by Segun Odeleye
Aso Rock has responded to the comments made by Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, on Monday that the Boko Haram sect is more armed and motivated than the Nigerian army.
Doyin Okupe, the president’s senior special assistant on public affairs, called a press conference today, where he said that the governor’s comments were strictly from a civilian perspective because he “does not have the expertise to categorize or classify the effectiveness of any weapon.”
Okupe reeled out the usual superlatives used to describe the Army like the claims that it is the best equipped in Africa. He stated that in 2014, the Federal Government made budgetary provision in excess of N1 trillion for the military and other security agencies; an amount, he said, was about 22 per cent of Nigeria’s entire national budget for the year.
“This definitely belies the suggestion in certain quarters that the Federal Government is not doing the needful in prosecuting this war,” he added.
According to a report by Premium Times newspaper:
Mr. Okupe also said despite the recent upsurge of attacks by the sect, the Nigerian military is winning the war against the insurgents.
“For the avoidance of doubt and with ample evidence on the ground, we state that the Nigerian Armed Forces and security agencies are on top of the situation,” he said.
He said the recent attack on villages by the insurgents is the result of their dislodgment from their strongholds and hideouts in the mountainous forest areas of Borno State. He added that in recent times, these areas have been heavily bombed aerially by the Nigerian Air Force and ‘combed systematically’ by ground troops.
“If the insurgents have not been completely routed, it is due to the fact that our Armed Forces are severely constrained because of the fact that civilian settlements are also co-located in this vicinity making selective engagement tenuous and difficult if heavy civilian casualty is to be avoided,” he said.
The presidential aide added that following serious dislocation of the insurgents from their hideouts, the new trend is for them, after sporadic attacks, which are usually launched at night, to quickly cross over to neigbouring countries for safety.
Mr. Okupe said the Nigerian military is prevented from pursuing them into these foreign territories by law and international conventions which obviously gives continuous respite to the insurgents.
“We must note that as far back as over twelve months ago, the fighting machinery of the insurgents had suffered major decapitation. They have therefore resorted almost exclusively, to attacking soft targets such as schools, women and children and sleeping communities in the early hours of the morning.
“Most of the villages attacked are those like Kawuri, Izghe and Konduga, which are generally situated along the foot of the Gwoza Mountains, which stretches from Nigeria to the Cameroon,” he said.
He also said the location of these villages close to the mountains affords the insurgents opportunity and facility to launch strikes at night and sneak back across the border into neighbouring countries. But the Nigerian military and security agencies, he added, have taken up this challenge and will put an end to these incursions in the shortest possible time.
“We are certainly not involved in conventional warfare but are rather engaged in guerrilla warfare with all its unpredictability. However, it is heart-warming that our military, which has participated in numerous international peace keeping operations where they helped to quell insurgencies, has acquired the sophistication and necessary capacity to adapt to the ever changing modus operandi of the insurgents,” he said.
Critics unfair to government
Mr. Okupe said the statement by Mr. Shettima on low morale and lack of motivation is unfair and misplaced.
Mr. Shettima, had, after meeting President Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, lamented the situation in Borno that has led to the death of over 100 people in the last week alone. The governor said the Boko Haram were better armed and better motivated than Nigerian soldiers, and that more needed to be done by the federal government.
Mr. Okupe, however, refuted the claim. He said the insurgents are usually motivated by ideological fanaticism, while the military are well disciplined and are spurred by patriotic sense of duty, national pride, and strict adherence to professionalism.
“Therefore, the morale of troops engaged in this war is high and ought not to be dampened by unsavoury and certainly untrue comments of low motivation.
“We enjoin all our National leaders and stakeholders across political and religious divides to close ranks with government and our valiant troops defending the territorial integrity and support the Federal Government route out the scourging menace of insurgency rather than speaking at cross purposes.
“We want to reassure Nigerians and members of the international community that though it is in the character of insurgents to create maximum fear, their sporadic attacks on soft targets is being contained and will be halted.
“We state authoritatively without any fear or equivocation whatsoever that Nigeria is already winning the war against terror and the activities of the insurgents will be terminated within the shortest possible time,” he said.