From: Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
It appears that Nigerian Army’s repeated claims that leader of the Boko Haram insurgent, Abubakar Shekau, had been killed, were sheer lies as Defence Minister, Ben. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) declared that Shekau was still alive.
According to him, Shakau is still hiding in Sambisa forest in Borno State and has been disguising in masks to evade arrest.
He, however said, the military were not hot on his trail and just like it took the United States of America seven years to capture Osama Bin Laden, Shakau would soon be captured.
President Muhammadu Buhari had. on December 24, 2016, announced that the Nigerian military had succeeded in liberating Sambisa forest, one of Boko Haram’s hideouts.
The Nigerian Army had briefed on how the Boko Haram’s stronghold in Sambisa forest now known as Camp Zero, was captured.
But Shakau, in a video posted shortly after had said he and his members were safe and have not been flushed out of anywhere.
The Boko Haram leader had urged the government to stop telling lies to the people in the 25-minute video.
Speaking to State House correspondents after briefing the President on the security situation in the country, the minister insisted that the Boko Haram sect has been degraded.
Said he, “If you have been opportune to go to Sambisa forest you will know that Boko Haram. We have dominated the whole stronghold where they use to be, camp zero where their spiritual headquarters use to be was destroyed and is now occupied being by our armed forces.
“I believe it’s just a matter of time, it took America about seven to 10 years to get Bin Laden so we will get Shekau as soon as possible”.
Asked why it’s been a problem arresting Shekau, the minister replied, “The spiritual headquarters has been ransacked and vandalized, he (Shekau) is on the run so he may be hiding in one of the enclaves of Sambisa forest which we are dominating, we have opened up the place we are using the place as a training area whereby the army engineers will open roads. We shall be patrolling and be ransacking that forest for the whereabouts of Shekau.”
When reminded that the army has claimed to have killed Shekau several times in the past, replied, “Let me tell you categorically, these Insurgents, have a way of putting mask, there could be so many but we are looking for the real one, he has been using mask to portray Shekau in one incidents or the other to give an impression that he has been killed so that we will relax but we will not relax we are on him.”
Dan-Ali told newsmen that the discussion with President Buhari was centrally on security, adding that he was impressed with the performance of the armed forces so far.
He also said the issue of how to return the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their homes so they can resume normal businesses was also discussed
According to him, ”Security situation is something that you cannot get 100 percent and remember that Nigeria has been having these turbulences for a very long time. We are trying to manage it and we are trying to make it solvable whereby every Nigerian will have peace and tranquility and do his normal business.”
On Buhari’s directives he said, “The directive is that we should do more. The more we put our efforts the more Nigeria gets safer. We are doing our best and we have also requested for more in terms of equipment and I can categorically tell you that the Nigeria Armed forces have turned to professional armed forces. The last time we had training on small arms competition was almost 11 years ago, so also the sports so you can see we are joining the professionalism with the security challenges that is happening in the country.”
Asked if the federal government will join Borno State in declaring December 22nd celebration day, Dan-Ali said, “It is a local celebration, they have seen the significance of having that camp zero captured because hitherto before they can never be at rest when they are been encircled by insurgents, so with that I believe they have the right to celebrate. Other things are being celebrated in other parts of the country so no problem with that. I believe it anything is wrong with that.”
Speaking on resetting IDPs in their homes, Dan-Ali said, “I have gone through the Sambisa forest a lot of villages were empty. We are also thinking of facilitating the process whereby those of them no issues with boko harm will be released to go back to their farming, that will enhance the economic empowerment of the people.”