As respite gradually returns to Borno State, north-east Nigeria, youths in Gubio Local Government Area have been organised into 16 teams for a football competition in the Sambisa Forest area.
This is the latest initiative by the 8 Task Force Division of the Nigerian Army to prevent the radicalisation and recruitment of youths in the area by Boko Haram insurgents, and further, remove vestiges of the Jihadists from the state.
Making the announcement in Gubio, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Timothy Antigha, said the step was to enhance civil-military relations.
“It is part of our operations to meaningfully engage the youths in our area of responsibility. The division initiated a football competition tagged, Tukur Buratai Football Tournament,” he said.
“The tournament is aimed at fostering civil-military cooperation, as well as winning the hearts of youths who constitute a significant segment of the local population”,
“Most importantly, the tournament seeks to make vulnerable youths in the communities unavailable for Boko Haram radicalisation and recruitment. The tournament kicked off on September 16, with 16 teams drawn from northern Borno. The preliminaries have been concluded. However, the competition is currently at the quarter-final stage. The final is expected to hold in December.”
The Sambisa forest was the once dreaded stronghold of Boko Haram until the army decimated the group in 2016 with a promise to clear the woods for small arms competitions.
While Boko Haram has been on the back foot since intensified military aggression under President Muhammadu Buhari, they’ve retained the capacity to harm civilians and strike at soft targets in the northeast.
Over 20 people were killed in separate attacks in Borno and the Nigerian/Cameroon border over the weekend, raising fresh safety concerns in the region.
Hopefully, the football competition will prove more than an army carnival, and go some way in turning the youths away from terrorist ideologies.