By Aminu Abubakar and Aderogba Obisesan ,AFP
KANO/LAGOS, Nigeria — As Nigeria rings in 2016, the ever-present threat of violence by Boko Haram hangs heavy over Africa’s most populous country, despite official claims that the battle against the Islamist group has been “technically” won. After setting a Dec. 31 deadline to rid his country of Boko Haram, President Muhammadu Buhari told the BBC: “I think technically we have won the war because people are going back into their neighborhoods.” In his New Year message to the nation, Buhari commended the military for “significantly curtailing the insurgency” but acknowledged there was “still a lot of work to be done in the area of security”. “This government will not consider the matter concluded until the terrorists have been completely routed and normality restored to all parts of the country that have been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency,” he said. But despite the official assurances, violence and fear continue to stalk several major cities in Nigeria’s troubled northeast. Late last month, more than 50 people were killed in a 48-hour wave of attacks in the mainly Muslim region that were blamed on the jihadists. Boko Haram has resorted to suicide bombers — many of them young children — to wage its war for an independent Islamic state in the country.
The extremist group has also spread its bombing campaign to neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. “Boko Haram is still a big threat despite the government’s claim that the group has been weakened,” said Ibrahim Kulo, 47, a resident of the violence-wracked northeastern city of Maiduguri. “One cannot venture 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside the city without the fear of Boko Haram ambush. We live in real danger of Boko Haram,” he told AFP. Sanusi Ahmad, 33, voiced similar fears. “Boko Haram remains a threat. I don’t believe it when the government says they have defeated Boko Haram,” said the resident of the northern city of Kano. “I agree that the military has made substantial progress in the fight against the group,” he told AFP.