•Says it was not overwhelmed  

•Insists terrorists suffer heavy casualties

 •Blames worsening economic situation on PDP •CNG reacts to killing of soldiers

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo

ABUJA—THE Federal Government yesterday confirmed the attack of a military base by terrorists in Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State, which left 17 soldiers dead and over 41 injured.

The government also said that contrary to public perception, it was not overwhelmed by the insecurity across the country, noting that not every success of the military in its war against terrorism was in the media space.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who gave the confirmation while responding to a question on insecurity after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the terrorists also suffered huge casualties from the military who responded promptly to repel the attack.

Recall that efforts to get the military and police authorities to confirm the killings had so far proved abortive.

Mohammed, who blamed the media for providing oxygen for terrorists by publishing their activities on the front page of every newspaper, said:  “Yes, there was an attack on a military base in Kaduna State but what was not reported was the very timely and efficient manner it was repelled, and the huge casualty suffered by the bandits/terrorists. I also have a video of the area interdiction by the military.

“I keep saying that this is an asymmetrical war in which we are not at liberty only to tell you how in details the camps of the bandits are being decimated daily. It is a war of attrition, but our military is living to the billing, our military is working day and night to ensure that the terrorists are neutralized.

“We will continue to give information on the progress we are making in our fight against the terrorism but we can assure that we are on top of this matter.

“But unfortunately, it is the story of second guessing that is going on and we will continue to give relevant information on the progress we’re making in our fight against the terrorism.

“But we can assure you we’re on top of this matter and in any country in the world, while we are fighting terrorists, the oxygen they need is what is being provided daily today, which is they want to occupy the front page of every paper, they want to carry out spectacular attacks, even when they are down.

“This is where I think we also seek your support in understanding the mentality of terrorists, that even when they are dying, they will look for the soft underbelly that will keep them relevant, and enable them to get more money from their sponsors, more support from their sponsors.

“But clearly, in the last three, four, five days, the military recorded massive victories against terrorists and bandits, either in the northeast or in the Kaduna, Niger axis.”

Asked if the Federal Government was listening to Kaduna governor who said the terrorists could be tracked as they listen to their conversations, the minister said:  “I know that Monday, there was a very successful area interjection, where scores, not hundreds of bandits/terrorists, were eliminated.

“Even when we’re able to identify where the bandits are, sometimes out of fear of collateral damage to innocent civilians, you choose the time you want to strike. But I just want to assure you that the administration is not unmindful of your anxieties and your concerns.

“But probably because we are in charge, we can assure you that there’s really, really no cause to feel that the government is overwhelmed, not at all. We are not overwhelmed and the last few days I think has confirmed that.

“But unfortunately, when we inflict these victories on the bandits for many reasons, we do not come out and say we have killed so many, because, it’s continuous.

“But very soon, Nigerians would feel the impact of these victories. Already, thousands in the northeast in particular, have surrendered, we have decimated their camps, we have destroyed their equipment, destroyed their weapons.

“Two days ago, a big cache of arms was recovered, including trucks from them. So the war is going in our favour, I can assure you that, I can say this very, very confidently, and this is because we’ve also been very mindful of the needs of the military.

“We have provided within our very little resources, a lot of equipment to the military. We have provided about 150 MRaps, 120 trucks, about 60 APCs to the army. In addition, we’ve employed an extra 10,000 personnel for the military. We have provided accommodation for Army.

“The Air Force, of course.   It is not just the 12 Super Tucano jets that they have that is helping, we also provide them with three JFI -anticraft fighters. And that is why they are able to give support to the ground forces.

“This is why we are recording this kind of successes. Also, the federal government has supplied the Navy with helicopters, given them Eshore boats, 90 rigid inflatable boats, they have locally constructed sea worthy boat to fight piracy and all kinds of miscreants.

“We have also not left out the police. We have taken seriously the community policing initiative of the federal government. Today, we have been able to graduate 25,000 constabularies from the various police colleges in Nigeria. 

”They have been trained in basic police duties, intelligence gathering and the likes and they’ve been taken back and reassigned to their own local governments of origin because security is very local, so that they can collect intelligence and at the same time improve police visibility.

”In terms of welfare, we’ve reviewed and jerked up police salary by 20%. We have also given a waiver for the junior staff from paying income tax; we have employed another 10,000 to boost their personnel.

“So, this is why we are confident that in a matter of time, we will overcome the terrorists and bandits and criminals all around. But far from being overwhelmed, I think we are in control.”

On what the government was doing on the worsening economic situation in the country, Alhaji Mohammed blamed Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, saying the party laid the foundation for the current hunger being experienced by Nigerians.

He, whoever, explained that despite the various challenges, the current administration was doing everything within its power to address the situation.

Asked why the administration has not improved on the alleged bad economy it met in 2015, he said: “I think those who are bandying data about the economy and survey are not being very fair to this administration because they’re taking this data out of context.

CNG reacts to killing of soldiers

Reacting to the killing of the soldiers yesterday, spokesman of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, Suleiman Abdul-Azeez, said:   “it is another unfortunate incident that is beyond comprehension. The whole nation appears to be in a trance. Everywhere is gripped by uncertainties and fear.

”It is quite disturbing that even the military who are ordinarily the legitimate custodians of the prerogative to use force, are now overwhelmed, outgunned, rattled and helpless just as every bloody civilian is.

”When those in whom the citizens should entrust their safety have turned into defenseless, pitiful targets, then the entire country is headed over the margins of irrelevance and inconsequence as major hallmarks of state failure.”

”Having virtually lost control of the nation’s forests, land borders, airways, highways and the seas, Nigeria has acquired every characteristic of a failed state.

”The only foreseeable option is for coordinated citizen action for self-defense. People have to protect their communities and homes before they are completely overrun.

”Now the changing pattern and motivation for the attacks are suggesting a more dangerous dimension that may involve more deadly terror actors such as the Boko Haram and ISWAP. If this fear becomes real, then Nigeria is definitely targeted for destruction. We must pray, mend our ways and, of course, act to protect ourselves.”

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.