The Federal Government said, yesterday, Boko Haram insurgents and their ISWAP allies have changed their strategy, targeting Christians and Christian-dominated areas to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos.
Government specifically appealed to religious leaders to ignore the latest antics of the insurgents, as they were desperate moves by a decimated and disillusioned band of killers and psychopaths who now target Christians, through cowardly and senseless killings.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who made this known at a press conference in Abuja, urged Nigerians to unite against Boko Haram, regardless of gender or religious persuasions.
“As you would have noticed, Boko Haram and the ISWAP have recently changed their strategy, in the wake of their ceaseless pounding by the military. At its peak, Boko Haram, in particular, was a fighting force, conquering and keeping territory, installing and deposing emirs and also collecting taxes. It had the capability to take the battle to many states, mostly in the North, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, where it bombed the police headquarters, the United Nations, shopping complex and motor parks.
“Upon assumption of office on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the command and control centre to relocate from Abuja to Maiduguri (Borno State) and rallied the support of our neighbours, as well as the international community. This yielded immediate results as Boko Haram was not only decimated, but all the territory under its control was recovered. The insurgents also lost the capability to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they were used to, and then resorted to attacking soft targets, including churches and mosques, as well as schools.
“Recall that Boko Haram insurgents didn’t use to discriminate between Christians and Muslims when they carried out their attacks in the past. Churches and mosques, Christians and Muslims were attacked without discrimination. When they targeted motor parks, the religion, gender, ethnicity or political leaning of the victims didn’t matter, as long as they inflicted the maximum damage to lives and property.
“But, in the wake of a renewed onslaught by our tireless military against Boko Haram and their ISWAP allies in recent times, the insurgents have apparently changed their strategy: They have started targeting Christians and Christian villages for a specific reason, which is to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos. Apparently, they have realised how emotive and divisive religion can be, when exploited by unscrupulous persons.
“Lest I am misunderstood, let me repeat: the insurgents, who delude themselves as Muslims whereas they are nothing more than blood-thirsty, rapacious killers who subscribe to no religion, have recently started targeting Christians with a view to sowing the seed of confusion between the two great religions. This did not in any way signify that they have stopped attacking Muslims. But they seem to now have a deliberate policy of attacking Christians.
“The attack on a Christian village, Kwarangulum, near Chibok; the killing of the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Michika Local Government in Adamawa, Lawan Andimi; the killing of Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a student who was also a member of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN); and the killing of 11 Christians on Christmas Eve, etc, fit into this new strategy.”
The minister said some had misinterpreted the attacks to insinuate a systematic campaign to persecute Christians in the country: “This is absurd and very unfair to the men and women who are daily battling the insurgents. The truth is that, having run out of options in their battle against Nigeria, the insurgents are desperate to stay relevant, to stay in the news, hence their cowardly and senseless strategy targeting Christians, as part of their increasing resort to the use of guerrilla tactics.
“We want to, therefore, appeal to our religious leaders, Christians and Muslims, not to fall for this desperate move by the insurgents, not to allow them to divide us as a people and weaken our resolve to deal the insurgents the mortal blow.
“In addition, we must also give our unalloyed support to the military, which has also upped the ante against the insurgents. The resort to the increasing use of guerilla tactics by the insurgents is a sign of weakness on their part.
“Contrary to the belief in certain quarters, these insurgents are getting weaker by the day, thanks to the gallantry of our men and women in uniform. The renewed vigour by the military in their war against the insurgents is paying off handsomely, judging by the victories they have recorded in recent times.
“These include killing of top ISWAP leaders at two separate meeting venues at Marte Local Government in Borno State a few days ago; a similarly successful attack against the leadership of Boko Haram in Alafa Yagayaga in Borno earlier this month; killing of Boko Haram chief judge in Lake Chad; the in-fighting in the leadership cadre of Boko Haram is a fallout of the pressure on the insurgents by the military; continued foiling by the military of many attacks by Boko Haram; the continued decimation of the insurgents across the North-East; inability of the insurgents to hold any territory or carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they used to carry out in the past, etc.
“Apart from fighting insurgents, please note that the military has continued to carry out development programmes in the North-East, as part of efforts to win the hearts and minds of the populace.
“The military is engaged in road and bridge construction and repair; provision of potable water; scanning of roads and highways to detect planted IEDs and keep the roads safe.”