Ending insurgency in the North-east has not been the exclusive responsibility of the Nigerian Army as local hunters and vigilante groups continue to contribute their quota in defeating Boko Haram, writes Daji Sani
The advent of Boko Haram has put every security apparatus on their toes following the wanton killings, kidnappings, stealing and the massive destruction of lives and property of innocent citizens in the North-east.
The development became a thing of concern to stakeholders and the government particularly when the Boko Haram insurgents began capturing some Nigerian towns and villages, and were advancing to capture more Nigerian territory.
However security experts say the war between the military and the insurgents is not only physical but also has a spiritual dimension. They further explained that the victory claimed on the Boko Haram side was because the insurgents were using charms and voodoo powers to defeat the military.
This development necessitated the drafting of local hunters and vigilante groups into the fight, because they were believed to possess voodoo powers and could be a march to the insurgents in the aspect of spirituality.
Also, the drafting of local hunters and vigilante groups to join the fight against the insurgents became necessary because they have full knowledge of the terrain where the insurgents have their enclaves and also increased the number of security personnel fighting terrorism.
Fortunately, through the joint forces of the military and local hunters, they were able to recapture those towns and villages that were under the control of the insurgents.
In 2014, at least 75 Boko Haram militants were killed by local hunters in Maiha Local Government Area of Adamawa State. Maiha town, is about 25 kilometres from Mubi town that was captured about two weeks ago, and about 200km from Yola the state capital, that was recovered from the insurgents, thanks, in part, to the hunters’ efforts. Sources said the local hunters ambushed the insurgents and killed them in their dozens.
“The hunters mobilised and gave the insurgents hot chase during which many Boko Haram sect members were killed,” Bello Ya’u, a resident of Maiha, said. “We commend them for the gallant fight,” he added. Corroborating, Baba Dauda, a local hunter told an online newspaper, that the hunters made up their minds to fight because the insurgents had been maiming too many people. “We had to wake up and fight the bastards that keep plaguing our societies killing innocent souls. People should brace up and start fighting them, we killed many of them. We are not afraid of being killed,” he said.
Recently, in January, hunters and vigilantes also killed seven Boko Haram insurgents in Sabongari village in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State in response to a recent attack in the area. The Boko Haram terrorists had earlier attacked Madagali town, killing 11 people. In response, local vigilantes mobilised themselves and began a search for the insurgents and managed to track them down to Sabongari village where they engaged them in a gun battle.
One eyewitness said that the vigilantes also seized a machine gun in the village belonging to the insurgents. He added that the Boko Haram insurgents thronged the village but were repelled by the hunters and vigilantes in a shootout which ultimately led to them fleeing after seven of them had been killed.
The effective results achieved by the hunters has motivated both the state and local governments to allocate to them monthly stipends to enable them discharge their duties effectively.
In recent times, sequel to present time security challenges, the military has increased the number of candidates conscripted into the force, a move which security experts say is a welcome development, adding that adequate security to the nation was not negotiable. Meanwhile, experts revealed that the conscription of the local hunters and vigilante groups into active security apparatus has greatly improved security presence in every nook and cranny of the North-east.
Security experts also commended the Department of State Services (DSS) for proper screening processes and machineries put in place to checkmate the excesses of the hunters and vigilantes. According to them, the government and the DSS have full dossier of every member of the hunter and vigilante groups and duty rosters for each of them, so that some individuals will not take advantage of the situation and cause mayhem to the people.
Recently, thousands of hunters from Adamawa, Gombe, Borno, Yobe and Taraba States converged for the annual Talala (oath taking) Festival and fortification of themselves in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa.
THISDAY gathered that the annual festival brings hunters together to renew their oath to serve humanity, and also renew voodoo skills and powers, particularly assisting security agencies in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
The hunters boasted that they were prepared to end the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents with the support of military and government, adding that they believed that this year’s fortification exercise and festival was better than the previous years and has prepared them well to face the security challenges.
Chairman of Adamawa Hunters Association/Acting Chairman for North-east, Malam Mohammed Tola, said the oath taking and fortification was necessary because it will expose fake hunters and those who had soaked their hands into some nefarious activities that are against the tenets of the group.
He said another reason was to renew the hunters’ spiritual powers, commitment and determination to continue to fight against the existence of insurgency and anybody or thing that will cause security threats to Nigerian communities.
Tola further explained that, by the virtue of the nature of their jobs, an annual check is compulsory because it will inculcate discipline, boldness and self-confidence in them, adding that without a strong belief and boldness the charms will not be effective. He also explained that it takes confidence and a strong belief to get effective results in their profession.
He said the annual festival was an avenue to train the young ones coming newly into the profession and to share new knowledge on security intelligence, the current security situation and the way forward.
Speaking in Hausa Language, Tola said: “The oath taking and fortification exercise is very significant in our profession because many things happen in the cause of exercising our duties and some colleagues may be contaminated or even desecrate some charms in the cause of mingling with others in the society. There are some things that you must adhere to strictly or else the charms become ineffective”
While urging the hunters to remain steadfast in their commitment to serve their communities and father land, Tola lauded the government and Adamawa Traditional Council for their support to the hunters, adding that such support had gone a long way in facilitating the activities of the hunters in supporting the fight against insurgents in the North-east.
The Administrative Secretary of the association, Malam Salihu Buba, said the ceremony was to also fortify genuine members and expose fake ones. He also added that it was meant to keep proper records and to initiate new intended individuals who want to be members of the group.
Buba was of the opinion that those areas still experiencing insurgency attacks should cooperate with the security agencies by exposing boys who are covered because they are the relatives of some prominent individuals in the affected areas.
He said the security situation in Madagali is still dicey and needed more security presence in the area. He also called on interested youths to join the profession to protect lives and property.
The state Women Leader, Aisha Bakari, pledged the commitment of female hunters to continue to contribute their quota like their male counterparts. She promised that women in the group are determined to serve their country.
Some highlights at the occasion include: the drinking of concoction by the hunters for protection and the conduct of rituals on the hunters’ dane guns to function properly against the enemy.