President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Abuja said with the narrowing of the recruitment base of insurgents and the renewed onslaught on Boko Haram by the Nigerian Army, the days of the terror group were numbered.
Buhari who made this remark while receiving letter of credence from Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to Nigeria, Most Rev. Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, at the State House, said the terror group had lost host of its initial strongholds, which according to him, had forced it into a steady retreat that would eventually culminate in its total end.
The president berated the group, saying: “You can’t indoctrinate people who are below the age of 14 years and blow up churches, mosques, markets and you keep shouting God is great.”
He added: “It is either you don’t know what you are saying, or you simply don’t care or believe what you are saying. It is part of our success story that Boko Haram is finding it more difficult to recruit people. The Nigerian Army is also not making it easy for them to grow, with more intelligence, orientation and regular, measured onslaught on their camps.’’
According to him, the ongoing effort to dismember the terror group, and render it completely powerless will be intensified as he described the Catholic Church as a strong partner in the development of Nigeria, noting that the church had made very significant contributions to the development of educational and health system of the country.
On corruption, the president also stated that the fight against the culture of pilfering public funds would be sustained as he advocated a new orientation through the repositioning of the nation’s entire educational system, adding that African Union (AU) had also keyed into the fight against corruption.
“I am pleased that the African Union has spoken out boldly against corruption and appreciated the work that we are doing here,’’ Buhari stated.
Responding, Filipazzi said Pope Francis had taken a keen interest in the fight against terrorism, corruption and reviving of the Nigerian economy.
“Mr. President, the Holy Father, sends his warm greetings and he is keen to denounce corruption everywhere,’’ he stated.
The cleric also disclosed how he had travelled to the North-east and was pleased with the efforts of the Nigerian Army in dismantling the insurgents and recovering some of the earlier lost grounds.
The president also received letters of credence from the Ambassador of Niger to Nigeria, Mr. Alat Mogaskia, as well as the High Commissioner of Ghana, Alhaji Rashid Bawa.
‘Shekau Flees Sambisa Forest Dressed in Woman’s Attire’
In a related development, the Nigerian Army Tuesday said its troops’ onslaught on Boko Haram had yielded some positive outcomes as the terrorists’ leader, Abubakar Shekau, had fled Sambisa Forest in a woman’s attire.
“The concerted efforts of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole on the ongoing clearance of the Boko Haram terrorists through Operation Deep Punch II has been yielding tremendous results,” Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Sani Usman, said, adding: “Troops have successfully been clearing Boko Haram camps in Sambisa Forest, including Camp Zairo.”
Usman said some civilians held hostage by the terrorists, had been rescued even as the troops recovered arms, ammunition and Improvised Explosives Devices (IED) factories.
According to him, “Consequently, the terrorists are in disarray and scampering for safety while others are surrendering.
“Credible information from arrested and surrendered insurgents indicate that the purported Boko Haram terrorists’ group factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, could not bear the heat anymore as he has abandoned his followers and he is running for his dear life.
“He is desperately trying to escape the theatre disguised as a woman dressed in Hijab.”
Usman said Shekau alternated between blue and black coloured hijabs in order to avoid being detected, adding that he was last seen in a black hijab.
He said: “We, therefore, call on all those remaining Boko Haram terrorists to know that they are following a coward moving about in hijab disguised as a woman. We also request all the remaining Boko Haram members to come out from hiding and lay down their arms and be treated humanely.”
Also Tuesday, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), spoke on the war against terrorism and warned of the increasing use of religious extremism to perpetrate terror.
Monguno spoke on ‘Partnering for Safer and Resilient Communities,’ at the launch of the Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Abuja.
He said: “Our great promise is not without enormous challenges, the threat from violent extremism which feeds on conducive conditions has in recent years changed the threat dynamics.
“Violent extremists, riding on misconceptions of religion, prolonged unresolved conflicts, structural and governance challenges, perceptions of injustice, have committed untold abuses and violations of human rights and the rule of law.
“Boko Haram has conscripted young boys into their ranks, abducting school girls and killing everyone, irrespective of tribe or religion. Growing up in Nigeria, we knew only the harmony that existed between the different tribes and religions.”
He said climate change, ethno-religious conflicts, herder-farmer conflicts and bad politics had combined to present imminent security challenge for all Nigerians but said steps were being taken to strengthen the law enforcement and security agencies in dealing with these threats to national security.
In his speech, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed said the Buhari administration’s record of success against terrorism was clear, stating that at least 30,000 hostages kidnapped by the Boko Haram extremist group, including women and children, had been rescued by the military.
He said: “More than 100 Chibok girls have so far been rescued. The government is committed to the safe return of the remaining Chibok girls while rehabilitating and reuniting them with their families and communities. Sambisa Forest has become too hot for Boko Haram and they are now escaping to neighbouring communities.
“Boko Haram is no longer able to carry out organized attacks. They hold no territory and their flag, which they were flying in Bama and other territories they used to occupy, has become a shroud.”
Mohammed stressed that the challenge for the administration was to develop the strategies to counter the dangerous ideologies and messages being peddled by the extremists.
According to Mohammed, “The federal government is not unmindful of structural conditions that make an environment conducive to the growth of violent extremism, such as unemployment, poverty, lack of education, corruption, and other social-economic factors.
“Through various policies and programmes of this administration, these structural conditions are being addressed on a daily basis.”