Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, on Saturday countered claims by the Nigerian government that the terrorist Boko Haram group has been defeated.
Speaking in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, at the 11th Founder’s Day Ceremony of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), the former vice president said Boko Haram remained deadly, and that it was premature to declare that the insurgency was over.
“The insurgents still occupy a specific geographical space,” Atiku said. “They (Boko Haram) still retain the capacity for occasional deadly attacks. Many citizens in the zone still remain vulnerable and live in fear.”
The former vice president’s comments appeared to counter repeated claims by President Muhammadu Buhari and his information minister, Lai Mohammed, that Boko Haram had been defeated, and was no longer holding any territory in the country.
In his 2016 Independence Day speech, October 1, Mr. Buhari insisted the sect was defeated in December 2015 even as the group continued its onslaught across the Northeast, launching deadly attacks and killing soldiers and civilians.
But in his Saturday speech, which was emailed to newsmen, Atiku said it was premature for anyone to claim victory over Boko Haram at this time.
Like Mr. Buhari, Atiku belongs to the ruling All Progressives Congress, a shaky political platform, whose leading members have bickered consistently since it came to power in mid 2015.
“We cannot say that the problem is over until every displaced person is able to return home, to the office, to the market, to the farm, and resume normal activities,” the politician said.
“We cannot say it is over until we rebuild the schools, the churches, the hospitals, the markets, and the homes that had been destroyed. And we cannot say it’s over until the survivors of this insurgency receive the help they need, including psychological therapy to deal with the trauma that they have been through.
“I visited an IDP camp on Saturday and had the privilege of teaching a math class to some children. But the site of hundreds of children running around and unable to attend school was very gut wrenching. It still breaks my heart.
So we cannot say the insurgency is over until all the displaced children return to their schools.
“And, as I indicated last year, it would not be enough for people to simply return to their pre-insurgency lives. We must do better than that otherwise we would only have papered over the wound without really treating it.
“People must return to something better, to hope, to improved schools, to improved economic opportunities, to freedom of worship and improved inter-religious harmony.”