Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammad Buhari, Mr. Femi Adesina, said yesterday that his boss never said the war against Boko Haram was over.
Speaking on a national television programme, Adesina said Buhari’s commendation message to the military, over the capture of Boko Haram’s enclave in Sambisa Forest, on Christmas Day, never included any statement indicating the war against insurgents in the North-East was over.
“If you look at the President word-for-word, there was nowhere he said that (the victory) signposts the defeat of Boko Haram.
“No! It was an interpretation by the Press. What the President did was to congratulate the military for taking over the last camp of Boko Haram which is called Camp Zero.
“What that effectively means is that Sambisa, which was like the last stronghold of Boko Haram, has been effectively taken over by the military.”
Adesina noted that despite the military’s capture of Boko Haram’s former stronghold, the war against insurgents is not over.
“There will always be bitter end at any given time. Even as Sambisa Forest has been taken over, you will still find some elements who will continue to fight and they will be taken out eventually.
“This kind of war is not one that at a point you will say because Sambisa has been taken over, it is over for now, no! It is over when we stop having strikes and attacks,” he said.
Meanwhile, Commander of the Special Task Force (STF), also known as Operation Safe Haven, Major-General Rogers Nicholas, has raised the alarm over the presence of fleeing members of Boko Haram in Plateau State.
General Nicholas disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Jos, the state capital and vowed to smash any criminals and those planning to unleash terror on innocent persons.
He warned “community and traditional rulers against harbouring persons suspected to be criminals and fleeing Boko Haram members” and urged them to report such for prompt action.
“From our intelligence gathering, we suspect presence of fleeing members of Boko Haram in Plateau, due to the onslaught in Sambisa. I urge Plateau residents to be vigilant wherever they are and to report suspicious persons.
“I also want to caution members of the transport workers union to be wary of the kind of persons they carry into the state. We have fortified our checkpoints; to search vehicular movements in and out of the state to avert any terror act,” he said.
Nicholas emphasised that the ban on motorcycle operation is still in force and restriction of tricycles between 9pm and 5am is still in force and vowed that any violator will be treated as a criminal.
He commended the STF in maintaining peace in Plateau, warning operatives against any act contrary to the rules of engagement. He said any soldier found maltreating civilians or indulging in criminal acts will face the full wrath of the law.
Meanwhile, the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has congratulated Buhari and the military for routing insurgents from Sambisa Forest, saying it was happy that the President built on the efforts of previous PDP administrations in the fight against terrorism.
The PDP said whatever success the country is witnessing now in the anti-terrorism war is a combination of the efforts of the past and present administrations.
The opposition party stated this in a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye.
“A few days ago, the military hierarchy announced that it has cleared the dreaded Sambisa Forest of Boko Haram terrorists. This is a welcome development in the fight against terrorism.
“We congratulate Nigerians for this important milestone in the long and bitter struggle against the forces of evil that have wreaked so much suffering and hardship on our people in the last few years.
“We also congratulate the President for his dogged pursuit of the war against insurgency. We are happy that he has built on the efforts of his predecessors.
“Whatever we are witnessing now is as a result of all the efforts and sacrifices of the past and present governments. Nigerians and the international community will recall that the war effort received a major boost in the weeks leading up to the 2015 general elections.
“ The insurgents were virtually annihilated – a feat that made it possible for elections to hold peacefully in almost all the local government areas of all the states in the North-East last year.
“We are therefore very much delighted with the continuation of this great effort by the President. We salute the men and women of our beloved Armed Forces. Their courage, determination and sacrifice made this achievement possible. The men and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces have served and continue to serve with distinction in many peace-keeping operations all over the world. We salute them for fighting with great courage to keep the peace in their own country, “ the party stated.
The PDP, while thanking the international community for their support in the anti-terrorism war, said the clearing of Sambisa is a major milestone in the war against Boko Haram insurgents.
However, the opposition party noted that it is not the end in the war against insurgency in the country.
It urged the Federal Government and the military not to rest on their oars until the entire North-East is rid of insurgents.
“Beyond Sambisa all the other forests which criminals used as hideouts and bases must equally be cleared by the military. Forests such as Birnin Gwari, Zamfara, Southern Kaduna, Enugu and Benue have become killing fields. They must all be cleared of criminal elements,” the PDP stated.
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, yesterday hailed the Federal Government and military for the capture of Sambisa Forest.
He gave the commendation in Gusau at the closing of the 20th Zamfara State Annual Qur’anic Recitation competition.
Abubakar said the capture of Sambisa Forest from Boko Haram was historic and a great success. “We are happy to hear this good news; we are, therefore, calling on the Nigerian Army not to relent in its efforts in fighting the activities of Boko Haram,” he said.