That Boko Haram is going after soft targets is a sign of weakness and desperation on their part, especially after they have suffered huge setbacks in the hands of the military in recent times.
Nigeria’s minister of information, Lai Mohammed, has insisted that the terror group, Boko Haram, are now resorting to attacks on “soft targets” because they have suffered defeat in the hands of the government’s security forces.
Mr Mohammed spoke at a meeting with the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, Thursday, in Lagos.
“The truth, which will rankle some people, is that Boko Haram is today badly degraded and can only carry out cowardly attacks like the one against defenceless farmers over the weekend,” said Mr Mohammed.
“No nation, no matter how powerful, is immune to attacks on soft targets. 9-11 happened despite the prowess of the most powerful army in the world. Boko Haram’s only oxygen today is publicity. That’s why they have rushed to release a video claiming responsibility for the killing of the farmers.
“Please note that that video was shared to instil fear in the civil populace and maintain relevance in the eyes of their sponsors. There is no truth to the reason for their action.
“We, therefore, appeal to the general public to provide information about the insurgents to security forces to assist them in ending the war on terror.”
Mr Mohammed said the killing of defenceless farmers is an act of cowardice and savagery by a group of deranged terrorists.
“Unfortunate and saddening as it is, the killing is not a true reflection of the progress being made by the military against Boko Haram. That Boko Haram is going after soft targets is a sign of weakness and desperation on their part, especially after they have suffered huge setbacks in the hands of the military in recent times.
“The modus operandi of a losing terror group is to go after soft targets in order to stay relevant.”
Thursday’s meeting was a continuation of Mr Mohammed’s week-long engagement with Nigerian media professionals in Lagos. On Tuesday, the minister met with online publishers where he accused them of “unfair reporting” of the #EndSARS protests.
On Thursday, he extended the accusation to the newspaper proprietors, saying they allowed themselves to be misled by the social media.
“During the [#EndSARS] crisis, almost all newspapers fell for the hoax that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate,” Mr Mohammed continued.
“Screaming headlines of 70 or more people shot dead at the Lekki Toll Gate made the front pages of newspapers, without a shred of evidence. It is baffling how newspapers, which were supposed to have reporters and photographers on ground at the Lekki Toll Gate, fell for such a hoax.
“Did they also rely on the fake news and disinformation that permeated social media? Why shouldn’t the newspapers have led the narrative with verifiable figures and well-grounded sources?
“Had the papers done this, perhaps the likes of CNN, which were misled by social media, would not have goofed so badly as they did. We want to appeal to you to carry out a painstaking review of your coverage of the protest and its aftermath, with a view to ensuring that such never happens again.”
In the aftermath of the #EndSARS shootings at the Lekki Toll Gate, several newspapers have published investigative reports on what transpired on the day, reports the Nigerian government continue to deny.
Following the killing by Boko Haram of more than 40 farmers in Borno, the Northern Elders Forum on Wednesday called for President Muhammadu Buhari’s resignation.
At his meeting on Thursday, Mr Mohammed described those making such calls as playing “dirty politics with the issue of security, and it is cheap and irresponsible.”
“Mr President was elected in 2015 for a four-year term and re-elected in 2019 for another four-year term. No amount of hysterical calls for resignation will prevent him from serving out his term.
“Now, let’s put things in context. Before Mr President assumed office, Boko Haram could stroll into any city, especially in the north, to carry out deadly attacks. Abuja, the nation’s capital, Kano, Maiduguri, Jos, Damaturu, etc were regularly targeted. Motor parks, churches, mosques, shopping complexes were not spared.
“Today, that is a thing of the past. Suicide bombers used to have a field day detonating their bombs and killing innocent people. Today, that is no longer the case. Detonating Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) used to be a deadly tactic of Boko Haram. Today, that has changed. Boko Haram used to occupy territory, deposing and installing Emirs and collecting taxes. That’s no longer the case.
“These changes are not mere happenstance. They are part of the successes recorded by the military, under this President. Therefore, calling on the President to resign every time there is a setback in the war on terror is a needless distraction and cheap politicking.”
About 14,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram between January 2019 and October 2020, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker published by the Council on Foreign Relations.