A new Nigerian Army division on Monday took over counterinsurgency duties against Boko Haram terrorists from the Joint Task Force (JTF).
In a statement issued by the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, the Nigerian military said the new division is headed by Major General Obida Etnan.
The statement said that the development is in line with the state of emergency declaration by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces Goodluck Jonathan.
“The phase being concluded on Monday was executed by a Joint Task Force, JTF, composed by troops drawn from the services of the Armed Forces as well as other security agencies who conducted Operation Boyona,” the statement said.
“The acronym for the code name, Operation Boyona, is derived from the names of the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, covered by the state of emergency declaration.
“The effort was meant to constitute the first phase of the counter-terrorists operation. The Nigerian Army will now be solely in charge of the operations, but still under the routine guidance of the Defence Headquarters.
“A General Officer Commanding, GOC, in the rank of Major General, is being proposed to command the new Division, which will have its Headquarters in Maiduguri. He is due to take over Command and the assets of the Headquarters of the Joint Task Force.
“The new Division is to continue with the conduct of counter-terrorists operations in the North-East, which comes under its Area of Responsibility.”
The Nigerian military is battling Boko Haram militants who want to impose Islamic law in Nigeria’s north. Boko Haram and other spin-off Islamist groups have become the biggest threat to stability in Africa’s top oil exporter.
President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in mid-May and launched an offensive against the group in its stronghold in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the northeast.
The insurgency was initially weakened but remains active and there has been an uptick in violence in the past month.
Boko Haram’s main targets are security forces or government officials. It has also carried out several attacks on Christian and Muslim worshippers, as well as schools and markets.