Nigeria Leader Defends Army’s Role Against Boko Haram
The Nigerian president has defended the army’s efforts against Islamist militants in the north, after over 200 civilians died in attacks last week.Addressing recent criticism, President Goodluck Jonathan said the fight against Boko Haram “will improve”.
It comes after the governor of the worst affected state, Borno, called for more troops to be deployed to the area.
Boko Haram has been conducting a four-year campaign of violence to push for Islamic rule in northern Nigeria.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, President Jonathan criticised the governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, who recently stated that the Boko Haram militants were better armed and more motivated than the Nigeria military.
He also defended his decision to suspend the outspoken central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, suggesting it had nothing to do with the governor’s decision to expose corruption in the oil sector.
War of words
Mr Jonathan told reporters if the Borno state governor felt the military were not useful, he would pull them out of the state for a month. He then suggested it would become so unsafe that even the governor would not be able to stay there.
The BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos says this comment is likely to anger people who have had their lives turned upside down by the violence.
Witnesses complain that Boko Haram attacks have at times lasted for several hours without any response from the armed forces.
Governor Kashim Shettim called for reinforcements in the wake of a five-hour attack on the Nigerian border town of Bama last week. A week earlier, 106 people were killed by gunmen in a raid on the town of Izghe.
Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Borno state Senator Ali Ndume expressed outrage after the military forces failed to prevent a second attack on the town.
Mr Ndume said the state of emergency imposed last year by the government in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to end the insurgency was not working.
More than 245 people have been killed this year alone by suspected Islamists.
On the suspension of the central bank governor, Mr Jonathan said Lamido Sanusi had to step aside to allow an investigation into financial malpractice at the central bank.
But many Nigerians believe the real reason Mr Sanusi was suspended was because he had ruffled feathers by alleging that the state oil company had failed to account properly for $20bn worth of oil, says the BBC’s Will Ross.
The ex-bank governor was in the midst of presenting evidence to parliament, fuelling speculation that his suspension was an attempt to silence a whistleblower.
But the president denied this in his press conference, saying Mr Sanusi’s dismissal had “nothing to do with whistleblowing.”