Time to Rejig the War against Boko Haram

Ring True
with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)
Events in the last three weeks confirm that the celebration of the purported victory over Boko Haram terrorists in December last year was political and absolutely needless. It was a clear case of deceit. The military high command knew quite alright that the war was far from over, but had to bow to pressure from a federal government that was desperate to celebrate a devious victory and score a cheap political point. They regaled the nation with the flag and Quran of the terrorists, as if that will disable the terrorists. Just as Human Rights Watch remarked in its 2017 report, the conflict is far from over, contrary to government’s claim. The truth is that the terrorists obviously still exist in large number and very potent too. Attacks by them have been heart-wrenching. This week, they strolled into the University of Maiduguri, killed Professor Aliyu Mani and five others. The previous week, one officer and seven soldiers were killed in two attacks by the sect in Cinki Gundu and Old Marte, both on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
Two weeks ago, there was an attack on an Army brigade in Buni Yadi, Yobe State. A Captain (Victor Ulasi), who was a medical doctor with the brigade and five other soldiers were killed.  A day after the attack in Buni Yadi, multiple explosions hit Maiduguri, resulting in the death of five innocent people. The terrorists had earlier attacked a military facility in Rann, in the northern part of Borno State, injuring several soldiers in the process. Madagali was attacked three weeks ago, with 56 people killed.
We are at an unprecedented situation in which officers are now being killed by the terrorists and yet, the federal government is celebrating a deceitful victory. Four Lieutenant Colonels have been killed. Lieutenant Colonel O. Umusu, the Commanding Officer, 118 Task Force Battalion in Borno State was killed, alongside his security details, by an Improvised Explosive Device in an ambush. Others killed are: Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, who was the Commanding Officer of 223 Tank Battalion (October 16, 2016); Lt.  Colonel Abu Ali (November 4, 2016); and Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar (November 15, 2016).
Our obviously overwhelmed, over-worked and poorly-motivated gallant soldiers erroneously dropped bombs on innocent civilians in the Internally Displaced People’s camp in Rann, Borno State on Tuesday, leaving scores dead. The camp in Kala-Balge Local Government Area caters for thousands of persons displaced by Boko Haram. The tragedy shows the severe pressure our gallant soldiers are working under.
Any terror group capable of attacking military positions remains a very big threat to any country. Unfortunately, many of the statements issued by the military after attacks are capable of dampening the spirit of our soldiers and often leave Nigerians bewildered. The other day, after the attacks on troops of 119 Battalion and 133 Special Forces Battalion of 7 Brigade, the Army issued a statement saying that it recovered one Pulemyot Kalashnkova Machine Gun with 67 rounds of ammunition, an AK-47 Riffle with 18 rounds of ammunition, two AK-Rifle top covers, one Rocket Propelled Grenade Tube with three bombs, one Rocket Propelled Grenade charger and smoke grenade. Members of a purportedly defeated terror group can’t be going around with these high caliber ammunitions.
Pragmatic steps must be urgently taken to stop these terrorists. The first step is to agree that we still have a big problem at hand and work accordingly. The second step is to swiftly address the issue of equipment and welfare of our gallant fighters. While the terrorists operate with sophisticated weapons, the Nigerian military mostly use outdated ones. Often, we have seen soldiers on the frontlines complaining about not getting their allowances. There was a case of soldiers complaining about lack of drinking water in their base. Some have over-stayed on the war front, leading to fatigue. I have heard some complaining that they have spent over two years on the war front. These must not continue, if we are serious about winning this war.
The third step is to engage key stakeholders in these troubled states on how to tame these monsters. They should be carried along and their suggestions implemented meticulously. Few weeks back, the member representing Michika/Madagali in the House of Representatives, Adamu Kamale, made a number of suggestions on how to curb Boko Haram attacks. He remarked: “The solution is for the government to provide adequate security for these communities in Madagali by ensuring that the military has a permanent operational base there. We need the federal government to come to the aid of these vulnerable villagers. I am always embittered each time the government asked displaced villagers to return home on the excuse that their communities had been fully liberated. Let the people have adequate security; the psychological loss to our people is devastating. Their problem is beyond sharing food items to them or merely asking them to return to homes that are not secured.” The military authority is yet to respond appropriately. Legislators representing these hapless communities must be carried along in this war. Their opinion must be taken seriously.
Hunters in some of these communities have made significant contributions to the war against Boko Haram. Their efforts are hardly acknowledged. Government must reward and encourage them to do more. Clearly, terrorists dread these local hunters. Those in charge of this war must use them proactively.
This morning, I am re-opening the issue of using mercenaries. I have for months canvassed for the return of South African mercenaries and greater involvement of Russian experts in this war. We all saw the impact of the mercenaries in the few months they worked with our military during the Jonathan administration. We are at a level where technology and intelligence are germane for us to truly decimate these terrorists. The mercenaries will offer us this benefit. If we genuinely want to win this war, we must search for and engage the best hands against Boko Haram from anywhere in the world. This is a legitimate step and should not be viewed as a sign of failure or weakness on the part of our military. Rather, it should be viewed as complimentary. The ultimate aim is to truly disable Boko Haram. We must all continue to support our armed forces in this arduous task. May Allah continue to protect them.

