Thursday 31 December 2015

Information Minister, Lai Mohammed insists war against Boko Haram largely won

Lai Mohammed
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has insisted that the military has largely met the deadline given to it by President Muhammadu Buhari to defeat Boko Haram despite the recent attacks by the terrorists in the North-east.
“In a few days’ time, 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,” the minister said during a meeting with news and political editors in Lagos on Wednesday.
Mohammed has come under attack after declaring that Boko Haram had been “technically” defeated.

Many have blamed his premature and inopportune statement, a replication of the same mistake made by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, for the wave of multiple attacks and suicide bombings by the sect in Borno and Adamawa States during the Christmas holidays, resulting in the deaths of scores of people.

Owing to the criticism, he embarked on a media offensive this week, appealing to the media to down play attacks by the insurgents in the North-east.

At his meeting with news and political editors, he reiterated his statement last week that the military had massively degraded the capacity of the terrorists to carry out the kind of “spectacular attacks” they used to execute in the past, making references to attacks on the police headquarters and the UN headquarters, both in Abuja.

Mohammed also said that in just six months of the Buhari administration, Boko Haram, which was in control of territory larger than an entire geo-political zone in Nigeria, “has been reduced to a fleeing, bomb throwing, cowardly and disorganised army”.
“Among the areas where Boko Haram has been kicked out is Bama, which was the self-declared headquarters of their caliphate. From there, they collected taxes, dispensed jungle justice, deposed and installed emirs and hoisted their own flag. Today, the town is firmly in the hands of our troops,” the minister said.
He said Boko Haram has been restricted to attacks on soft targets such as markets, motor parks, mosques and entertainment centres where they kill innocent men, women and children.
“Not unexpectedly, the dying and desperate insurgents have carried out some attacks on soft targets in the North-east 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 one 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 warfares 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,” he said.
He challenged critics of his assertion that the military has largely met the deadline to take a trip to the epicentre of the war against terrorists in Borno State and report to Nigerians what they have seen.
“The armchair critics who dispute these facts from the comfort of their living rooms, are free to take a trip to the theatre of war to see things for themselves.

“Perhaps then, they will be more circumspect at 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 all the way to Konduga, Kaure and Bama which, as I said, was once the headquarters of the Boko Haram caliphate,” Mohammed said.
He also repeated his appeal to the media to stop glamorising Boko Haram by reporting the terror attacks and hailed newspapers that had already taken 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 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 added.
Mohammed also commended the Civilian JTF that has played a major role in assisting the military to rout the terrorists, noting that what was missing in the war is the civilian component.
“In this regard, we have kick started a campaign to raise awareness among Nigerians on the war, so that citizens will not only support the war but will also own it. It is the war for all 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 North-east, which is worst-hit by the war.

“We appeal for support from all Nigerians in this regard, because the government alone cannot handle this task,” he said.

Credit: ThisDay

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