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Nigeria Military on ‘High Alert’ Over Boko Haram Threat

FILE - Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, Nigeria's top military spokesman, speaks during a press conference on the abducted school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014.

FILE - Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, Nigeria's top military spokesman, speaks during a press conference on the abducted school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014.

Nigeria’s military spokesman says national army soldiers have been placed on high alert in Maiduguri and its surrounding areas following reports that violent Islamist Boko Haram militants have taken over nearby towns and soon would attack the northern city. The reports are creating panic among residents about the alleged imminent Boko Haram attack.

But, Major Gen. Chris Olukolade said “alarmists” are to blame for the panic among the population, following what he said were false reports being peddled, which were intended to create tension.

“Most of these claims are intended to be alarmist and to cause fear in the public, but we are not taking it lightly,” said Olukolade. “We have firmed up and upgraded all the defense arrangements around Maiduguri city and the environs to ensure that terrorists and their allies don’t find it easy to assault that town.”

Olukolade said the military is not dismissing the reports, despite what he said is an attempt by some people to create chaos.

“The alert state in the town has been heightened among the security agencies, as well as the community. There is a high degree of alertness at the moment, which we believe is sufficient to frustrate any such evil plan,” he said.

Olukolade declined to outline a potential military strategy, which could include a troop increase to counter the Boko Haram security threat in some of the northern towns.

“The security arrangement is not dependent entirely on the number of troops, but on many factors, some of which I shouldn’t be disclosing, but that is not ruled out as well,” he said. “We believe that the arrangement in totality, and in consult with the entire populace, is sufficient to hold and frustrate that evil plan.”

Some prominent leaders in the north have called for the military to bolster security in Maiduguri since they said nearby towns have been overrun by the militants. They contend the militants could attack Maiduguri if the military fails to demonstrate a heavy presence in the city.

Olukolade called on Maiduguri residents not to succumb to fear.

“The people have no cause to fear, even while maintaining their already heightened level of vigilance. Lest the vigilance turn into fear as the terrorists and their cohorts intend by spreading this kind of information,” said Olukolade. “This is not the first time such alarmists’ information is being circulated, but this time around it has been heightened. We are not dismissing it entirely.”

Critics say the military has failed in its mandate to protect the population from rampant attacks often carried out by Boko Haram militants. They argue that the military is losing the war against the militants.

But, Olukolade rejected the accusation as being without merit. He said the military has acquired new equipment, which is helping in its effort to combat the militants.

“On an incremental level, we are improving our armament and stock, and a number [of weapons] have arrived, and they are being deployed, and so much more are being expected," he said. "And as they come in we deploy them to the mission. We are already seeing some of them having effect in the sense that the drive to degrade the terrorists has continued.”