By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA— President Muhammadu Buhari administration will not spare Boko Haram sponsors, in the fight to rid the nation of terrorists and their backers, the Minister of Informational and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said.
Addressing a press conference on the successes recorded by the Nigerian military and other security agencies in the anti-Boko Haram war, in Abuja, yesterday, he said due process would be followed in bringing those behind the terrorists to book.
His words: “The dilemma of government is how to redress the past wrong. What I want to assure you is that nobody, who is responsible for this situation either by sponsoring Boko Haram or stealing our resources, will go unpunished. That I can assure you. But we will follow due process.”
Reacting to the Federal Government’s seeming lack of commitment to bringing Boko Haram suspects to book, as has been the case in Chad where they are usually summarily tried, condemned and killed, Mohammed said that the legal system in Nigeria was different and that the authorities would not want any innocent person killed in that process.
His words: “Our legal regime is different. I can assure you that it is not in the interest of the military to protect Boko Haram because they are the first victims of the activities of the insurgents.”
The minister absolved those in the current government of sponsoring or supporting Boko Haram terrorists in any way, as according to him, “nobody in this government will hide a Boko Haranm suspect.”
He said all Nigerians did not only owe the Nigerian military and other security agencies a debt of gratitude for the enormous sacrifices and commitment in the fight against Boko Haram but also needed to own the war on terror.
According to him, the terrorists’ attacks on Bama were extremely sobering, disclosing that none of the 6,000 houses in that North Eastern town was standing when his team visited last weekend.
The minister disclosed that the project of re-building Bama would commence in January with about 41,000 housing units.
He added that in the case of Konduga, the Borno State had rebuilt the town on three occasions but that on each occasion, the town was re-taken by the Boko Haram elements and destroyed.
Military still looking for Chibok girls
Reacting to growing disappointment of members of the public in the Federal Government’s failure to re-unite the abducted Chibok girls with their parents over six months into this administration, Mohammed said the military was still searching for them.
“The military is leaving no stone unturned up till now. Right now, the military is undertaking major onslaughts,” he said.
According to the minister, the alleged arms deal fraud negatively impacted on the war against Boko Haram but that the troops and their officers were now adequately motivated to bring decimate Boko Haram this month to the extent that they would no longer be able to hold any territory.
North-East needs Marshal Plan
The minister said there was need for a Marshal Plan for the reconstruction of the North Eastern part of the country, following the massive destruction by Boko Haram.
“Anybody who goes to the North-East will not need convincing that there is need for a kind of Marshal Plan. Anybody who has been to Bama will be sober,” Mohammed said.
Benin Republic to send 800 soldiers to Nigeria
Meanwhile, President of the Republic of Benin, Mr. Boni Yayi, has pledged to send 800 soldiers to fight alongside Nigerian troops.
Yayi’s disclosure came on a day President Buhari also charged him to ensure that he conducted a credible election that would herald his exit from office next year.
The visiting President. who addressed State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with his host at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, stated that the soldiers were battle ready.
According to him, Benin Republic would always stand by the government of President Buhari to ensure he succeeds in office.
He said: “President Buhari took over the mantle of government at a time terrorism occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram is high.
“To fight terrorism, Benin is ready to send about 800 men to join the men that are already prepared to fight terrorism. The team is battle ready for deployment.
“The will power is there and Benin is committed to deploying the men. Benin will always remain on the side of Nigeria in its trying times.
“The sub-region is also going through serious problems of development. Fighting Boko Haram is becoming difficult because OPEC countries are going through oil crisis. We will always stand beside Buhari in his fight against corruption.”
In his response, President Buhari stated that his government was committed to defeating the insurgents.
He said that the terrorists had retreated to the hinterlands of the North-East due to the intensified military operations in the region.
He called for the cooperation of neighbouring countries in the fight against terrorism, oil theft among others, revealing that it was for that purpose that Nigeria would be hosting the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS, in less than two weeks from now.
Meanwhile, a statement by the presidential spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adesina, about what transpired during the closed-door meeting stated that President Buhari tasked Yayi on transparent polls in February next year.
“Whatever happens in Benin is of particular interest to Nigeria because we are very good neighbours. I will like to congratulate the President of Benin for successfully completing two terms in office, and his plan to hand over power after the elections in February,” the President said.