Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has said that the name Shekau may be fake.
Abubakar Shekau is widely recognised as the leader of insurgent sect, Boko Haram and has evaded capture several times.
He has been pronounced dead on many occasions, but always resurfaced in new audio or video clips.
In an interview with The Nation, Mohammed was asked to comment on the militant leader and he said: “You know my understanding of Shekau? Shekau may not be a real name. If you kill one Shekau today, there are hundreds that come to that place.
“For me, Shekau as a person is a symbol of insurgency. Now, whether he is dead or not, I think it is a mute point. What is important, are we wining insurgency or not? The answer is yes.”
Mohammed also explained the delay behind the release of the Chibok school girls, who have been in captivity for three years now.
“I think it is quite unfortunate that when people talk about the Boko Haram insurgency, the focus is always on the missing Chibok girls, and every effort of government in combatting this deadly insurgency is often measured against the return or otherwise of the Chibok girls,” he said.
“The Boko Haram insurgency, unfortunately, is not just about the missing Chibok girls alone. Every day, our gallant soldiers risk their lives to ensure that a final closure is put on the Boko Haram insurgency. There is no doubt that the missing Chibok girls have captured the attention of the entire world, and we make no attempt to belittle or treat the issue of the missing girls with any disrespect or that it is only a small part of the big picture.
“That is not what we are saying. What we are saying is that the return of the Chibok girls is a part of a very comprehensive approach to putting behind us the Boko Haram insurgency. And it is not correct to say that the government has abandoned either the search for these missing girls or that we have abandoned the dialogue for their release.
“Evidence that we have not abandoned the search for them is the fact that only recently, you can see that the military conducted its firearm tournament in the dreaded Sambisa Forest. That is to show you what we have done to ensure that Boko Haram people have no stronghold at all. I remember that prior to our coming into office, a total of 14 local government areas out of 20 in Borno State were under the effective control of Boko Haram.
“And by this, we mean these were local government areas where they were not just present but they had their government there, they appointed tax officers and emirs. They had their own judiciary and they did similar things in parts of Adamawa and Yobe. Today, they do not have any foothold in any area in the North East. For us, we take this as very big achievement.
“Anybody who is familiar with insurgency will know that insurgency is not something that you finish overnight. Countries like Columbia and other parts of the world that had witnessed more than 40 to 50 years of insurgency will testify to this. But you continue to engage and at the same time you continue to improve your military capacity and you continue to reintegrate into the society people who had been held hostage.”