The Nigerian Army has announced its plans to host the 2017 edition of its small arms competition in the once dreaded Sambisa Forest, a former enclave of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The terrorist group was largely flushed out of the expansive forest in 2016 after a sustained onslaught by ground troops of the Nigerian Army ably assisted by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
The Nigerian military and the presidency announced victory over Boko Haram after the troops took control of Camp Zairo – a critical section of the Sambisa forest used by the Islamist sect as its logistics base, last January.
Many observers described the victory claims as hasty especially since the Chibok girls – over 200 girls abducted from a community secondary school in Borno state on April 14, 2014 – were yet to be rescued.
It had always been the general belief that the Chibok girls were being held hostage in Sambisa forest and that a military operation to recapture the forest would lead to the rescue of the girls.
In January as well, government officials and service chiefs convinced the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group advocating the rescue of the girls and some journalists to join a special trip to Sambisa forest to have a feel of rescue efforts by the Airforce and Army.
Members of the delegation were flown over the Sambisa forest at night and also observed activities at the air force control room in Yola, capital of Adamawa state from where aerial search efforts were being coordinated.
The decision to hold the 2017 edition of the Nigerian Army Small Arms Competition at a range site mapped out within the forest is seen as another attempt to reassure the public that the Nigerian Army has defeated the Boko Haram group notwithstanding a number of attacks recently carried out by the sect.
President Muhammadu Buhari as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and other top government officials as well as members of the National Assembly and state governors are expected to be in attendance at the event slated for Monday, March 27, 2017.
Foreign diplomats from countries who have supported Nigeria’s counter-terrorism campaign are also expected to be present at the symbolic event.
The small arms competition is used to demonstrate the firepower of the troops of the Nigerian Army.
It used to be an annual event but was suspended for 7 years, the same period in which Boko Haram inflicted a reign of terror mostly on states in Nigeria’s northeast.