Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, has commended Ibrahim Attahiru, theatre commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, for “coming very close” to achieving the directive to capture Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram sect.
On July 21, Buratai asked Attahiru to lead the operation to capture Shekau dead or alive within 40 days.
But from then until August 30 when the deadline elapsed, Boko Haram became more ferocious.
TheCable had highlighted the attacks within that period and most of the causalities recorded.
However, Sani Usman, director of army public relations, has disclosed that based on a request by Attahiru, Buratai has approved an extension of the deadline.
Usman did not state how long the army chief gave his men to nab the militant leader.
“Although the leader (of Boko Haram) has not been captured, the COAS noted with satisfaction the zeal and determination with which the directive was pursued,” Usman said in a statement.
“Within the same period, 82 of the Boko Haram terrorists were eliminated. Therefore, the commander was very close to achieving the directive.
“The theatre commander has asked for the extension of the deadline and it has been granted by the COAS.
“Given deadlines and extensions are strategic means of focusing troops’ efforts in the theatre.
Currently the main thrust of the operations is the decapitation of all the remaining terrorists’ factions within the Nigerian territory.
“With this feat achieved, the relevance of Shekau is no longer of any consequence. The people of the NE (North East) and indeed all Nigerians are enjoined to be more confident of the Nigerian troops and go about their normal activities.”
Before Buratai’s directive, the army had on several occasions claimed that it had killed Shekau, but each time it pronounces him dead, the militant resurfaces in audio or video messages to not only debunk such claims but taunt the military.
In one of the videos, Shekau boasted saying: “Nothing will kill me until my days are over… I’m still alive. Some people asked you if Shekau has two souls. No, I have one soul, by Allah. It is propaganda that is prevalent. I have one soul. I’m an Islamic student. I’m the Islamic student whose seminary you burnt… I’m not dead.”