Boko Haram And The Unfinished Business

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The federal government should ensure that the country’s security and intelligence agencies coordinate and work together

President Muhammadu Buhari’s reassurance, last week, that the federal government was taking concrete steps to stamp out suicide bombings in some parts of the North-east is very significant. That is because it would help to stem the growing doubts about government’s claim that the capacity to inflict damage on lives and property in the region had been degraded. Indeed, the reassurance is timely given the escalation of bloody attacks on soft targets by Boko Haram, with body counts rising by the day.

Two days ago, no fewer than 17 persons were confirmed killed and many others injured by two female suicide bombers in Biu, Biu local government area of Borno State. A week earlier, a detachment of Boko Haram gunmen launched an audacious attack on Magumeri, 40 kilometres from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Its first target, according to Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Timothy Antigha, was the Forward Operational Base. Even though the insurgents were repelled by men of the five Brigade Garrison located in the town, three soldiers and a five-year- old boy were killed while six other persons sustained serious injuries. Three days before that tragic incident, about 50 people were killed in a mosque in Mubi, the second largest town in Adamawa State, by suicide bombers.

Reacting to these incidents, the president attempted to douse growing concerns that the terrorists were resurging and regaining their capacity, adding they were the last kicks of a dying horse. But while the military may have recaptured the territories once controlled by Boko Haram members and who may no longer operate as freely as they used to, the insurgents cannot be said to have been defeated, given the frequency of their atrocities especially in recent weeks. Indeed, the group still poses a grave danger and has been inflicting mortal wounds on members of the armed forces as well as civilians. The authorities must therefore admit that the increasing spate of suicide attacks is not only stoking unease in many communities, it is also hampering the return of majority of the internally displaced persons living in the poorest of conditions in the camps.

In as much as we appreciate the efforts of the government in containing the Boko Haram menace, Nigerians are also getting frustrated with empty rhetoric about degrading their capacity to inflict harm on our people. The terrorists have not only continued to bomb soft targets at will, they also appear to be regaining capacity for regular combat as accounts of both the military and civil authorities have revealed. While the army spokesperson said it took soldiers of the five Brigade Garrison stationed in Magumeri several hours to repel last weekend’s attack, the Secretary to the Magumeri Local Council, Alhaji Wakil Malam-Tawu, spoke about the terrorists launching rockets against public facilities, including health clinics, shops and mosques.

In these circumstances, we think the federal government needs to reappraise its strategies and rise up to the occasion as we can no longer continue to lose innocent lives and valuable property to these senseless terrorist activities. In the past, this newspaper had highlighted the need for the federal government to beef up its intelligence gathering architecture and restructure it to meet the demands of the asymmetric warfare that the country has on its hands.

We note particularly the disclosure by the president that he had established an intelligence fusion centre in Maiduguri to gather and share critical information among security agencies in the country in real time. But the federal government must walk the talk by ensuring that the country’s security and intelligence agencies actually coordinate and work together. Until there is that unity of purpose by those responsible for manning the security of the nation, the bombs will continue to go off at enormous cost to human lives.