Nigerians are worried that the increase in Boko Haram attacks of military formations in the country recently may lead to another mass abductions and killings of citizens
By Emeka Ejere
Nigerians are increasingly worried over the resurgence of attacks by Boko Haram, an Islamic terror group, which says that western education is dangerous in the last few days. There is growing fear among the populace that the spate of attacks may spiral into another season of massacre and mass abduction in Nigeria as previously witnessed with the kidnap of school girls from Chibok, Borno and Dapchi, Yobe States in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
Less than one week after Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, raised alarm that the insurgents were taking back Nigerian territories, the jihadists last Wednesday attacked another military base in the Damasak area of Borno State.
Atiku was reacting to an earlier incident penultimate weekend that saw Boko Haram members attacking a military base and neigbouring communities in Guzamala Local Government Area also of Borno State, causing several deaths and seizing military arms.
This development has prompted questions as to what could have renewed the Boko Haram’s current audacity, especially after having been previously militarily crippled or “technically degraded, according to the Nigerian government? Are Nigerian counterterrorism forces overstretched to the point of weakening their morale? Are the terrorists getting renewed supplies of resources, money and equipment after suffering reverses in the hands of the military?
There are no easy answers. Suffice it to state that Boko Haram insurgency against the Nigerian government began in 2009 with the aim of establishing an Islamic caliphate in West Africa. Mostly focused in north-eastern Nigeria, the conflict has reportedly left over 20,000 dead and displaced at least two million.
Following his inauguration in May 2015, one of the first actions of President Muhammadu Buhari was to order the relocation of the Nigerian Military Command from the Federal Capital Territory to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
After scoring significant military gains against Boko Haram, culminating in Buhari announcing the sect’s technical defeat at the end of 2016, the military command was moved back to Abuja.
Only last year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while acting as the president ordered the redeployment of the country’s military chiefs from Abuja, back to Maiduguri.
Osinbajo’s directive not only refutes ideas of demise of Boko Haram but infers its resurgence which has intensified recently.
According to the 22nd report of the United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team working on terrorism, the predominance of the cash economy is a major factor fuelling the nefarious activities of the Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin region.
“The predominance in the region of the cash economy, without controls, is conducive to terrorist groups funded by extortion, charitable donations, smuggling, remittances and kidnapping,” it said.
The report also shares the views of those who believe that the ransom paid for the release of the 100 Dapchi school girls has further increased the terrorists’ ability to acquire more sophisticated ammunitions.
“In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on 18 February, 2018, and released by ISWAP on 21 March, 2018, in exchange for a large ransom payment,” the report stated.
In its renewed campaign of violence, the insurgents have been carrying out attacks on military locations in the north-east.
According to a report by TheCable, Ahmad Salkida, a journalist known to have access to the leadership of the sect, said Boko Haram has been overrunning military formations and piling up arms for something “big”.
“The insurgents are busy piling up arms by overrunning one military base after another, for something “big” and what could that be?” he had tweeted last week.
Salkida reportedly added that in the history of insurgency in Nigeria, no year has been as bad as 2018 in terms of the killing of military personnel by Boko Haram fighters. “It wasn’t a takeover, apparently the target was the military facility. No, they are not taking over new territories; they are still defending territories that, no doubt, have shrunk. What is true is, the armed forces has suffered more losses in 2018 than in any other year, in this crisis. This must be reversed…”
In a telephone chat with Realnews, Ebonabasi Ekpe-Juda, a security analyst, noted that although Boko Haram insurgence is a war too complex to contain, the federal government is not being sincere in the fight against the group.
“I think the government is responsible for what is happening now,” Ekpe-Juda stated, adding: “News had it that most of them who were captured by troops were let off the hook. It suggests that the president has sympathy for Boko Haram. So that’s what you see when you arrest them and release them back to the society. It will only take some time for them to reinforce, especially with the huge sums you pay them each time they kidnap.”
Only last month, a female soldier who wishes anonymity, called to a live programme on Wazobia FM and said, “ Thank God with me that I’m alive today. When I was posted to Maiduguri last year I thought I was going to die there. But glory be to God. I am back in Lagos today alive.’’
Claims of decimation
Despite the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks, Nigerian government is still claiming that the group has been decimated. During a Town Hall gathering in Maiduguri, early this year, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, minister of interior, described the group as “completely decimated.” He added that the group’s structure was degraded and its leadership dismantled.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information, cited the “resumption of flights, bubbling nightlife, and football matches in Maiduguri” as signs that normalcy has returned to the Borno State capital.
Also, Mansur Dan Ali, defence minister, at a time, announced that at least 30,000 hostages kidnapped by the insurgents were freed by the troops.
Two days earlier, also in Maiduguri, Rogers Ibe Nicholas, the theatre commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, also declared Boko Haram “completely defeated.”
At the inauguration of the Nigeria-Cameroon Military Joint Mission, he explained that only the previous day, his troops had overrun Boko Haram’s “Camp Zero,” dislodged the militants and occupied the area.
“We have broken the heart and soul of Shekau’s group, taking over the camp and its environs,” Nicholas said, adding: “They are on the run and we are pursuing them to wherever they go. This time around there is no place for escape anywhere.”
The news came some six weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari first made the announcement of the militants’ fate. In a statement on the eve of Christmas 2017, he declared “the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.”
That was followed on January 7, by another affirmation by Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, chief of army Staff, that his troops had won the war against Boko Haram.
The declarations came exactly three years after President Buhari said Nigeria had “technically” won the war. But the militants had then mounted more attacks against troops and populations.
Also, six months earlier, Buratai gave the soldiers 40 days to capture Abubakar Shekau, leader of the terrorist group, “dead or alive.”
He ordered Ibrahim Attahiru, former Operation Lafiya Dole chief, to leave no stone unturned in insuring that Shekau was caught wherever he is hiding in Nigeria.” But the 40-day period elapsed and the target was not met.
On the contrary, there followed a new wave of Boko Haram attacks upon Nigerians, and an embarrassed military early in December went on what many saw as a face-saving mission. Major General Attahiru was summarily removed and shoved to a desk assignment of policy and planning.
Besides, the declarations of victory also raise a key question about the $1bn the government announced in December 2017 that it wanted to take from the Excess Crude Account allegedly to fight the insurgents.
Many believe that until the challenge of finding Shekau is answered and his means and methods decapitated, the claim that the insurgency has been defeated will continue to sound hollow.
– Sept. 18, 2018 @ 19:12 GMT |