The Nigerian Army has given its troops an ultimatum to capture Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, handed down the order on Friday to the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Ibrahim Attahiru, according to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the army, Sani Usman.
Mr. Buratai, a lieutenant general, said the Boko Haram leader must be captured dead or alive within 40 days, the statement said, adding that Mr. Attahiru, a major general, was directed to employ every weapon available in his arsenal “to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria”.
“The general public is pleased requested to also assist and volunteer information that would lead to the accomplishment of this task,” the army spokesperson said in the statement.
The military had several times in the past claimed it had killed Mr. Shekau, only for the Boko Haram leader to later show up in videos mocking either the military or the nation’s top officials.
On August 23, 2016, Mr. Sani himself had issued a statement announcing that Mr. Shekau was inflicted with “fatal injury” in a major air strike on Boko Haram’s location in the dreaded Sambisa Forest.
Mr. Sani, a colonel, said at the time that the bombardment was carried out while Mr. Shekau was leading his group in performing the Friday prayers at a secret location called Tayye in the heart of the vast forest.
The military had by that time too repeatedly claimed credit for killing Mr. Shekau. But the sect denounced the claims each time saying its leader remained alive.
The military however insisted that the original Abubakar Shekau had long been killed, and that the so-called Abubakar Shekau said to be alive was a made-up character.
On March 28 this year, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, after which he reassured Nigerians that the army would soon apprehend Mr. Shekau.
“If you have had the opportunity to go to Sambisa (forest in Borno), you will know that Boko Haram has been defeated, go and see what is happening in Sambisa.
“We have dominated the whole stronghold where they used to be, there is where we call ‘camp zairo’ where their spiritual and their strong headquarters that they were using as communication base was destroyed and as at the same time occupied by our men of the armed forces.
“So, 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.
“I told you before now, the spiritual headquarters has been ransacked and vandalized. He (Shekau) is on the run, so he may be hiding in one of the enclaves of Sambisa forest that we are dominating.
“We have opened up the place; we are using it 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.