Winning The War Against Boko Haram


The security agencies tasked with the arduous job of containing the chaos and securing the nation must be well-provided for

Following the recent brazen attacks on our troops by Boko Haram and its allied violent partners, Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), President Muhammadu Buhari has taken some bold steps to address the lapses and shore up the morale of our military. At an emergency meeting with leaders of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in N’jamena, the Chadian capital last week, the president also reassured Nigerians and the international partners that the brutal insurgents will be defeated. We hope he will match his promise with concrete actions.

But the current signal is encouraging. Earlier at the fourth annual Chief of Army Staff conference in Maiduguri where serving and retired commanders and other security agencies brainstormed, Buhari stood with the soldiers, offered condolences for the dead and said the right words to lift their sagging spirit. “I want to assure you that government will procure modern fighting equipment to end the madness of Boko Haram and other acts of our enemies. I want to also assure you that government is doing everything to increase the welfare of Nigerian army,” said Buhari whose uncharacteristic hands-on approach to a perplexing national security problem is noteworthy.

Indeed, the scale of the unfolding challenge posed by the brutal Islamic sect demanded nothing less from the leadership of the country. In the past few months, the insurgents who are reportedly aided with drones and mercenaries have been operating with a new found zeal and audacity – killing, maiming and seizing soldiers and attacking army formations at will, even in the frontline. The violence and savagery of the extremist groups and their fluidity make it increasing difficult for the country to evolve a coherent strategy to contain their activities while the incessant attacks are clear reminder that the measures put in place to defeat the militant group are not as effective as they ought to be.

The latest attack on the 157 Brigade in Metele which resulted in several casualties has also raised the spectre of the security threats posed by the nation’s porous and poorly-policed borders. Today, there is hardly any criminal act and violence in Nigeria that could not be remotely traced to the relative ease with which armed gangs enter and exit through many of our 149 borders. Without exception, all these borders are loosely patrolled, if at all, while illegal movement of arms flow almost freely on a daily basis. It is also a well-known fact that the Boko Haram sect, just like its Maitatsine cousin of the 1980s, finds ready adherents from within the territories of our neighbours. Most of these mercenaries, because they have no stake in our country, quite naturally seem to be more violent and ready to exert maximum collateral damage whenever they strike.

As we stated recently in this space, Nigeria must brace up with new strategies to tame this monster which for almost a decade has robbed our country of its peace, sent thousands of innocent people to their untimely graves and rendered millions of others homeless. For one, it is evidently clear, with all the billions of dollars that had been poured into the war, that our soldiers are still ill-equipped and ill-trained to conduct and rout an increasingly sophisticated and mobile criminals versed in irregular warfare tactics. Besides, many of our soldiers have spent longer time than necessary in the frontline and in need of a deserved rest. There is therefore the need to infuse fresh blood on a regular basis. The army command must therefore go all out to recruit and hire people from anywhere versed in counter-terrorism to help end the long-drawn and increasingly costly war. This, in addition to synergy among all the security agencies and good intelligence, will boost performance. Much more important, our military must be well-motivated. The field allowances of the fighting soldiers are not only poor, those who die are not accorded due dignity.

If we are to win the war against Boko Haram, those tasked with the arduous job of containing the chaos and securing the nation must be treated well. The president has pledged to procure the necessary equipment and indeed look after the welfare of the troops. We will take him by his words.