The December deadline given to the Nigerian army to defeat Boko Haram terrorists might be delayed, according to the Abuja-based Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC). Air Commodore Yusuf Anas, CCC's executive secretary, said the deadline "is not sacrosant" and should be reviewed.
The deadline was issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed his administration would end terrorism in the country. Shortly after taking office in May, the president relocated the military headquarters to Maiduguri, Boko Haram's birthplace and centre of the group's insurgency . He also announced that a new Nigeria-led task force – consisting of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin – was ready to take over in the ongoing regional fight against the terrorists.
Although the antiterrorism fight has scored some success, some analysts criticised Buhari for the December deadline he set arguing that more time was needed to defeat Boko Haram, which has killed between 17,000 and 20,000 people since 2009. The group was deemed the world's deadliest terror group, surpassing its ally the Islamic State (Isis), earlier in November. Nigeria has become the world's third most terrorised country after more than 7,000 people were killed in attacks blamed on Boko Haram and the Fulani militants in 2014.
Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists?
Boko Haram ( renamed Iswap) fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of Sharia law in the country.
The group declared an Islamic caliphate in Gwoza, along the Cameroon border, in August 2014.
Boko Haram has raided several cities in the north of the country in a bid to take control of more territory. Three states − Adamawa, Borno and Yobe − have been under a state of emergency since May 2013, due to Boko Haram's attacks.
"The timeline on when to stop the insurgents from activating sleeper cells and detonating bombs on soft targets in any part of the country, especially in the front-line states, should not be sacrosanct," Anas was quoted by local press as saying during a media briefing in Abuja.
He explained that although was not wrong to give the military headlines, targets "might be unrealistic". He added: "This submission is predicated on the fact that asymmetric warfare, which the Boko Haram is prosecuting against the Nigeria, is not such that can be easily be stamped out by the Armed Forces.
"The issue the centre is trying to raise is that the military should not be vilified in the event that at the end of December we still experience pockets of terrorist acts in some parts of the country."
Boko Haram will not have freedom of movement by December
Anas made the remarks days after army spokesperson Colonel Sani Usman told IBTimes UK the army is confident Boko Haram will not have freedom of movement and action by December. He said: "We are fighting the terrorists and we have a presidential mandate to make sure they are defeated by December. By the end of the year, we have to make sure that Boko Haram will not have freedom of movement and action. In terms of the operation, we have been succeeding."
In recent months, the Nigerian government has been claiming that Boko Haram is surrendering, but the group has disputed the claims in an audio message. The voice identified in the broadcast is thought to belong to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, who was rumoured to have been replaced after his conspicuous absence from the group's recent propaganda videos.
Meanwhile, the group has continued to carry out deadly attacks in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Chad and Niger declared a state of emergency in areas affected by attacks blamed on Boko Haram.
The two countries, as well as Cameroon and Senegal, banned the burqa – an Islamic veil worn by some Muslim women – fearing it could be used by terrorists to disguise explosive and weapons as well as their identity before an attack.
In the latest attack blamed on Boko Haram, at least 18 people were killed in a village of Gogone, Niger, along the border with Nigeria.