Major General Chris Olukolade TIME Speaking at a media interaction organised by INigerian Initiative, a non-governmental organisation active in the redefinition of Nigerians’ perception of their country, Olukolade insisted that either in hardware or in training, men of the Nigerian armed forces have everything it takes to combat the current enemy.
“The Nigerian military is well trained for the kind of war that it is presently engaged. Even before the advent of terrorism, our training doctrine has factored in counter terrorism right from the beginning. It’s only that the intensity may differ but everybody has knowledge of counter terrorism operations. It’s just that it’s only now that we are practising it in reality”, he told his audience in Abuja.
Also concerning hardware and equipment, the Defence Spokesperson said “be sure that it is incremental but you would see them when they are in action.” He debunked allegations of corruption and human rights abuses being levied against the military saying such are only capable of demoralising those engaged in securing the territorial integrity of the nation.
“Those series of allegations of corruption are unfounded, the series of allegations of cowardice are rather demoralising and other forms of insinuations in various forms only tend to give the impression the Nigerian armed forces is not capable of managing the situation.
“Unfortunately, this has remained the source for the international community that held us in very high esteem to begin to have a rethink. But the Nigerian armed forces has not been sleeping, we have been available in putting our expertise at the service of other nations. We have more of this in which we can put into the disposal of our country at as time like this and all we would need are encouragement of our fellow countrymen and their understanding.
“We can only assure them that we mean well. The officers that are put in charge of these men are trained to be leaders. We should let them do the job in times like this. The integrity of everybody is at stake, and the time has come when we should rather reduce the level of accusations that are meant to demoralise and discourage.”
Olukolade said the goal of Nigerian military and security forces at the moment “is to deny the terrorists the resources they need to continue to hold our citizens to ransom. We want to defeat them so decisively that every Nigerian can live in peace and be able to pursue his economic and social activities.
“We want to counter terrorism to the point that their coordination and their ability their future effort to destabilize and cause instability in our country will be negligible or non-existent. We also want to ensure that haven the military will continue to contribute to the development and progress of our country’s democratic state.”
He warned Nigerians and the media not to fall in for the propaganda of the enemy concerning the exploits of boko haram saying that many attacks being staged by the group in recent times are only a sign of their desperation in the face of losing operating spaces.
“The truth about recent attacks by boko haram is that all the places that they thought were their bases have been taken over by the military and so out of desperation, they are scattering everywhere. What they are doing is like a last battle for them.
“There had been occasions when the terrorists were reported to be using helicopters in their attacks whereas it was the Nigerian military helicopter that was flying to attack the rebels.
“Nonetheless, we are still committed to securing the civilian population at whatever cost. We are still committed in ensuring that we degrade their ability to continue their activity and eventually eliminate them”, he declared.
While declining to give details, Olukolade said Chibok Girls will be rescued and that it was not true that after securing Sambisa Forest, boko haram militants re-took it from the military.
He stated that “the Sambisa issue is strategic. We are not clearly out of Sambisa as I am talking to you. We are in Sambisa and we are in places contiguous to it”
“Sambisa Forest is over 6,000 square kilometres. It is not true that the place was re-taken by boko haram. There is freedom of movement in Nigeria and so, people move about freely. Do you know that there are village settlements and communities in the Sambisa Forest and that is another limitation to bombing?”
Olukolade reiterated “that no portion of this country is available for terrorists to occupy. If they appear to be doing so, it is just a joke. With respect to this location, everything is being done to ensure that everywhere in Nigeria is safe and secure. “
Concerning the recent report by Amnesty International indicting the military of violating human rights of citizens in the North East, he said “our team of investigators are already going round, calling people to assist them. They have invited officials of AI to help them verify what they presented in the report. I know that they are working frantically to produce their report and they are not leaving anything untouched but we hope that those who made those allegations equally have the level of respect for that body to tell our investigators what they know.”
Early in her remarks, the National Cordinator of Inigerian Initiative urged security agencies and media to be partners in national development and be seen as working towards the same goal.
She said: “we should be wary of individuals and groups that may have their own selfish agenda and want to scuttle our national development by debitating squabbling and devastating selfish interest.”