Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, insists that despite renewed Boko Haram attacks, the government is building on the operational gains against the insurgents
Like a fly constituting an irritant to an elephant and causing it considerable discomfort, Boko Haram has continued to annoy the federal government with renewed attacks on internally displaced persons, IDPs, camps and other soft targets across the northeast. They have carried out fresh attacks on Chibok market and Dolari in Borno State and Gombi in Adamawa State, killing over 100 people.
The attack on Dolari was very devastating. The insurgents who arrived the town, just 10 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital, were said to have arrived in two golf cars and numerous motorcycles. They burnt houses, killed livestock, carted away food stuff and killed 85 persons. Three female suicide bombers also detonated their lethal arsenal on hapless women and children fleeing the assault. At Gombe, they detonated the bomb in a market, which killed 15 and injured many others.
President Muhammadu Buhari said these were acts of desperation from dislodged and very much weakened insurgents. “I urge all citizens wherever they live to own the war against terror and to be part of the fight because it is the only way we can finish the remaining work that needs to be done to make our country safe again. They are so desperate to embarrass the government and the people that they have no qualms attacking isolated communities and markets”.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture briefed the media last Tuesday on the latest irritation. He condemned the “spate of suicide bombings and attacks on highly vulnerable communities in the North-east.” This had been read by many critics as putting a lie on government’s claim of having fatally degraded Boko Haram’s capacity to carry out coordinated attacks. “Many commentators have latched on to these attacks to infer a resurgence of Boko Haram while some have even made outrageous statements regarding the territories controlled by Boko Haram. Fortunately, no less a personality than the President, strongly backed by the governors of Borno and Yobe, have debunked such unsubstantiated claims,” affirmed Mohammed.
He insisted that the attacks were the dying acts of a beheaded organisation. “There is no resurgence of Boko Haram. The terrorists remain massively degraded and largely defeated. The recent string of attacks is not an indication that Boko Haram is bouncing back, as we will demonstrate shortly.”
He appealed to Nigerians to be patriotic and support the military in the mop up operation to read the northeast of insurgents. “We want to appeal to all not to say or do anything that will demoralize our gallant men and women in uniform, who are daily fighting – and sometimes paying the supreme price – so that we can all be safe. Having travelled to the theatre of operations myself, I have seen the huge sacrifices of our military. They deserve nothing but our undiluted support… Commendation not condemnation; support not second guessing; that’s what we owe the gallant troops.”
Mohammed explained that the recent attacks were consistent with the flow and ebb of insurgency: “During the immediate period after an insurgency has been degraded, the fact that terrorists are dispersed into the community is often followed by an upsurge of terror attacks in the form of suicide bombing and sabotage of critical facilities. Activities during this period are often carried out within the population and against soft targets or vulnerable groups. There is often apprehension in the community that terrorism is getting worse, even though, in reality, the insurgency has been weakened as a cohesive terror force. This is the current phase of insurgency in the country.”
He assured the people that government is aware of this development and is deploying appropriate responses to deal with it effectively. To this end, the military is strengthening intelligence and security, especially in the affected communities, and stepping up reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement efforts to deny the insurgents cover for their covert operations. While these efforts are on, he enjoined the public to do their own part to support the campaign. “The government enjoins members of the public to be vigilant, security conscious, and to cooperate with security agencies by providing information on suspicious and strange objects, activities and persons in their communities. By doing these, we will be denying terrorists a safe haven and the opportunity to carry out their atrocities.”
For the media, which the government is co-opting as partners, Mohammed appealed for patriotism in reportage. “Let us deny Boko Haram the oxygen it needs to cling on to life – which is propaganda. Let us get the news of their cowardly attacks against defenceless citizens off the front pages. Let us give our total support to our gallant troops and be vigilant, while also taking ownership of the war, so that together we can clear our communities of the remnants of the terrorists.”