The Nigerian government is insisting that its military has “successfully defeated” Boko Haram insurgents, but says the country is now facing a fresh crisis, which it called a “global insurgency.”
The government stated this when it launched a national campaign to rally the support of the citizens behind the troops, especially those fighting the insurgency in the northeast.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the launch of the campaign on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Mohammed said Nigerian troops have “successfully cleared the remnant of the home-grown insurgency called Boko Haram and are now being confronted by a fresh crisis, a global insurgency.
“A faction of Boko Haram has aligned with the global terror group, ISIS, to form ISWAP, the Islamic State’s West African Province. In other words, ISIS now has a strong foothold in West Africa – with Nigeria at the forefront of the battle against them.
“With ISIS largely dislodged from Iraq and Syria, there is undoubtedly a flush of fresh fighters and weapons to ISWAP. Therefore, our military is fighting a global insurgency, without the kind of global coalition, including the United States, that battled ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” he said.
There has been a resurgence in attacks on Nigerian soldiers by the insurgents since last year. The latest attack occurred only a few weeks ago.
The minister said the videos and pictures being circulated on social media purporting massive military casualties were “doctored by those who do not understand the fresh threat facing the country nor appreciate the sacrifice of the military and their aim is to wage a campaign of disinformation against the military.”
He said, “those involved in the act are few, and do not represent the majority of Nigerians who appreciate the patriotism and the sacrifice of the gallant military troops.”
Mr Mohammed said it is high time all Nigerians “joined in and support the global war against insurgency, as it is a usual practice that when a country is faced with this kind of challenge, people will sink their differences and work together.”
He said the new campaign is a follow-up to the “hugely-successful National Campaign against Insecurity which we launched on February 16, 2016, with the punchline ‘If You See Something, Say Something’.”
Mr Mohanmmed said the government believes that “the military who are risking all and making a huge sacrifice to keep the citizens safe do not deserve defamation, or any action that can smear their morale rather, they deserve support and prayers of all Nigerians.”
He said the government was introducing the campaign to encourage and mobilise “Nigerians, irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic leanings, to show support for our military.”
He said the campaign will be multi-faceted. “It will include the production and airing of special jingles on radio and television, social media intervention and advocacy.
“The jingles are ready and also the materials for newspaper and social media, the jingles will start airing on radio and television this week.”
Mr Mohammed appealed to the media to seek clarification before reporting casualty figures as they will play the lead role in the campaign. He urged them not to reveal national security as well as military plans since such acts can put the troops in harm’s way.
The minister refused to answer questions not related to the launch of the campaign.
John Agim, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Defence Headquarters, said the military will sometimes keep information from media so as to avoid giving information away that would favour the insurgents and also to avoid unnecessary fright among citizens.
He cited an incident around 2015 and 2016 when the pictures of about 18 Boko Haram members were published and they all escaped to Lagos.
He said the military did not bother to announce that they were being arrested one after the other because the arrests would not have been possible if the information had been published.
The event was witnessed by top military officials, including the Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force, Ibikunle Daramola; the outgoing Director of Army Public Relations, Sani Usman; and the Director of Information of the Nigerian Navy, Suleman Dahun.