The Federal Government says Boko Haram insurgents and their Islamic State of West Africa Province allies have changed their strategy, targeting Christians and Christian villages to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, raised the alarm at a media briefing on Thursday in Abuja.
Mohammed said: “Recall that Boko Haram insurgents didn’t use to discriminate between Christians and Muslims when they carried out their attacks in the past.
“Churches and mosques, Christians and Muslims were attacked without discrimination.
“When they targeted motor parks, the religion, gender, ethnicity or political leaning of the victims didn’t matter, as long as they inflicted the maximum damage to lives and property.
“But in the wake of a renewed onslaught by our tireless military against Boko Haram and their ISWAP allies in recent times, the insurgents have apparently changed their strategy: They have started targeting Christians and Christian villages for a specific reason, which is to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos.
“Apparently, they have realised how emotive and divisive religion can be, when exploited by unscrupulous persons.”
The Minister noted that the insurgents, who deluded themselves as Muslims, were nothing more than “blood-thirsty, rapacious killers who subscribe to no religion”.
Mohammed stressed they were deliberately targeting Christians to sow the seed of confusion between Islam and Christianity.
The Minister buttressed the government’s position with the attack on a Christian village, Kwarangulum, near Chibok, and the killing of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Lawan Andimi.
He also cited the incidence of the killing of NRopvil Daciya Dalep, a student who was also a member of the Church of Christ in Nations, and the killing of 11 Christians on Christmas Eve.
Mohammed said some had misinterpreted the attacks to insinuate a systematic campaign to persecute Christians in the country.
He added: “This is absurd and very unfair to the men and women who are daily battling the insurgents.
“The truth is that, having run out of options in their battle against Nigeria, the insurgents are desperate to stay relevant, to stay in the news, hence their cowardly and senseless strategy targeting Christians as part of their increasing resort to the use of Guerilla tactics.”
The Minister appealed to religious leaders, both Christians and Muslims, not to fall for the desperate move by the insurgents or allow them to divide the country and weaken the resolve to deal the insurgents the mortal blow.
He also canvassed for their unalloyed support to the military, which he said had also upped the ante against the insurgents.
Mohammed said: “The resort to the increasing use of Guerrilla tactics by the insurgents is a sign of weakness on their part.
“Contrary to the belief in certain quarters, these insurgents are getting weaker by the day, thanks to the gallantry of our men and women in uniform.
“We therefore, appeal to our leaders, especially religious leaders, not to fall for the antics of Boko Haram and ISWAP, who are trying to divide us along religious lines by targeting Christians for attacks.
“This is the last desperate move by a decimated and disillusioned band of killers and psychopaths to stay relevant amid constant decimation by our gallant troops.
“We have what it takes to come together and foil this divisive and satanic strategy.
“We appeal to Nigerians to support the military as it moves to decapitate the insurgents.
“Second-guessing the military at this time is like playing into the hands of Boko Haram.”
Mohammed stressed that the renewed vigour by the military in their war against the insurgents was paying off, judging by the victories they recorded in recent times.
He listed the successes to include the killing of top ISWAP leaders in two separate meeting venues at Marte Local Government in Borno State and a successful attack against the leadership of Boko Haram in Alafa Yagayaga in the same state earlier in the month.
The Minister also cited the killing of Boko Haram Chief Judge in Lake Chad and the in-fighting in the leadership cadre of Boko Haram, which he said was a fallout of the pressure on the insurgents by the military
He also identified the continued foiling by the military of many attacks by Boko Haram, continued decimation of the insurgents across the North East and the inability of the insurgents to hold any territory as it was in the past.
He said apart from fighting insurgents, the military had also continued to carry out developmental programmes in the North East as part of efforts to win the hearts and minds of the populace.
Mohammed said the military had engaged in road and bridge construction and repair, and provision of potable water and scanning of roads and highways to detect planted IEDs and keep the roads safe
He said the military also engaged in teaching in schools where there is shortage of teachers and provided educational materials, including books, to schools.