Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, on Saturday in Abidjan, said the days of “Boko Haram’’ menace were numbered as security forces were decimating their network.
Mr. Petinrin gave the assurance in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of a meeting of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff held in Cote d’Ivoire to stem the rising insecurity in West Africa.
Mr. Petinrin said that the security forces had gained more intelligence from frequent arrests of the members of the leadership of Boko Haram.
“Boko Haram is a religious sect that initially started by condemning western knowledge in Nigeria and blossomed into a terrorist group that had unleashed mayhem on unsuspecting victims.
“Boko Haram has killed over 1,200 people in Nigeria, including Christians, Muslims and most internationally remembered was the bombing of UN House in Abuja that killed about 23 people.
“The truth of the matter is that we have decimated the leadership of Boko Haram and most of them are now in detentions.
“They have been caught. And just recently, about 23 days ago, we again caught the leader of the military wing, which led to our knowing where the kidnapped victims were and unfortunately the victims died in an attempt to rescue them.
“We all know that this can happen in the best planned operations and that shows the extent to which we already have a good angle on how to grab the leadership of Boko Haram and it is a matter of time.’’
Mr. Petrinrin said that Boko Haram sect had no clear sense of direction from the list of their demands from the interrogations that had been conducted so far.
He said: “These are people with no clear cut ideology and when you ask them what they want, you will hear very stupid and silly things. So, to me this is a flash in the pan which will be over soon.”
The Chief of Defence Staff said the Boko Haram network was spreading to Niger and Cameroon and the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff had agreed on a broad-based regional strategy to nip the insurgents.
“The issue of Boko Haram also came up and the issue of Boko Haram is not only in Nigeria, it is now in Niger and Cameroon is also feeling the impact and so the meeting urged Cameroon to come on board and work with Nigeria to make sure this issue of Boko Haram is quickly brought under control.’’
On the anxiety, fear and allegations of security lukewarm on the issue, Mr. Petinrin said it usually would take a while to handle terrorists like the Boko Haram because of the broad network and mode of operations.
“The issue of terrorism is not something you can cure in a day, it is not something you do with immediate effect, what I am trying to say is that the issue of terrorism is not something you will say it can end tomorrow.
He said that the meeting of the Chiefs of Defence Staff also agreed on the need to deploy peace keepers to Mali that would intervene on the growing menace of the Taureg rebels that had killed many innocent people since January.
Mr. Petinrin said that the various West African countries that participated in the meeting would advise their governments on the need to send military intervention in Mali.
“Some far reaching decisions were reached basically to deal with Mali because of the Sahel region. Security in the region was one of the focus of this meeting and then of course, the Gulf of Guinea, the maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
“As regards the Sahel region, Mali’s issue came up for discussion and it was agreed that ECOWAS Standby Force should be deployed by the authority of the Heads of States to bring peace to Mali .’’
He said the decision to advise Heads of Governments for an intervention in Mali was a collective one and would be collectively borne.
For the Gulf of Guinea maritime security issue, he said a Maritime Security Strategy draft was being considered and it had been agreed that the draft should be made available by March 15 to all the members.
Top military officers from Nigeria, Cameroun, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger and Liberia also participated in the meeting.