreat while on two other occasions their attempt to plant devices on routes were detected and the device difused.
“The presence of troops in Baga and other places has saved a lot of people including the governor because the moment movements start on the fringes and blurry images begin to appear, they quickly withdraw on sighting troops,” a security expert who chose not to be named confirmed.
He said for the two reported incidents, the govenor was saved from harm when troops opened fire and the terrorists fled when confronted with superior fire power.
He said it was intelligence report that made the govenor to take a chopper instead of travelling by road which saved his life, the last time.
He said it was the efficiency with which the troops countered the July attack that gave the impression that there were no actual Boko Haram fighters involved and for the governor to remark that there was “serious shooting by the Nigerian armed forces.”
Interaction with troops however confirmed they’re in high spirits despite the incidents.
“They’ve taken the political interpretation given the recent attacks in good faith as many of them understand that it takes time for troops’ sacrifice to be appreciated,” the security expert said.