Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Nigerians continued to express shock and disbelief on Saturday after a full picture began to emerge that an attack by Boko Haram last Sunday killed over 100 soldiers with hundreds still unaccounted for.
At first, local media reported that the attack in the village of Metele, in the northeastern state of Borno, had left 44 soldiers dead. That number quickly escalated to 70.
By Saturday, it became obvious that the death toll was higher than expected and local media were flooded with reports that at least 118 soldiers had been murdered by Boko Haram.
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The government mostly remained silent for days, but as anger continued to escalate and opposition lambasted the party in power, President Muhammadu Buhari broke his silence on Saturday and issued a belated statement.
The presidency said Mr Buhari has expressed “deep shock over the killing of military personnel in Metele village of Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists”, and assured at the same time that “immediate measures” are being taken to ensure that the loopholes which led to the fatalities are blocked once and for all.
Mr President said his administration remains ever committed and focused on the security of military personnel and other citizens.
According to President Buhari, “No responsible Commander-in-Chief would rest on his oars or fold his hands to allow terrorists to endanger the lives of its military personnel and other citizens. Our loyal forces have proved their strength over the terrorists and we are ready to give them all the needed support in terms of equipment and manpower to succeed in ending the renewed threat. In the coming days, I am engaging the Military and Intelligence Chiefs in extensive discussions on the next steps we shall be taking.”
The President noted that fighting terrorism has taken a global dimension, which necessitates international collaboration among states facing similar security challenges.
President Buhari reassured Nigerians of his continued commitment to their security and of his efforts to sustain the momentum in the previous significant successes recorded against the terrorists.
He, however, advised Nigerians against making a political capital out of national tragedy, stressing that members of the armed forces are one family who are commonly committed to the security and safety of all Nigerians.
But opposition has used the massacre of soldiers to paint Mr Buhari as a liar who claimed two years ago that the militants had been defeated.