By Teddy Nwanunobi
Abuja (Sundiata Post) — The Federal Government, on Tuesday, claimed that leader of the dreaded Boko Haram group, Abubakar Shekau, is still alive, contrary to several claims earlier made by the Nigerian Army that it has killed the Islamic terrorists’ leader.
Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (retd), who said that Shekau is not dead, added that Shakau is still hiding in Sambisa Forest in Borno State.
He said that Shekau has been using masks as disguise to evade his arrest.
Dan-Ali, however, said that the military is not hot on his trail at the moment.
Citing the Osama Bin Laden case, which took the United States of America seven years to capture, Dan-Ali expressed confidence that Shekau will be captured soon.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had, on December 24, 2016, announced that the Nigerian military had succeeded in liberating Sambisa Forest, one of Boko Haram’s hideout.
The Nigerian Army had briefed on how the Boko Haram’s stronghold in Sambisa Forest, now known as Camp Zero, was captured.
But Shekau, in a video, posted shortly after, had said that he and his members were safe, and have not been flushed out of anywhere.
The Boko Haram leader had urged the government to stop telling lies to the people in the 25-minute video.
Speaking to State House correspondents, after briefing the President on the security situation in the country, Dan-Ali, however, insisted that the Boko Haram sect has been degraded.
“If you have been opportune to go to Sambisa Forest, you will know that Boko Haram. We have dominated the whole stronghold, where they used to be.
“Camp Zero, where their spiritual headquarters use to be, was destroyed, and is now being occupied by our armed forces.
“I believe it’s just a matter of time. It took America about seven to 10 years to get Bin Laden; so, we will get Shekau as soon as possible,” he said.
He further explained why it has been a problem arresting Shekau.
“The spiritual headquarters has been ransacked and vandalised. He (Shekau) is on the run. So, he may be hiding in one of the enclaves of Sambisa Forest, which we are dominating.
“We have opened up the place we are using the place as a training area whereby the army engineers will open roads. We shall be patrolling and be ransacking that forest for the whereabouts of Shekau,” he said.
Dan-Ali was reminded that the Army has claimed to have killed Shekau several times in the past.
“Let me tell you categorically, these Insurgents have a way of putting mask. There could be so many, but we are looking for the real one.
“He has been using mask to portray Shekau in one incidents or the other to give an impression that he has been killed so that we will relax; but we will not relax… we are on him,” Dan-Ali added.
He told newsmen that the discussion with Buhari was centrally on security, adding that he (Buhari) was impressed with the performance of the armed forces so far.
He also said the issue of how to return the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their homes so they can resume normal businesses was also discussed.
“Security situation is something that you cannot get 100 percent and remember that Nigeria has been having these turbulences for a very long time. We are trying to manage it, and we are trying to make it solvable whereby every Nigeriam will have peace and tranquillity and do his normal business.
“The directive is that we should do more. The more we put our efforts the more Nigeria gets safer. We are doing our best and we have also requested for more in terms of equipment, and I can categorically tell you that the Nigeria Armed forces have turned to professional armed forces.
“The last time we had training on small arms competition was almost 11 years ago, so also the sports. So, you can see we are joining the professionalism with the security challenges that is happening in the country,” he said.
Dan-Ali also spoke on Borno State’s declaration of December 22 as celebration day and other related issues.
“It is a local celebration, they have seen the significance of having that Camp Zero captured because hitherto before they can never be at rest when they are been encircled by insurgents. So, with that, I believe they have the right to celebrate. Other things are being celebrated in other parts of the country so no problem with that. I believe it anything is wrong with that.
“I have gone through the Sambisa Forest, a lot of villages were empty. We are also thinking of facilitating the process whereby those of them, no issues with Boko Haram will be released to go back to their farming. That will enhance the economic empowerment of the people,” he added.