Nigeria is scaling up its military response to the Boko Haram insurgency and will secure the north-east, the acting president’s spokesman said, adding the search for oil workers abducted by suspected members of the jihadist group will go on.
Members of an oil prospecting team were kidnapped in the Lake Chad Basin region last Tuesday, prompting a rescue bid that left at least 37 dead including members of the team, rescuers from the military and vigilantes, officials said.
Three kidnapped members of the oil team later appeared in a video seen by Reuters.
The insurgency has killed 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million to flee in the last eight years with the frequency of attacks increasing in the last few months. At least 113 people have been killed by insurgents since June 1.
In a statement, the office of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said he had ordered the military to “scale up their efforts and activities” in Borno, the state worst hit by the insurgency, to “maintain a strong, effective control of the situation and secure lives and property”.
“The federal government of Nigeria is not only on top of the situation, but will define the end of these atrocities by both winning the war and winning the peace in the north-east,” said the emailed statement.
President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria on May 7 for medical leave in Britain for an unspecified ailment. He handed power to his deputy, Osinbajo, seeking to allay concerns of a void at the helm of Africa’s most populous nation.
The government and military have repeatedly said Boko Haram – which also carries out cross-border attacks in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger – was on the verge of defeat.
Buhari said in December Boko Haram’s base in Sambisa forest was captured.
The Sunday statement said Osinbajo ordered “continuation of search and rescue missions to locate and ensure the freedom of all remaining abducted persons” following the kidnapping of oil workers.
The state oil company has for more than a year surveyed what it says may be vast oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin as part of a bid to reduce its reliance on the southern Niger Delta energy hub, which last year was hit by militant attacks on oil facilities.