For the first time since Boko Haram began its terror attacks on the North, what could be regarded as the first official confirmation of the casualty figure was offered Monday by Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika.
Ihejirika, while declaring open the third inter-division and headquarters map reading competition organised by the Nigerian Army Education Corps (NAEC) in Ilorin, said the Islamic sect had killed no fewer than 3,000 people since it began its terror campaign.
He was, however, silent on whether the figure included military and police personnel killed in the line of duty.
Also yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan listed efforts by his administration to defeat Boko Haram’s insurgency, just as he called for cooperation among African nations to defeat terror groups operating on the continent.
At another occasion, the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, urged the Federal Government to unmask Boko Haram collaborators and sympathisers in the security agencies to hasten the end to terror attacks on the country by the sect.
Ihejirika, who lamented the adverse effects of the sect’s attacks on people in the North, said its actions had crippled socio-economic activities in the area and had negatively affected the psychology of the people.
The COAS, who was represented by the General Officer, Commanding 2 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major Mohammed Abubakar, added that the current security challenges in the country required collective and extra efforts to tackle.
According to him, “The changing nature of threats to Nigeria’s national security environment has manifested in the militancy, kidnapping, violent extremism and terrorism taking place in different parts of the country. “It is a known fact that terrorism worldwide is characterised by extremism, violent hatred, lack of respect for human dignity and constituted authority.
“The spate of bombings in parts of the North has necessitated the Nigerian Army to review its doctrine with a view to updating our training and operational procedures in order to fulfil our constitutional mandate. “Success in this pursuit, therefore calls for renewed and concerted efforts and initiative."
He also commended the efforts by NAEC to write and publish a book on terrorism, adding that this would help in strengthening the determination to fight the present security challenges.
The Corps Commander, NAEC, Major-General Lucky Banjiram, said the current security challenges in the country had continued to undermine national security.
He added that the challenges had placed a great strain and demands on the army’s resources, just as he stressed the need for training and retraining of army personnel.
Jonathan, represented by Vice-President Namadi Sambo at the first regional conference on counter-terrorism, in Abuja, told the gathering that his experience in the last one year had shown the need for further expansion, strengthening and criminalisation of terrorism in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.
He said: “On July 3, 2011 we signed into law the Anti-terrorism Bill. But in spite of all this, experience in the last one year has further shown that we need better laws. We need to strengthen and expand it to ensure that terrorism will be criminalised with severe sanctions for the offenders.”
He also disclosed that a draft on National Counter-Terrorism Strategy had been produced and would soon be in circulation. He promised that terrorism would be defeated and that the Federal Government had put enough strategies in place to contain it, especially the Boko Haram menace.
The president called on other countries in the region to strengthen both bilateral and multilateral cooperation amongst themselves and with Nigeria to tackle terrorism.
Earlier, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), called for greater regional cooperation among African nations to counter the growing menace of terrorism.
Dasuki stressed that there was no region or country today in Africa that was immune from terrorism. According to him, although Nigeria had taken measures to stem terror attacks, there was the need for sub-regional, regional and international cohesion and cooperation to defeat the insurgents.
The NSA also warned against the growing ties and collaboration between Boko Haram and other regional and international terrorist groups, and cautioned that nations need to cooperate to rout the terrorists. Meanwhile, Oritsejafor has urged the Federal Government to first deal with the infiltration of security agencies by the sect.
He also called for an upward review of the salaries of the police officers and men to motive them to improve on their productivity.
Oritsejafor, while fielding questions from reporters in Warri at the weekend after a novelty football match marking his 40th anniversary at the pulpit, said some security personnel were more loyal to their faith to the peril of the nation's security.
He explained that disloyal security personnel were in possession of sensitive security reports, which they expose to members of the sect. “Some security operatives are more loyal to their religion; a lot of them don't believe in Nigeria like their religion. Many times they get information from these people, some of them are in strategic positions; that is the problem," he said.
On the conditions spelt out by Boko Haram to pave the way for dialogue with the Federal Government, Oritsejafor said it was disturbing that a criminal group could offer a sovereign government conditions.
“My first question is, is this Boko Haram? Secondly, are they sincere if it is Boko Haram, or it is just blackmail? What they are saying is interesting, we will know in the next few days if it is Boko Haram.
“But it puzzles me how a criminal group will give conditions to a legitimate sitting government of a country,” he said.
He also called on Islamic clerics to publicly admonish Muslim faithful on the sect's campaign.
“Imams preaching on Fridays should preach against Boko Haram. That is the way they can stop harbouring the culprits in their midst. I know they are afraid that they will kill them, but they should take the risk; life is full of risks, if they don't take risks with this, then I don't know what they will take a risk for,” he added.