The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has again assured Nigerians that the military was on course to meeting the December deadline given to it by President Muhammadu Buhari to crush the insurgent Boko Haram group.
The Minister gave the assurance Tuesday at a briefing with defence correspondents, editors and bureau chiefs of media houses in Abuja.
Mr. Mohammed’s statement came on the heels of President Muhammadu Buhari’s message read by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, at the Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital on Monday that the December deadline to completely flush out the Boko Haram Terrorists may be modified due to operational exigencies.
But speaking yesterday, the Minister, who paid an unscheduled visit to Borno State at the weekend where he visited towns and villages liberated by troops, said with he saw on ground, the military had “sufficiently degraded the capacity” of Boko Haram to launch major attacks.
According to him, Nigerian troops had retaken most of the territories seized by the terrorists.
“Winning the war against insurgency is about sufficiently degrading the insurgents’ capacity for action. This the military has substantially done. The rest is mop-up actions”, he said.
Mr. Mohammed stressed that the Nigerian military “has largely met the deadline issued by the president, and would have done so totally by December.
“The question, therefore, is no longer whether the military will be able to meet the December deadline, it is about how to give the military all the support it requires to continue to keep our country safe from the activities of the terrorists”.
Mr. Mohammed, however, noted that after being “decimated and put on the run”, the insurgents had now resorted to attacking soft targets such as motor parks, entertainment centres, houses of worship, among others.
“Make no mistake about it, this will not stop overnight. It will gradually taper off. That is the way it happens anywhere such a war has been fought.
“It is also important to situate the deadline by the president in its necessary context. Insurgency is an asymmetrical warfare, not a ‘shooting war’ between two armies.
“No truce or armistice is ever signed to end such war. The implication is that while Boko Haram can no longer execute spectacular attacks, hold territories, declare a caliphate and even collect taxes, lone wolf attacks – which are like the death pangs of a dying horse – will continue for some time and then fizzle out. This is the absolute truth”, he said.
The minister, who went on the tour of the liberated areas with journalists, paid a glowing tribute to the military.
“Let me say, without mincing words, that all of us, Nigerians, owe a debt of gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their patriotism, sacrifice and service. I say this because what I saw during my trip to Maiduguri, Konduga, Kaure and Bama last Saturday left me, and indeed all members of my entourage, in awe of the commitment and loyalty of the military to our country’s peace and unity”, he said.
Mr. Mohammed also called on Nigerians to rally round the military to overcome the Boko Haram insurgency because the battle is not for the military alone.
He also promised to initiate a process of bridging the information gap between the military and the media with a view to keeping the media “better informed so they can in turn, inform Nigerians better about the war that is now largely won”.
“We also plan to use the media to sensitize Nigerians to be more security conscious, especially now that the Christmas and New Year festivities are approaching”, the Minister added.