President Goodluck Jonathan shocked Nigerians on Sunday when he declared that he did not know if the leader of the dreaded sect, Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, was dead or alive.
The Joint Task Force, JTF, in Borno State, had said in a statement August 19 that Mr. Shekau might have died of gunshot wounds he received in an encounter with Force’s troops in one of their camps at Sambisa Forest on June 30.
However, Mr. Shekau appeared in a new video last week, claiming that he was not dead.
He also claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed several civilians on September 17 in Benishek, Borno State.
The military vowed to investigate the claims as well as the authenticity of the video.
Mr. Jonathan, our Commander-in-Chief, who receives briefing from security agencies daily, repeatedly said during the media chat that he could not say if the Boko Haram leader had actually died.
“I don’t know whether he (Shekau) is dead or alive,” the President, said in a response to a question tweeted to the panel of interviewers but read to him.
“I don’t know whether Abubakar Shekau is dead or alive. I don’t know him. I have never met him. You journalists know more than us, “some of you always talk to them (Boko Haram).”
Mr Jonathan noted that the Boko Haram saga worsened because it was not “properly handled in the beginning.”
On the killing of some students at the College of Agriculture in Yobe State, on Sunday, the president debunked the claim that such acts were due to widespread poverty in the country.
“Can poor people buy AK47?” he queried.
The president said some of those arrested in the uncompleted building in the Apo District of Abuja where security forces killed no fewer than seven squatters, were member of the Boko Haram sect. According to him they confessed to terrorism.
He said the crisis in Plateau State “is more of ethnic rivalry about who controls land, but Boko Haram is different.”
Mr. Jonathan assured the people that his government would try its best to protect Nigerians in order to forestall the type of incident that occurred at a Kenya Mall recently where over 60 persons were killed by suspected Al Shabaab insurgents.
He said, “We will try our best to ensure Kenyan mall attack is not repeated in Nigeria. If the drum is changing we must change steps. I assure Nigerians we’ll continue to do what is required to protect them.”
Mr Jonathan said there would be no elaborate ceremony on Tuesday to mark Nigeria’s 53rd Independence Anniversary, because government had already planned the Centenary ceremony next year, to celebrate the amalgamation of the defunct protectorates in the country.
He added that the decision to have a low-keyed Independence celebration was not because of insecurity, insisting that most parts of the country were now safe.
According to him, “We are not going to do any elaborate ceremony until 2014″…the low key celebrations are not because of security.
“Most parts of this country are safe now for any celebration, even in Maiduguri.”