TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON THURSDAY, 27 FEB. 2020
Good morning gentlemen and thanks, once again, for honouring our invitation.
We have called this press conference solely to address the issue of insecurity, with particular reference to the role of Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), highlight what the military is doing in this regard and also rally support for the gallant men and women who are making all the necessary sacrifices to keep us safe
2. As you would have noticed, Boko Haram and the ISWAP have recently changed their strategy, in the wake of their ceaseless pounding by the military. At its peak, Boko Haram in particular was a fighting force, conquering and keeping territory, installing and deposing Emirs and also collecting taxes. It had the capability to take the battle to many states, mostly in the north, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, where it bombed the police headquarters, the UN Complex, shopping complex and motor parks.
3. Upon assumption of office on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Command and Control centre to relocate from Abuja to Maiduguri and rallied the support of our neighours as well as the international community. This yielded immediate results as Boko Haram was not only decimated, but all the territory under its control was recovered. The insurgents also lost the capability to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they were used to, and then resorted to attacking soft targets, including churches and mosques as well as schools.
4. Recall that Boko Haram insurgents didn’t use to discriminate between Christians and Muslims when they carried out their attacks in the past. Churches and mosques, Christians and Muslims were attacked without discrimination. When they targeted motor parks, the religion, gender, ethnicity or political leaning of the victims didn’t matter, as long as they inflicted the maximum damage to lives and property.
5. But in the wake of a renewed onslaught by our tireless military against Boko Haram and their ISWAP allies in recent times, the insurgents have apparently changed their strategy: They have started targeting Christians and Christian villages for a specific reason, which is to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos.
Apparently, they have realized how emotive and divisive religion can be, when exploited by unscrupulous persons.
6. Lest I am misunderstood, let me repeat: the insurgents, who delude themselves as Muslims whereas they are nothing more than blood-thirsty, rapacious killers who subscribe to no religion, have recently started targeting Christians with a view to sowing the seed of confusion between the two great religions. This did not in any way signify that they have stopped attacking Muslims. But they seem to now have a deliberate policy of attacking Christians.
7. The attack on a Christian village, Kwarangulum, near Chibok; the killing of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika local government in Adamawa, Lawan Andimi; the killing of Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a student who was also a member of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN); and the killing of 11 Christians on Christmas eve, etc, fit into this new strategy
8. Some have misinterpreted this to insinuate a systematic campaign to persecute Christians in Nigeria. This is absurd, and very unfair to the men and women who are daily battling the insurgents. The truth is that, having run out of options in their battle against Nigeria, the insurgents are desperate to stay relevant, to stay in the news, hence
their cowardly and senseless strategy targeting Christians, as part of their increasing resort to the use of Guerilla tactics.
9. We want to therefore appeal to our religious leaders, both Christians and Muslims, not to fall for this desperate move by the insurgents, not to allow them to divide us as a people and weaken our resolve to deal the insurgents the mortal blow. In addition, we must also give our unalloyed support to the military, which has also upped the ante against the insurgents. The resort to the increasing use of Guerilla tactics by the insurgents is a sign of weakness on their part. Contrary to the belief in certain quarters, these insurgents are getting weaker by the day, thanks to the gallantry of our men and women in uniform.
10. The renewed vigour by the military in their war against the insurgents is paying off handsomely, judging by the victories they have recorded in recent times. These include:
– The killing of top ISWAP leaders at two separate meeting venues at Marte Local Government in Borno State a few days ago
– A similarly successful attack against the leadership of Boko Haram in Alafa Yagayaga in Borno earlier this month
– The killing of Boko Haram Chief Judge in Lake Chad
– The in-fighting in the leadership cadre of Boko Haram is a fallout of the pressure on the insurgents by the military
– The continued foiling by the military of many attacks by Boko Haram
– The continued decimation of the insurgents across the North-east-
– The inability of the insurgents to hold any territory or carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they used to carry out in the past, etc
11. Apart from fighting insurgents, please note that the military has continued to carry out development programmes in the North-east, as part of efforts to win the hearts and minds of the populace. The military is engaged in:
– Road and bridge construction and repair
– Provision of potable water
– Scanning of roads and highways to detect planted IEDs and keep the roads safe
– Teaching in schools where there is shortage of teachers
– Provision of educational materials, including books
– Working with civilians to ensure that things are in order in many towns and villages
12. In conclusion, we want to once again appeal to our leaders, especially religious leaders, not to fall for the antics of Boko Haram and ISWAP, who are trying to divide us along religious lines by targeting Christians for attacks. This is the last desperate move by a decimated and disillusioned band of killers and psycopaths to stay relevant amid constant decimation by our gallant troops. We have what it takes to come together and foil this divisive and satanic strategy.
We appeal to Nigerians to support the military as it moves to decapitate the insurgents. Second-guessing the military at this time is like playing into the hands of Boko Haram.
13. Gentlemen, I thank you for your kind attention.