Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed insisted yesterday that the military had largely met the deadline given to it by President Muhammadu Buhari to defeat Boko Haram, despite attacks by the terrorists.
Mohammed, who spoke at a meeting with editors in Lagos, explained: “In a few days, the deadline issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to the military to defeat Boko Haram will expire. Without equivocating, I will repeat what I said that has sparked a firestorm: Our gallant military has largely met the deadline! I make this assertion with all sense of responsibility and they are backed by facts.”
He reiterated his earlier statement that the military has massively degraded the capacity of the terrorists to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they used to execute in the past, like the attacks on the police headquarters and the United Nations (UN) Complex.
The minister noted that in six months of the Buhari administration, the Boko Haram that was in control of a territory larger than a geopolitical zone in Nigeria “has been reduced to a fleeing, bomb throwing, cowardly and disorganised army”.
He added: “Among the areas where Boko Haram has been kicked out is Bama, which was the self-declared headquarters of its Caliphate. From there, it collected taxes, dispensed jungle justice, deposed and installed emirs and hoisted its flag. Today, the town is firmly in the hands of our troops.”
He said all Boko Haram could do now was to attack soft targets as markets, motor parks, mosques and entertainment centres, killing innocent men, women and children.
Mohammed said: “Not unexpectedly, the dying and desperate insurgents have carried out some attacks on soft targets in the Northeast during this festive season. This is cowardly, dastardly and condemnable. We commiserate with the state governments and the families of those who died or were injured in the attacks which, as I said earlier, are like the death pangs of a dying horse.
“These attacks are part of the propaganda that has been launched by Boko Haram and their fellow terrorists, ISIS, to seek to remain relevant in the face of massive routing by our gallant troops, and to also discredit our committed and patriotic troops. But the attacks do not shake our resolve a bit in our determined quest to rid our nation of terrorists and ensure the security of our citizens
“The fact that Boko Haram has continued to carry out attacks on soft targets is not an indication that they still have capacity. As I have said many times, the attacks will not end with the expiration of the deadline, since insurgencies are not conventional warfare in which the guns could be silenced with an armistice. But I also said that the attacks will taper off with time, with better awareness among the citizenry and enhanced intelligence gathering by the security agencies.”
The minister challenged critics of his assertion that the military had largely met the deadline to visit the epicentre of the war against terrorists in Borno State and then report to Nigerians what they saw.
“The armchair critics, who dispute these facts from the comfort of their living rooms, are free to visit the theatre of war to see things for themselves. Perhaps then, they will be more circumspecting in issuing reckless statements that give nothing but succour to Boko Haram. I have gone to the theatre of war to see things for myself. I did not just stop in Maiduguri, I went to Konduga, Kaure and Bama, which, as I said, was once the headquarters of the Boko Haram Caliphate,” Mohammed said.
He repeated his appeal to the media to stop glamourising Boko Haram with its reporting of the terrorist attacks and hailed the newspapers that took it upon themselves to push Boko Haram off their front pages.
“I want to appeal to other newspapers to follow suit and cut off the oxygen supply to the comatose Boko Haram by denying the terrorists the publicity they so much seek. This is purely an appeal, as we have no intention whatsoever to censor any media organisation,’’ the minister said.
Mohammed hailed the Civilian JTF members that have played a major role in assisting the military to rout the terrorists, noting that what was now missing in the war was the civilian component.
“In this regard, we have kick-started a campaign to raise awareness among Nigerians on the war, so that the citizens will not only support the war, but they will also own it. It is the war for Nigerians, not a war for the military alone.
“As the military enters the mop-up phase of this war, what is left now is the onerous task of resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction, especially in the Northeast, which is worse-hit by the war. We appeal for support from Nigerians in this regard, because the government alone cannot handle this task,’’ he said.