The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has hailed the Nigerian military for its patriotism and sacrifice for the unity and peace of the country, urging all citizens to support the troops who are battling the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
The Minister, who gave the commendation on Saturday when he led 33 local and foreign journalists on a tour of some of the liberated towns in Borno State, which is the epicentre of the insurgency, also hailed the Borno State Government, which has kick-started a massive reconstruction project in the liberated towns.
”Nigerians are very proud of you for your sacrifice and love of country,” Alhaji Mohammed said while addressing troops in Bama, one of the towns most affected in the violent campaign by the terrorists. ”We’ll tell Nigerians of your heroics and sacrifice.”
The Minister, who said the civilian part of the war on terrorism is missing, assured that the Federal Government will ensure that the military’s efforts are complemented by all Nigerians through the launch of a massive nationwide campaign to sensitize and enlist the support of all Nigerians for the war, and by bridging the information gap between the military and the media.
He said apart from fighting the insurgency, the military is also saddled with the enormous responsibility of winning the peace as well as the humanitarian burden.
While in Bama, he also visited the camp for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), where he gave words of encouragement to the IDPs, who include young children, women and old men whom he called ”the usual victims of the war they know little or nothing about”.
In Konduga, along the over 70-km stretch from Maiduguri to Bama, the Minister, who was accompanied by the Borno State Deputy Governor, inspected the construction work going on in the devastated town where, like Bama, not a single house is occupied by the original residents who have either been displaced or killed.
He saw thousands of blocks that have been freshly molded, newly-roofed buildings and some people who were brought in from outside the town to help clean it up and prepare it for the return of the original residents who survived the Boko Haram ceaseless attacks.
In Maiduguri, he commended the Borno State Government for its efforts to ease the pains and sufferings of the affected population, which has seen Gov. Kashim Shettima establish the Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, headed by Engineer Baba Gana Umara.
Alhaji Mohammed told the Governor that the visit was to enable him and the accompanying journalists to see, first hand, the scale of devastation that the Boko Haram terrorists left behind and the successes achieved by the military, with a view to better telling Nigerians how the war on terrorism is progressing.
He said the journalists who have seen the devastation in the liberated towns would show more restraint in their reporting and be better placed to write on the insurgency from an informed position, while anyone who has visited the affected areas ”will be more careful in beating the drums of war”.
The Minister disclosed that the Governor told him, during their meeting, that the state government would commence the rebuilding of the first batch of 1,000 houses in Bama on January 2016. He commended Gov. Shettima for combining his efforts at alleviating the effects of the insurgency with the usual challenges of governance.
For his part, Gov. Shettima expressed his happiness at the visit, saying not once since the war on terrorism started in 2009 had a Minister of Information visited the affected areas.
”We have had Ministers of Information who have been speaking about Boko Haram, including one who went to the media to cast aspersion on us last year. However, since the Boko Haram crisis began in 2009, no Minister of Information ever visited Borno State to source first hand information and see ground realities until this 5th Day of December, 2015, that we have before us Alhaji Lai Mohammed,” he said.
The Minister had earlier on visited the Command and Control Centre of the war on terrorism at the Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri, where he was received by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, as well as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai. Gen. Olonisakin briefed him on the efforts being made by the military to meet the December 2015 deadline set by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He also visited the headquarters of the 7 Division, where he was received by the Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Y.M. Abubakar, who also accompanied him on the tour of the liberated areas.