- Insurgents no longer control any LG in North-East
- They are largely defeated
Federal Government has said the December 31 deadline set for decimating the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents has been largely met. The government’s statement of fulfillment was dropped by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a media interactive parley with senior journalists in Lagos, South -West Nigeria, yesterday.
The minister, who solicited the support of the nation’s media for complete success of the war against terrorism, said when Nigeria is at war, no one, particularly the journalists who should show genuine sense of patriotism, can afford to be neutral.
‘’Gentlemen, in this time of war, you cannot afford to be neutral. Yes, you must remain professional at all times, and we are not asking you to do anything less, but you must also act in the national interest always,’’ the minister said during the interactive meeting.
‘’Acting in the national interest means not playing up the reports of the cowardly Boko Haram attacks on soft targets. Acting in the national interest means not regurgitating the propaganda of Boko Haram and its fellow terrorist group, ISIS. Acting in the national interest means extolling the bravery and sacrifice of our gallant troops. Acting in the national interest means not viewing the war from a partisan prism. Acting in the national interest means rallying all Nigerians, irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic background, to support the war,’’ he said.
The minister told the editors that the military has largely met the December 31 2015 deadline to defeat Boko, saying what he saw during his recent trip to the theatre of war in Borno State and the briefings he received from the military top brass convinced him of the successes recorded by the military.
‘’They (military) have so degraded the capability of Boko Haram that the terrorists can no longer carry out any spectacular attacks. Remember, gentlemen, that at the height of the war, Boko Haram controlled 20 of the 27 local governments in Borno.
‘’I can hear you saying to yourself: ‘But the terrorists are still carrying out suicide bombings and killing people’. My response to that is that such is the nature of insurgency anywhere. Unlike a war between two armies, an insurgency never ends with an armistice. Even in countries like Colombia where insurgency was supposed to have ended decades ago, attacks still happen,’’ he said.
Alhaji Mohammed warned that, as the deadline approaches, Boko Haram and ISIS have launched their propaganda seeking to discredit the Nigerian military to give the impression that they (terrorists) are still holding sway.
‘’A report in that regard was widely published in our newspapers a few days ago. This is not true. Boko Haram is dispersed and largely defeated. The insurgents are hungry, they are sick and they are desperate and will clutch at any straw. Don’t let us prop them up with our reports.
‘’In the days ahead, they will release propaganda videos through their usual channels, we must not give them any play because it is nothing but a hoax,’’ he said.
The minister said, with the military having largely met the deadline, what is missing in the war against terrorism is the ‘civilian aspect’.
‘’To fill that gap, we have commenced a national security campaign to raise awareness among Nigerians about the war, about the sacrifice of our troops that have seen the terrorists largely defeated and about how to finally stamp out the remnant of the war, which is suicide bombing.
‘’As I speak, jingles are being played on national radio and television as part of this campaign. Also, in order to keep the media better informed about the war, so that they can also better inform Nigerians, we will soon inaugurate an ad hoc committee comprising media representatives as well as representatives of the military and intelligence agencies. This committee will meet from time to time for background briefings that will give the media a better perspective of the war,’’ he said.
Putting the deadline given to the military in perspective, the minister said: ‘’The military has largely met the deadline and are now involved in mop-up and humanitarian operations, the attacks on soft targets will not end with the deadline, but it will taper off gradually, in line with the nature of insurgency worldwide. These attacks do not constitute victory for the insurgents but represent the death pangs of a fading insurgency.
‘’Gentlemen, we need peace before we can even practice our professions. We need peace before we can meaningfully revive our economy. We need peace for our democracy to thrive. Boko Haram is the very antithesis of peace. Boko Haram must be wiped out not just through military might but with the support and efforts of all of us,’’ he stressed.
It could be recalled that the minister recently I led a group of 33 journalists from both the local and the international media to the hotbed of the insurgency – Maiduguri, Konduga, Kaure and Bama to assess the level of activities of the insurgents and how far the Nigerian troops have been able to route them.
Months ago, Bama was the headquarters of the self-declared Caliphate of Boko Haram. It was the war’s Ground Zero, from where the terrorists called the shots, collected taxes and dispensed jungle justice. The palace of the Emir of Bama, whom they sacked, was their operational headquarters. Also, Konduga was attacked several times by the insurgents who wanted to use it as a staging post to attack Maiduguri.
“Today, I can report to you that the entire 70 plus kilometre stretch from Maiduguri to Bama and all the way to Banki (which leads to Cameroon and the Central African Republic) are in the hands of our gallant troops. Our soldiers’ presence can be felt every few metres along the road that skirts the Sambisa Forest. At a point along that road, we were just about two kilometres to the Sambisa Forest, which is continuously being pounded by our dedicated and patriotic military,” the minister noted.