Toothless Electricity Regulatory Commission
Our lethargic Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, says Electricity Distribution Companies must metre customers on their networks, who had advanced money to the Discos through the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiatives, before February 28, 2017. NERC has vowed to sanction the DISCOs if they fail to adhere to this new deadline. The NERC, in a statement on its website, on January 11, said sanctioning of the defaulting DISCOs would begin on March 1. This same NERC had earlier directed DISCOs to conclude metering of these customers before November 30, 2016. I am very sure that nothing will come out of this current threat. My dear Anthony Akah, who is the acting NERC chairman, knows that this agency has consistently failed to adhere to its mandate of protecting the rights of electricity consumers. DISCOs have been exploiting consumers with crazy estimated bills and will do everything possible to ensure that consumers are not metered. They will always succeed, because they have an ally in NERC. Our languid NERC has, over the years, shown that it is more interested in DISCOs than consumers. If electricity consumers are to be genuinely protected, then NERC will have to be overhauled.

The Shameful Human Rights Report on Nigeria
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami must spend quality time reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) World Report 2017 and advise the Buhari government fittingly. The section on Nigeria upbraided the Nigerian government for large scale human rights abuse in 2016. The HRW reports growing concerns about intolerance of dissent and a heavy-handed response to protests in Nigeria. It said this dominated Nigeria’s human rights landscape in 2016 and that government rhetoric about security sector reform and improving accountability for rights abuses were yet to translate into concrete action.
In the 687-page World Report, HRW reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries, Nigeria inclusive, and concluded: “Nigeria is plagued by serious human rights problems on many fronts. Government inaction against those responsible for violent communal clashes between pastoralists and sedentary farmers has fueled a decade-long cycle of reprisal killings. In the Southeast, police killed at least 40 pro-Biafra members of the separatist Indigenous Peoples of Biafra during protests and processions in February and May 2016. No security agent has been prosecuted for the killings. In December 2015, soldiers killed 347 members of a Shia Muslim minority group, allegedly for blocking the army chief’s motorcade in Zaria, Kaduna State.
“A resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economic powerhouse, has been met by harsh sweeping security measures against communities perceived as harbouring militants. Soldiers allegedly destroyed homes and businesses in three Bayelsa State communities during a search for members of the militant Niger Delta Avengers group. As the seven-year Boko Haram conflict wanes in intensity in the Northeast, a near-catastrophic food shortage is affecting many of the 2.5 million displaced people. Severe restrictions on their movement have affected access to basic livelihoods, health, education, and protection from sexual abuse.”
The HRW officer in Nigeria, Mausi Segun, added: “Nigeria’s leaders should focus on providing basic rights to their people who bear the brunt of the country’s economic downturn. Attempts to shrink the space for people to hold government accountable are unhelpful and may be counter-productive.”
I sincerely hope that concerned authorities in our great country will read this report. The National Assembly must also be seen working to ensure respect for human rights. For example, I am surprised that our lawmakers are not insisting on justice for Ibrahim Zakzaky, the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. Amnesty International had to remind the Nigerian government on Monday to comply with a court ruling to release the Shia cleric and scores of his supporters. Zakzaky has spent more than a year in custody. A judge in Abuja on December 2, last year, called the detention of Zakzaky and his followers illegal and unconstitutional, and imposed a 45-day deadline for their release. This has since expired. Amnesty Nigeria Director, Makmid Kamara remarked that government “will demonstrate a flagrant and dangerous contempt for the rule of law” if it ignored the ruling. For me, this country can’t afford a confrontation with Shia members. We can’t afford another Boko Haram.

Poor Man’s Kerosene Hits N400 Per Litre
As at press time, kerosene, poor man’s cooking fuel, was selling for N400 per litre in some states, thus, compounding the agony of Nigerians. Many households are in crisis, with many forced to resort to firewood, charcoal and other sources of dirty energy. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has not been able to offer any convincing reason for this suffering. The truth is that NNPC last imported kerosene in September last year. Major and independent markers have long stopped importing. The masses are in a big mess.

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