Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s factional leader, on Wednesday released new audio in which he spoke about Nigeria’s new Service Chiefs, saying they can’t do as their predecessors have done in the war against insurgency in the Northeast.
In the nine minutes, 56 seconds-long video, Shekau said he heard about the retirement of the previous service chiefs and their replacement with new ones but he said his message was to call them to Islam.
President Muhammadu Buhari announced the replacement of the military chiefs on Tuesday saying he accepted their immediate resignation and retirement although he gave no reason for that.
The surprising announcement was, however, made after several calls from governors and members of the National Assembly for the replacement of the longest-serving military chiefs since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule due to “underperformance”.
Insurgents have continued attacks in the Northeast and some parts of northwest despite repeated claims by the government that the terrorist group has been decimated and technically defeated.
The retired service chiefs have also faced criticisms regarding the persistence of kidnapping for ransom, banditry and other criminal activities especially in the Northwest where Boko Haram is steadily growing.
Major-General Leo Irabor has taken over as the new Chief of Defence Staff and head of the military while Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru is the new Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral A.Z. Gambo became the Chief of Naval Staff, and Air-Vice Marshal I.O. Amao is the new Chief of Air Staff.
There are high expectations from Nigerians that the new military chiefs could bring change, particularly to the fight against different factions of Boko Haram including the one Shekau is leading – Jama’atu Ahlussunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (JAS).
In the new audio, Shekau mentioned the names and the roles of the new service chiefs and called them to repent because they can’t do anything to destroy his terror gang.
“Leo Irabor, the head of the military, you should have sympathy for yourself, repent and convert to Islam. There is nothing you can do,” Shekau said.
He said Maj-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru should not deceive himself because he has a Muslim background.
“Even if you are Muslim but you conduct polytheistic practices, you are no longer a Muslim,” Shekau said.
A source familiar with the activities of Boko Haram told HumAngle that members of the group are likely to conduct major operations to send a message to the new service chiefs that they are ready to fight.
With major military operations against the terrorists targeting ISWAP, the source said the Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram may likely have a surprising resurgence.