The Defence authorities have faulted the claim that over 2,000 people were killed in the Boko Haram attack on Baga, the headquarters of the Multi-National Joint Task Force on January 3.
The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said this during a press briefing in Abuja on Monday. He said that 150 people including a large number of members of the Boko Haram sect were killed in the confrontation.
Olukolade explained that many of the residents of Baga and the nearby communities had fled the area because of incessant attacks on their towns by the Boko Haram sect.
He added that many of the residents of the community were able to flee the area while the battle between the soldiers and the insurgents lasted.
Olukolade said that the figures being reported and attributed to eyewitnesses were exaggerated.
“…It is however necessary to inform Nigerians in the interim that the exercise so far has not corroborated the report on the casualty rate which was put at 2,000.
“From all available evidences, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 in the interim. This figure includes many of the terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of their attack and battle with troops.
“It should be noted that Baga and the neighbouring towns have been under a series of attacks and harassment by the terrorists. In the course of this, many residents have left, leaving the population in the town almost seriously depleted. Many were also able to escape while the terrorists’ battle with troops lasted.
“The figure given by sources who claim to be eyewitnesses must be an extremely exaggerated estimate. Unfortunately, this figure is now being bandied about in a section of the media as if it has been authenticated. It cannot be true,” he said
Olukolade said that the military had embarked on a lot of covert operations including aerial surveillance activities designed to prevent the terrorists from carrying out heinous acts against innocent Nigerians.
The Defence spokesman showed video clips of movement within and around Baga during the incidents.
Olukolade stressed that while it was important to report incidents that would bring out the acts perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect, such reports should be factual.
“In any case, this is no time to debate about casualty figures or number of deaths as the life of any Nigerian is important. Much as the intention which could be with the aim of drawing attention to the atrocities being committed by terrorists group in Nigeria is most welcome, the need for factual presentation of the situation is equally vital,” he added
The Defence spokesman said that the military had not given up on Baga or any other part of the country and was indeed making preparations to address the security challenge.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Power, Mohammed Wakil, on Wednesday said the Federal Government was more resolute than ever to tame the Boko Haram insurgency.
The minister also said President Goodluck Jonathan was saddened by the continuous killing of innocent Nigerians by the Boko Haram insurgents, adding that the Peoples Democratic Party was also pained by the savagery unleashed on the North-East by the terrorist group.
The minister said this shortly after he was received by some party chieftains, as thousands of supporters thronged to the Maiduguri International Airport.
Wakil, who said he was in the state to convey the sympathy and condolence of President Jonathan to the people, stated that the Presidency was deeply worried by the killings, including the Baga killings reported to have claimed about 150 lives.
He added that the PDP was most saddened by the Boko Haram insurgency which claimed many lives in the North-East.