Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, insisted that it has degraded Boko Haram, stressing that every part of the country is now safe.
This is even as it refuted that soldiers battling insurgency in the northeast are being starved and their entitlement not paid.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while briefing journalists, in Abuja, said Nigerians needed to understand and appreciate better what the Boko Haram insurgency is.
He further said the nation should appreciate the fact that Boko Haram, like most insurgency, might start as a local issue, but assume an international dimension sooner than later.
The minister added that Boko Haram is currently funded by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), Al-Qaeda and some other terrorists organization all over the world.
Said he, “Our government says it has decapitated Boko Haram. What government means is that the time was when even this capital city, Abuja, was not immune from attacks of Boko Haram.
“You are all living witnesses to the attack on the United Nations headquarters, the Nigeria Police headquarters, the ThisDay Newspapers, Nyanya park twice; but since 2015, all that has become history,” Mohammed maintained.
Speaking further, the minister said at the inception of the current administration in 2015, 20 out of the 27 local government areas in Borno state alone were under the effective control of Boko Haram, including four local government areas in Adamawa state.
“Today, we can say confidently that not an inch of our territory is under the control of Boko Haram. They have been repelled even from their spiritual headquarters,” Mohammed added.
Mohammed also said Boko Haram, today, could be found in the Lake Chad Islands between Niger, Kano and Chad where they launch attacks on soft targets.
He said anybody who was familiar with the issue of insurgency would know that it is best not to start as the end can never be predictable.
“But we are confident that we have contained Boko Haram. We have made every inch of Nigeria safe in the sense that it was not like before where Boko Haram established their own government in certain parts of this country,” Mohammed further said.
On the allegations of deplorable conditions of troops fighting Boko Haram in the North East, Mohammed said the allegations were unfounded.
“Recall, gentlemen, that a little over three months ago, precisely on July 11th 2018, we launched a National Campaign Against Fake News. At the launch, we said the campaign is to sensitise all Nigerians to the dangers posed to the peace and security, and indeed the corporate existence of Nigeria, by the phenomenon.
“We said that each and every Nigerian has a role to play in curtailing the spread of fake news. We also said Nigerians should not share any information they cannot verify.
“Two months and 10 days after the launch, specifically on September 21, 2018, an online publication reported alleged deplorable conditions of the troops who are fighting Boko Haram in the North East.
“Quoting a phantom Corporal, with the pseudonym Gandoki, said to be serving with one of the Special Forces Units in the theatre of operation, the publication alleged that troops deployed in particular along Gubio Road and the Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School were begging for food to survive, were poorly kitted with some wearing slippers and were facing irregular/short payment of their allowances.
“The publication also reported non-serviceable equipment in the theatre. These allegations have grave implications for the security of the nation, hence the allegations were taken seriously by the President and Commander-in-Chief, who subsequently ordered an investigation to determine the veracity or otherwise of the claims in the publication.
“Gentlemen, the investigation had since been concluded and, in line with the transparent stance of this administration, I have invited you here today to share with you the outcome.
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“The summary of the findings is that there is no case of hunger, starvation or begging among the troops fighting in the North East, and in particular in the Armed Forces Special Forces Battalion that was referenced in the publication.
“There is also no irregular/short payment of allowances, while claims of poor equipment, inadequate kitting and accommodation are found to be ill conceived and unfounded,” Mohammed stated.
He added that the troops in question, deployed at Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School along Gubio Road, are being fed centrally three times a day, and are kitted immediately after their training before they are deployed in the theatre.
“How then can soldiers who are fed centrally be starving or begging for food? Concerning the payment of allowances, the monthly allowances of troops of the AFSF Battalion are being paid directly into their various accounts from the Defence Headquarters. Hence, they cannot be shortchanged.
“On the allegation of poor equipment and inadequate kitting, it was found that the inflow of logistics into the theatre in the past six months showed an enormous quantity of materiel was distributed to troops in the theatre.
“Needless to say that no army in the world has all the requisite equipment to prosecute a counter-insurgency operation.
“Let me recap: There is no issue of hunger, improper kitting of soldiers, non-payment or short-payment of soldiers’ allowances and poor equipment at the AFSF Battalion or in any other units within Operation LAFIYA DOLE theatre,” Mohammed declared.