Boko Haram "Pushed Out In A Month" - Goodluck Jonathan BBC Interview

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said he hopes that all territory seized by Islamist militant group Boko Haram will be retaken within a month.
"They are getting weaker and weaker by the day," he told the BBC.

But the president - who faces elections in a week - admitted the response to the insurgents' initial advance in north-east Nigeria had been too slow.

The army has claimed recent victories over Boko Haram in a conflict that has killed thousands since 2012.

Backed by neighbouring countries Chad, Niger and Cameroon, Nigeria's army has recaptured many towns and villages from the militants.

President Jonathan's government has been heavily criticised for its failure to end the insurgency.
The government has made similar claims in the past about defeating or driving back Boko Haram within a specific period - but these have not been borne out by events.

The president postponed February's election by six weeks, saying the armed forces needed more time to secure the country.

Abducted girls 'alive'

In an exclusive interview with the BBC's Will Ross in the capital Abuja, President Jonathan said: "I'm very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories that hitherto have been in their [Boko Haram's] hands."

Earlier this week, the Nigerian army said the militants no longer controlled any urban centres in Yobe and Adamawa - two of the three worst-affected states in the north-east.

Recently, the military also pledged that Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram, would soon be freed.

However, President Jonathan admitted in the interview that the authorities had "under-estimated" the militants and had initially lacked the resources to fight them.

Analysis: Will Ross, BBC News, Abuja

President Jonathan may have faced huge criticism at home and abroad for his handling of the insecurity in the north-east but he seems unwilling to concede any mistakes have been made.

Mr Jonathan clearly inherited a military beset by corruption and one which for decades has demonstrated an extraordinary inability to build up a decent array of weaponry - hence the recent scramble for military hardware including helicopters and tanks as well as the involvement of troops from neighbouring countries.

His assessment of the Boko Haram crisis is perhaps a little closer to the mark than the euphoric PR statements that are sent out on behalf of Nigeria's military suggesting this is a won war.

Yes, some jihadists have been killed in battle, he told me, but many have fled - either over the borders or into Sambisa Forest and the Mandara Mountains, whilst some he says have melted back into towns.

They may no longer control much territory but the Boko Haram crisis grew too deep to disappear in a hurry.

Ashes and death in recaptured town
Mr Jonathan said that newly acquired military equipment, as well as co-operation with neighbouring countries, had helped push the jihadists out of towns and villages.

The president also said the authorities would continue the search for the 219 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok by Boko Haram last year.

The interview comes just days before Nigerians vote in presidential elections. Despite many analysts predicting the most fiercely contested poll since the end of military rule in 1999, Mr Jonathan said: "I'll surely win."

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