Abuja - President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said great strides had been made in the fight against Boko Haram, rounding on critics lamenting a lack of progress against the insurgents.
"I think if you have been listening hard enough or if you have been to the northeast (of Nigeria), the military is really gaining ground," the 72-year-old former military ruler said on a visit to Ghana.
Buhari, who has made defeating the Islamists his priority since taking office in late May, said the rebels were "virtually limited" to the remote Sambisa Forest area of Borno state, in northeast Nigeria.
Many of the 2.1 million displaced by six years of violence have begun returning home, he added.
"If you really bother to find out, a lot of progress is being made," he told reporters.
Buhari has faced accusations of being too slow to act since becoming president, particularly on appointments to key government positions. Most senior ministerial roles remain unfilled.
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He has also had to dampen high or unrealistic expectations about a swift end to the insurgency, which has left at least 15,000 dead, threatened Nigeria's sovereignty and increased security fears across the region.
Hopes have been high that an African Union-backed multi-national force, comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin, will crush the Islamic State Group-allied militants.
But a planned July-end deployment of the force has been delayed. In the meantime, deadly attacks have continued, although the military has claimed a series of successes in recent weeks.
They include the recapture of the strategic town of Gamboru Ngala on the Cameroon border and the arrest of an alleged top commander.
On August 13, Buhari gave his newly appointed military top brass three months to rout the jihadists.
Buhari's Ghanaian counterpart John Dramani Mahama, commended the Nigerian head of state for his work galvanising neighbouring countries into the counter-insurgency, despite often strained ties with Abuja.