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Nigerian Military Aims to Contain Boko Haram Before Election

FILE - General Chris Olukolade.

The director of defense information for the Nigerian military said the army is committed to securing the country in time for the March 28 presidential election.

General Chris Olukolade said the military is doing everything to make sure that objective is achieved, including collaborating with the militaries of neighboring countries.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Saturday postponed the February 14 election date by six weeks, saying the military might not be able to guarantee the safety of officials and electoral materials because it is fighting against Boko Haram.

The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party, led by former military leader Muhammadu Buhari, described the postponement as a "major setback for Nigerian democracy."

Some have raised the concern that, if the military was not able to defeat Boko Haram for the past five years, how could it do so within six weeks?

Olukolade said Boko Haram militants can no longer hide in neighboring countries. He said the collaboration among neighboring militaries has left the insurgents with no place to hide.

“We have committed ourselves to working to ensure that we achieve the result of making the whole place secure, and every effort is being made toward that end in the sense that we are increasing our staff power. We are improving on collaboration with other forces,” he said.

Olukolade said the regional cooperation has been paying dividends in the fight against Boko Haram.

“You will recall that, when the state of emergency was originally declared, we were unable to curtail them substantially. And, they simply left our shores and went elsewhere to increase on their mischief. Now, we are enlisting the support of other nations around us and, hopefully, that should make it difficult for them to have any other place to escape to,” he said.

But, some Nigerians are not sure if the military can live up to its latest promise to root out Boko Haram. For example, they point to the military’s failure to free the 200 abducted girls from Chibok in April, even though it had said it knew where the girls were.

Olukolade said that this time around, all hands will be on deck.

“Not just the military, but everyone involved in securing our country will put in their best to ensure that we have [an] adequate atmosphere for elections to be conducted,” Olukolade said.

He said the military is an equal stakeholder in the promotion of Nigeria’s democracy and anything that is done now will be done in good faith and there should be no need to cast doubt about it.

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