Nigeria At War With Boko Haram-Presidency

LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria's presidency on Friday said the country was at war

with Boko Haram, apparently backing off previous claims that the Islamist

rebels were on the run and desperate.
President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has been fiercely criticised

over its handling of the conflict, both for its inability to stop massive

attacks on defenceless civilians and for what some have described as mixed

and contradictory messages on the severity of the crisis.

Jonathan has termed the ongoing military offensive in Boko Haram's

northeastern stronghold a success and maintained that normality will be

restored to the embattled region by May.
On Friday, presidency spokesman Doyin Okupe told the private Channels

television station that the Boko Haram conflict was a “war situation”.

“We are dealing with a very, very serious enemy,” he said.

“We are engaged in a war that has been internationalised,” he added in an

apparent reference to Boko Haram's reported but unconfirmed presence in

neighbouring countries like Cameroon.
The conflict has killed thousands since 2009 but many argue the plight of

civilians in the northeast has worsened since the military began its

operation in May.
Since then, nearly 300,000 people have been displaced in the region,

according to the UN, and more than 1,500 people killed, according to the

UN and figures compiled by AFP.
“It is very difficult, very costly in terms of lives lost. But we will

overcome,” Okupe said. “We are in the dying phase of this insurgency.”

The defence ministry on Thursday said the insurgents were “desperate” to

escape Nigeria because of military pressure and would be “degraded towards

elimination shortly”.
Lawyer and human rights campaigner Jiti Ogunye criticised the government

for putting out mixed messages.
“The inconsistency and empty boastfulness of the government's timeline for

defeating Boko Haram is dispiriting and psychologically disorienting” for

those caught up in the violence, he told AFP.
Ogunye also condemned an unrealistic pledge made in January by Air Marshal

Alex Badeh after he was named chief of defence staff that Boko Haram would

be defeated by April.
The defence ministry later said Badeh's comment should not be interpreted

as a literal deadline.
“There is a big gap between the increasing carnage and the futile empty

assurances that are being given,” Ogunye said.
Boko Haram, declared a terrorist organisation by Nigeria and the United

States, has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria's

mainly Muslim north.



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