President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said the Boko Haram sect was no longer a serious fighting force despite the ugly incidents witnessed recently in Dapchi, Yobe State and Rann, Borno State.
The sect had abducted 110 pupils from the Government Science and Technical Girls College, Dapchi and killed United Nations’ aid workers rendering humanitarian service in Rann, Kalabalge Local Government Area of Borno State.
Buhari, however, said the separate incidents were not indications that the government was fighting a war that could not be won.
Buhari was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the opening of the 8th National Security Seminar 2018 organised with the theme “Fighting Tomorrow’s Warfare Today,” by the Alumni Association of the National Defence College in Abuja.
The President said the terrorists, who he described as faceless were capable of doing anything to continue to get media attention which he said was their oxygen.
He said, “Today’s enemies, loosely-structured non-state actors, sometimes faceless, choose to mutate. They will alter their goals and objectives at random, and are capable of doing anything and everything to continue feeding off the oxygen of media attention.
“Yet this should not be interpreted as meaning that we are fighting an unwinnable war. We can boldly say that today, Boko Haram is no longer a serious fighting force.”
Despite the latest incidents, Buhari said there should be no room for self-pity or frustration on the part of government.
According to him, the Dapchi and Rann incidents should rekindle the determination of the government and the Armed Forces to permanently subdue terrorism in Nigeria.
“Will there occasionally be what seem to be setbacks in the war on terror? The unpalatable but realistic answer is yes. Again this is by no means unique to Nigeria,” he said.
Buhari said since the incidents happened, Nigeria’s security and intelligence chiefs had all mobilised to Yobe State and environs, and had been re-assessing their strategies and approaches to securing lives and property and containing the threat the sect poses.
He said government was mobilising to ensure that schools in the North-East were kept secure from Boko Haram.
Buhari said the government and security agencies must be strategic in their approach, and ensure that they were not responding out of panic or fear, but out of a determination to secure the nation and keep the people safe.
To win the war, he said terrorists must be fought on multiple fronts.
He said the insurgents must be starved of funding and resources, of sympathisers, and of the oxygen of publicity, especially on the Internet.
The President said the Armed Forces must focus their energies not just on expanding conventional reach but also on developing a robust capacity to take the fight outside their comfort zones -from the financial networks that sustain terrorists to the cyberspace that amplifies their noise.
Buhari added, “Towards the end of 2017, the Global Terrorism Index reported that terrorism deaths in Nigeria fell by 80 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
“That figure of 80 per cent represents countless Boko Haram attacks prevented from happening by the efforts of the Nigerian military. We must never forget that.
“Frustratingly, however, all that a terrorist group requires to be deemed extraordinary is for it to record a high-profile success every now and then. I am reminded of what the Irish Republican Army told former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, after an unsuccessful bomb attempt on her life in 1984: ‘We only have to be lucky once – you have to be lucky always.’
“So, clearly, the job of governments and militaries is never an easy one, especially when you are dealing with an unconventional enemy, who only needs to be lucky once.”
In his welcome remarks, the President of the Alumni Association, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Tamlong, regretted that despite getting early warnings on terror attack since 2000, Nigeria was caught napping because the government did not act on the reports.
He said, “The battles of tomorrow have already begun today. Nigeria is facing multiplicity of threats from mostly non-state actors such as the Boko Haram terrorist organisation, separatist groups amongst others.
“Some of these threats emanated from hostile narratives which are outright hate speech, high powered politics, religious and communal conflicts, climate change, desertification, herders/farmers crisis, and cyber crimes to mention but a few.
“We have continued to witness changes both in the character of war and the means of violence which include suicide bombers and the context in which they occur. The social media and cyber have also continued to shape the character of war.”
Tamlong said it was sad that from recent experience with Boko Haram at its inception, it was said that the nation’s Armed Forces were not prepared for asymmetric warfare.
This, he said, was despite the fact that Threat Analysis conducted in the early.