By Tunde Adetunji , Abuja
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Buratai, has given troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in the northeast 40 days to capture the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group, Abubakar Shekau.
A statement signed late Friday in Abuja by Army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Sani Kukasheka Usman, said Buratai gave the order to the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.Gen Ibrahim Attahiru.
The statement reads:”The Chief of Army Staff, Nigerian Army, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, has directed the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, to capture Abubakar Shekau, the so-called and self-styled leader of Boko Haram terrorists group, dead or alive.
“The Theatre Commander has further been directed to do so within 40 days. He is to employ all arsenal at the disposal of the Theatre Command to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria.
“The general public is please requested to also assist and volunteer information that would lead to the accomplishment of this task.”
The military had several times in the past claimed it had killed Shekau, only for the Boko Haram leader to later show up in videos mocking either the military or the nation’s top officials.
On August 23, 2016, the Army spokesman, Sani Kukasheka Usman, had issued a statement announcing that Shekau was inflicted with “fatal injury” in a major air strike on Boko Haram’s location in the dreaded Sambisa Forest.
Sani said at the time that the bombardment was carried out while the Boko Haram leader was leading his group in performing the Friday prayers at a secret location called Tayye in the heart of the vast forest.
The military had by that time too repeatedly claimed credit for killing Shekau. But the sect denounced the claims each time saying its leader remained alive.
The military, however, insisted that the original Abubakar Shekau had long been killed, and that the so-called Abubakar Shekau said to be alive was a made-up character.
Also, on March 28 this year, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had in a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, after which he reassured Nigerians that the army would soon apprehend Shekau.
Dan-Ali said: “If you have had the opportunity to go to Sambisa (forest in Borno), you will know that Boko Haram has been defeated, go and see what is happening in Sambisa.
“We have dominated the whole stronghold where they used to be, there is where we call ‘camp zairo’ where their spiritual and their strong headquarters that they were using as communication base was destroyed and as at the same time occupied by our men of the armed forces.
“So, I believe it’s just a matter of time, it took America about seven to 10 years to get Bin Laden so we will get Shekau as soon as possible.
“I told you before now, the spiritual headquarters has been ransacked and vandalized. He (Shekau) is on the run, so he may be hiding in one of the enclaves of Sambisa forest that we are dominating.
“We have opened up the place; we are using it as a training area whereby the army engineers will open roads. We shall be patrolling and be ransacking that forest for the whereabouts of Shekau.”