An advisor to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan says the government is encouraged by the progress of the ongoing military offensive against the Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram.
“The majority of the various camps where the terrorists have converted into their hideouts have been heavily bombarded, both by air and on land. And I’m just receiving a report that about 55 persons apart from [at least] 20 people were killed yesterday and another 55 people were apprehended yesterday in their attempt to flee from the various camps,” said advisor Doyin Okupe. "The progress is quite encouraging and we believe that if things go on like this, we should be singing hallelujah shortly.”
Okupe, Jonathan’s senior special assistant on public affairs says the objective of the military offensive is to end the Boko Haram insurgency to save life and property.
“That’s the mandate that the president gave to the military and security forces that they must do everything within their power, within the rule of law and reasonable engagement policies that are acceptable to the international community to ensure that this menace is ended as quickly as possible and still obeying the rule of engagement,” he said.
But some human rights groups have accused the military of using excessive force, which they said have led to gross human rights violations. Human Rights Watch
says Boko Haram-related violence has killed an estimated 3,000 people since 2009, a toll that includes killings by security forces. Okupe says the military is not to blame for the security crisis.
“Many of these things that have been publicized in the past have been directly aimed at tarnishing the image of the military,” continued Okupe. "There are local interests within those areas who are sympathetic to the cause of the Boko Haram, but who are also very influential. And they have done all this propaganda to find a way to remove the military from this front and to allow Boko Haram to thrive.”
Okupe also rejected criticisms the administration has declared war on the country’s north following the deployment of troops to deal with Boko Haram.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has accused President Jonathan of declaring war on some states in the country’s north. Last week Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northern states following an upsurge in violence carried out by Boko Haram.
“There is no reason why President Jonathan will declare war on any part of this country. If there is anything that has been declared it is a war against the insurgents the rebels and the terrorists that have engaged in mindless killings of Nigerians, bombings of religious places of worship and institutions and killings of security agents,” said Okupe.
Okupe says the government will continue to accommodate various views across the country by engaging in dialogue as part of an effort to resolve the country’s security challenges.