The military at the weekend dismissed the threat issued against President Muhammadu Buhari by the leader of Boko Haram insurgents, Abubakar Shekau, not to visit the North-east.
Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, told THISDAY that Buhari was free to visit any part of the North-east at any time as troops are on the ground all the time in the region to ensure his safety along with that of other Nigerians.
This is as the president yesterday condemned the insurgents' attacks on Garkida in Adamawa State at the weekend, and sympathised with the families of the victims.
The military also urged the international community to curb proliferation of arms and block the sources of funding for terrorists, saying that 75 per cent of illegal arms in Africa are in Nigeria, Congo, Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan.
Shekau, in a nine-minute video released last week, had mocked Buhari after his recent visit to Borno and warned him not to visit Maiduguri again or risked being attacked.
He also threatened the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Patami, for vowing to block the communication facilities of the insurgents.
Besides, he asked the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, whether he had become weary of leading the war against insurgency.
Buratai had in a letter to war commanders in the North-east at the weekend, congratulated them for their gallantry, stating that with their renewed vigour, the war would be won in a matter of days.
However, just about the time Buratai wrote the letter to the troops, the insurgents launched fresh attacks on Adamawa, burning police barracks, churches and the home of Buhari's classmate, Major-General Paul Tarfa (rtd).
However, Nwachukwu described Shekau as a rat moving from one hole to another.
He said: "Our president is free to go to anywhere in the North-east whenever he feels like. Our troops are dominating the ground.
"I have told you the major terrorist strategy is hit and run; target women, soft targets and take off. That was why I called Shekau a rat. He is running about, hiding himself in holes. He does not have what it takes to confront the armed forces of Nigeria."
He explained that Shekau and his terror group had become factionalised, depleted and defeated, adding that the armed forces cannot be cowed by terrorists' ranting.
"The Armed Forces of Nigeria cannot be brought to their knees. That's the truth. Boko Haram, having been defeated, I have told you why you must agree with me that Boko Haram has been depleted before they started fresh efforts to self-regenerate by embarking on recruitment drive.
"Between 2015, 2017 and 2018, Boko Haram was completely depleted; the leadership was in turmoil. That was why they were factionalised; that's why Shekau lost grip on the group and that was why Albanawi took over.
"That's why he was endorsed because Shekau couldn't deliver. Why was Albanawi deposed? It is simply because, he couldn't deliver. Why was Mamman Nuhu eliminated? He was eliminated because he was not delivering and as a matter of fact, he was even compromising.
"But the fact is that they could not meet the force of the armed forces of Nigeria," he added.
Nwachukwu said the group's ultimate ambition was to have a caliphate in Nigeria but the military frustrated the dream.
"Nigeria is not a ground for any terrorist caliphate. It's not happening. That's why we keep telling you that these guys are not holding any territory in Nigeria," he stated.
The defence spokesman also gave an insight into the location of Shekau and his gang.
"Where they are is in the Lake Chad Basin where they have surrounded themselves with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mines. What they do is hit and run.
"They hit soft targets to project themselves as being virile and potent. The strategy is to make themselves unreachable. We can conduct ground offensives to dislodge them and take over the place of course but what will be the outcome, there would be a lot of fatalities.
"They keep running in and out of the place, running across the border and running back. It is a hit-and-run kind of a thing. That was why I called Shekau a rat. He is running about, hiding himself in holes. He does not have what it takes to confront the armed forces of Nigeria," he said.
He also queried the sources of funding for terrorists, saying that the international community must as a matter of urgency interrogate terror financing.
He stated that West Africa must not allow global terrorism to take root in the sub-region.
"There is a turn of events in the North-east. We must not allow it as a nation. For global terrorism to come and project itself, to have a grip on our land, we must never allow it.
"As a sub-region, we must not allow global terrorism to come and establish its roots here. It must never be allowed. The international community must address the issue of arms proliferation.
"How can we cope with the fact that three quarters of illegal arms are in Africa? They are in Mali, Sudan and Nigeria. They are in Central African Republic; they are in Congo.
"These are issues that should be interrogated. We are talking about funding. Who is funding global terrorism? Who are those behind it? I told you that the situation in the North-east has taken a new turn because of the efforts of ISIS to save the face of global terrorism by coming to establish a root in West African sub-region," he said.
He called on the international community to pay urgent attention to the situation.
He added: "We need to look at these issues. When we look at the international level, efforts must be made to checkmate arms proliferation.
"We have made great efforts from the strategic perspective of our country, border closure, intensification of border monitoring and surveillance but what is the international community doing to prevent illegal acquisition, manufacturing and sales of weapons, light and small weapons and firearms?"
Buhari Condemns Attacks on Adamawa, Vows to Rout Boko Haram Soonest
Meanwhile, President Buhari at the weekend condemned Boko Haram attacks on Garkida in Adamawa State and sympathised with the families of the victims.
The president also vowed that "in the coming weeks, Nigerians would witness an aggressive campaign to rout Boko Haram once and for all."
Buhari, who said the federal government would not abandon any part of Nigeria to their fate, also claimed that Boko Haram's attacks on soft targets now are mere expressions of its frustrations.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, last night, said the president commended what he described as the gallantry of the members of the armed forces whom he said went after the insurgents and repelled the attacks.
The president also said the frequent attacks by the terrorists on innocent civilians in recent times were a mere ploy to portray themselves as strong and fool the public.
"These attacks on soft targets by the terrorists are obvious signs of frustration because my administration has significantly weakened Boko Haram's military capability to invade and hold Nigerian territory unchallenged.
"Our gallant forces deserve our appreciation for repelling the attackers but they must go beyond this point. They have our full support to go after the terrorists and have them pay a huge price. I want to assure the country that terrorists will continue to face the combined power of our military until they give up their mistaken ways.
"These occasional and episodic attacks on poor civilians by the terrorists are mere propaganda efforts to portray them as strong in order to fool the public into believing that they haven't been militarily weakened by our gallant troops," he said.
The president argued that since the advent of his administration, Boko Haram's plan to occupy Nigerian territories and hoist their flags had been frustrated.
He promised adequate funding for security and appealed to Nigerians to give required support to the military in its battles against insecurity.
"Security will continue to be well funded despite the competing needs of social services. I appeal to Nigerians to continue to support our troops in their gallant efforts to protect the citizens and secure the country," Buhari added.