by Isi Esene
The Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, has addressed a press conference in Abuja denying widespread reports that Boko Haram killed as many as 2,000 people in the Borno town of Baga.
Olukolade who addressed journalists at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja on Monday said all available evidence put the number of casualties at nothing more than 150 people – these, according to him, includes members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect who were killed during the attack.
“From all available evidences, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 in the interim. This figure includes many of the terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of their attack and battle with troops,” he said.
Read the full text of his speech below:
Gentlemen of the press, as you might be aware, there was another terror attack on the town of Baga in Borno state last week which left a number of people dead. Following that unfortunate attack, a lot of speculations and conjectures have been peddled by a section of the press particularly the on-line media regarding the casualty rate.
Some claimed that over a thousand people were killed while others wrote with certainty that 2000 people lost their lives in that singular attack.
Without any doubt, terrible atrocities have been committed against innocent Nigerians in Baga by the rampaging terrorists who attacked and have been operating in the town since 3 January 2015. Necessary actions are being taken to put an end to the activities of the terrorists and restore law and order to the community.
To this end, a lot of covert operations including surveillance activities which recorded series aerial photographs are ongoing in that vicinity. It is however necessary to inform Nigerians in the interim that the exercise so far have not corroborated the report on the casualty rate which was put at 2000 deaths. From all available evidences, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 in the interim. This figure includes many of the terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of their attack and battle with troops.
It should be noted that Baga and the neighbouring towns have been under series of attacks and harassment by terrorists. In the course of this, many residents have left, leaving the population in the town almost seriously depleted. Many were also able to escape while the terrorists’ battle with troops lasted. The figure given by sources who claim to be eye witnesses must be an extremely exaggerated estimate.
Unfortunately, this figure is now being bandied about in a section of the media as if it has been authenticated. It cannot be true. It is pertinent to once again urge the media to be circumspect in adopting casualty figures especially the ones given to them by the so-called eye witness, who in most cases, are influenced by their own perspectives.
In any case, this is no time to debate about casualty figures or number of deaths as the life of any Nigerian is important. Much as the intention which could be with the aim of drawing attention to the atrocities being committed by terrorists group in Nigeria, is most welcome, the need for factual presentation of the situation is equally vital.
In case the aim of this misinformation is to further the design of those bent on discrediting the government and the military, all well-meaning people should consider it as a disservice to humanity. It is important to remind those who are adept at spewing falsehood or exaggerating situations with intent to embolden the terrorists and diminish the efforts of the security forces, that their actions are inimical to the safety of the innocent Nigerians who have borne the brunt of the terrorist attacks in our country.
The tendency to celebrate the occasional setbacks while downplaying the efforts and successes at containing the terrorists is unfair and very unfortunate. It is noteworthy that many international bodies are being misled in their interpretation of the situation owing to sensational headlines and stories.
The Defence Headquarters wishes to reiterate its earlier assurance that the military has not given up on Baga or any part of the country where terrorists are marauding.
Appropriate plans, men and resources are presently being mobilized to address the situation. We want reassure Nigerians that no portion of Nigeria’s territory has been or will be conceded to terrorists.