Suspected Boko Haram insurgents in five gun trucks attacked Babangida and destroyed telecom masts in their move to infiltrate Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, on Sunday.
It was learned that the terrorists burst into the town from Sasawa Forest to overrun the local council headquarters before targeting Damaturu through Gashua road.
Babangida, which is 50 kilometres north of Damaturu, was attacked with the emir’s palace four times in October 2018.
Confirming the incident yesterday in Damaturu, the Acting Assistant Director, Army Public Relations for Sector 2,
Operation Lafiya Dole, Lt. Chinonso Oteh, said that the terrorists’ plan was to attack Damaturu, but security operatives repelled them with the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) fighter jets.
“Actually, Babangida is the area where those bad boys always gather before they start infiltrating Damaturu. Everything is now under control. There is no cause for alarm, as they have been chased towards the Sasawa forest in the Babangida/Geidam axis.”
Oteh said details of casualty were yet to be available when he spoke to The Guardian.
In one of the previous attacks in October last year, the emir’s palace was torched but the monarch escaped to Damaturu.
A top security personnel told The Guardian that most of the residents of Babangida ran into nearby bushes while others took cover in their homes. Another security source said that the terrorists infiltrated Babangida in five gun trucks while others strategically took positions on the eastern flank of the town.
Ibrahim Auta, a resident, said that the terrorists also burnt mobile phone masts.“We saw the boys burning down the masts of MTN and Airtel in the town. That was why the residents could not communicate to security agencies in Damaturu and other family members in the nearby bushes.”
In a reaction to the destruction of telecoms masts, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) described the attacks as very unfortunate.
The chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said efforts must be made by the Federal Government and security agencies to protect life and property in the country.
Adebayo, who recalled that operators suffered the same experience some years back in some parts of the North East, lamented that “sadly this happened again.”
He appealed to the Federal Government to kindly provide special protection for critical telecommunications infrastructure across the country, especially in the North East.
“But as an industry, we will continue to work with the authorities to minimise the effect of this willful damage on the public.”
In response to The Guardian inquiry on the matter, the Chief Corporate Services Officer, MTN Nigeria, Tobechukwu Okigbo, said: “We are working with security agencies on the ground to ascertain the true situation of things, and determine how to respond.
“Our primary focus at this time is the safety of our staff and securing the delivery of uninterrupted services to our customers.”
A telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, who described the development as an affront to the country’s development, said the proliferation of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), also known as base stations, telecoms masts or cell towers, was one of the visible features of the rapid growth of the sector.
These base stations facilitate effective wireless communication between user apparatuses, for instance, mobile phones and networks.
Aluko said the traditional threats to the integrity of telecom facilities such as base stations, generators, and fiber cables had been vandalism, with the intent of stealing valuable parts; accidental damage due to road construction and maintenance work; and natural disasters such as flooding.
“Attacks on this critical infrastructure by members of Boko Haram is now a major threat to the operation of the sector,” he declared.
According to him, attacks on telecoms infrastructure obviously lead to network outage and poor service delivery, which manifest in the form of increased dropped call rates, poor connections and lack of voice clarity, especially in the affected area and other adjoining cities.
He explained: “Apart from the voice calls, data services are also impaired such that the use of modems to browse the internet will not be effective. This disruptive effect cascades through the entire national system (such as banking services) that rely on voice calls and data services provided by the telecoms sector.”
Meanwhile, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, has said there is no need to pretend about the security challenges in the country, urging the government to effectively tackle them.
Gen. Abubakar, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday at a ceremony to mark the first Founders’ Day of PAMO University of Medical Sciences, a tertiary institution owned by Peter and Mary Odili, lamented that the security challenges across the nation were worsening on daily basis.
Abubakar, who is the chancellor and chairman, Board of Trustees of the university, called for commitment in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria.
The former military ruler spoke as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai promoted three soldiers to the next ranks for exhibiting gallantry against Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast.
Buratai, who decorated the promoted soldiers on Sunday at Buratai Super Camp 3 in Biu council of Borno State, said that it was part of his operational visit to troops in North-East.
He said one was promoted from the rank of Warrant Officer to Master Warrant Officer, the second person was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant and the third was moved to a higher rank of Lance Corporal.
The gallant soldiers; were also each presented with an electric generating set and a 32-inch plasma television set.
The soldiers were presented to Buratai for the special award and decoration with their new ranks by the Commander of the Super Camp, Col. Muhammed Adamu.