The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, has declared that the want­ed leader of the Boko Har­am terrorist group, Abubakar Shekau, is still alive and hid­ing in his fortress in Sambisa Forest.
He said that Shekau wears masks to evade being captured by security operatives.
Before the minister’s decla­ration on Tuesday that Shekau is alive, the military authorities had maintained that the Boko Haram leader had been killed by troops.
Ali said that Shekau’s tac­tics notwithstanding, the fu­gitive would be eventually caught, especially as the mil­itary had decimated the core of the forest, which served as the communication and spirit­ual base of the insurgent group that has killed and maimed thousands of Nigerians over a six-year orgy of violence.
Ali spoke to journalists af­ter he met with President Mu­hammadu Buhari in a closed-door security briefing at the State House, Abuja.
He was responding to questions on the continued at­tacks by Boko Haram despite its reported defeat and why Shekau has been elusive to se­curity agents even after reports of his killing several times.
Ali, a retired Army Brig­adier-General, said that “if you have been opportuned to go to Sambisa, you will know that Boko Haram has been de­feated. We have dominated the whole stronghold where they used to be.”
“Camp Zero, their spirit­ual headquarters which they were using as a communica­tion base was destroyed and at the same time occupied by our men of the 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. The spirit­ual headquarters has been ran­sacked and vandalised, he 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 where Army engineers will open roads; we shall be patrolling and ran­sacking that forest for the whereabouts of Shekau.”
“These insurgents have a way of putting masks, there could be so many but we are looking for the real one. He has been using masks to por­tray Shekau in one incident 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,” he said.
The minister also spoke of his discussion with the Presi­dent which centred on the se­curity in the country, and de­scribed it as fruitful, adding that Buhari was impressed with the performance of the armed forces.
According to Ali, the Pres­ident directed 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 Nigerian armed forc­es have turned to professional armed forces.”
“The small arms competi­tion was done last 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.”
The minister added that the briefing with the Presi­dent also touched on Internal­ly Displaced Persons (IDPs) with a commitment to ensure that they return home and continue their normal busi­nesses and contribute to eco­nomic empowerment of their communities. - The Authority