By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east region are bandits and would be treated as such.
According to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, the President made the declaration while receiving Mr Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the Presidential Villa.
Buhari said the insurgents have been significantly degraded and the people of the region sensitized so much so that they no longer get recruited by the Boko Haramists on the guise of fighting for Islam.
“Boko Haram has been degraded, but its members are still a nuisance around Lake Chad and surrounding islands. That is why we are cooperating with Chad, Cameroon, Niger Republic, and other countries. We are also using the Air Force quite effectively. They are bandits, and we will continue to treat them as such,” Buhari told his guests.
The President said the government was concentrating on repairing damaged infrastructure, rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, securing their communities, so that they can return home.
He applauded the support of the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations, noting: “The situation of the displaced persons is very pathetic. Some children don’t know where their parents are, neither do they know where they come from.
“We are focusing on education and healthcare, along with rebuilding of infrastructure. The agency formerly under the leadership of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd) and now headed by Major-General Paul Tarfa (retd) is quietly making an impression. We are dedicating lots of resources to the area.”
Buhari disclosed that great progress has equally been made in disabusing the minds of people that the insurgency was religious.
Mr Maurer said Nigeria was the 5th largest operation of ICRC worldwide, and the organization would continue to render humanitarian action to people affected by violence.
On the recent killing of two officials in the North-east, he said: “We are shaken by the killing of our staff, but not discouraged. Humanitarian assistance should continue, and we applaud the hospitality of Nigeria.”
The ICRC President said relationship will be further strengthened with Nigeria, submitting that “the more we see activity from Nigerian authorities, the easier it is for us to add here and there.”