Borno Recruits 20,000 Volunteers to Fight Boko Haram

Report alleges insurgents using ransom to procure superior weapons

Says ISWAP paying more premium to woo local communities

Bayo Akinloye

The Borno State Government yesterday explained its roles in the fight against Boko Haram, disclosing that it had recruited 20,000 volunteers under the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) to support the military operations in the state.

Despite this effort, a special report titled ‘Why Troops Are Losing Ground To ISWAP disclosed that the extremist group was getting stronger using slush funds realised from ransom paid allegedly by the federal government for the release those kidnapped.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Communication and Strategy, Mr. Isa Gasau shed light on the role of the state government in the fight against the group during an interview on Arise News Network, a sister company THISDAY Newspapers Group.

Gusau said Civilian Joint Task Force “is playing crucial roles in intelligence gathering, easy identification and arrest of suspected insurgents and supporting the military in the war fronts with Governor Kashim Shettima financing the enrollment of more than 20,000 volunteers.”

He explained that Shettima “has been the sole person giving approvals for the operational vehicles and logistics, recruitment, training, payment of allowances, kitting and surveillance equipment to these over 20,000 heroes under the Civilian JTF that have given everything to the fight against Boko Haram. “It was Shettima, who drove the process of getting the office of the National Security Adviser to approve the operational activities of the Civilian JTF and he has remained the only one funding all their operations including the coordination of their recruitment and deployments after clearance by the DSS.

“The same governor approves funds to support gallant members of the Civilian JTF including allocation of lands to the to own houses so as to encourage them and guarantee their future.”

However, writing in a special report titled, ‘Why Troops Are Losing Ground To ISWAP,’ a journalist, Ahmad Sakilda, who has close links with Boko Haram, suggested that the efforts of the Borno government and other stakeholders might not yield the desired result because the insurgents rather being decapitated is mutating and becoming more lethal.

“The terror groups, in recent times, have received a flush of funds from ransom paid to them allegedly by the government. Equally, there has been a steady access to unimaginable cache of military weaponry, including hardware and ammunition from bases overran by the insurgents, remarkably bolstering their war chest.”

For instance, according to Sakilda, the loss of the International Military Task Force Base, headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force, in Baga, headed by an army general, was reported as “monumental”, not merely in the loss of location, but because of the massive military hardware and ammunition only comparable to what is available to the military division in Maiduguri to ISWAP.

He further noted that the insurgents were riding the momentum and were motivated in manners “completely” alien to the military.

Sakilda said, “No wonder, they have recently scaled up recruitment of new fighters across both English and French speaking countries in the surrounding countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

“Information gleaned from contacts within the fold of ISWAP paint an insight that seems to have challenged the position of politicians and the military in respect of holding territory.

ISWAP always considered the territories of northern and central Borno their caliphates which made them see the presence of the Nigerian troops and their military bases an invasion.

“Bidding their time until they had adequate ammunition with additional army of motivated fighters to unleash new wave of violence, the group was willing to stay under the radar for a few years before drawing the line on the sand. Their long wait paid off in 2018. They have been on the offensive all of 2018.

The ISWAP’s strategy is to put everything available to ensure that military presence in those territories they consider part of their caliphate is made ever untenable. ISWAP considers all parts of north and central Borno as its caliphate and territory and therefore obligated by doctrines and commandment to repel every external aggression within the territory.

“This is irrespective of whatever politicians and the military claim is the situation within those territories. In fact, Boko Haram/ISWAP’s policy with respect to physically holding territories changed after the steady losses they suffered in the run-up to the general election in 2014.

“They do not want to physically hold unto territories anymore than they are determined to ensure that the military does not have any sustainable presence in the territories. Furthermore, ISWAP is paying more premium to wooing local communities to feel more secure with them than they could ever be with the military. That is their strategy,” Sakilda disclosed.

The journalist pointed out that the outlook of the map in the battle theatres is grim, noting that the territories that constitute northern Borno “are 10 local government areas lying north of Maiduguri and bearing natural land borders with three countries, Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon.

“ISWAP has full sway in these territories currently. The territories that constitute Borno central are made up of eight local government areas, and both ISWAP and Boko Haram have significant footholds in these territories.

Southern Borno, made up of nine local government areas, is the least affected, with the exception of flashpoints such as Gwoza, Damboa and Chibok. With barely 45 days to presidential election in Nigeria there seems to be more energy at official quarters to cover up the tragic situation than acknowledging it.”

While admitting the military’s declaration that ISWAP may not be holding most of the territories where it overran its bases, especially the town of Baga is correct, Sakilda disclosed that the group, on its part, was right when it said it sacked soldiers from the areas it attacked, including Baga.

Sakilda explained that neither the military nor the insurgents had the manpower and capacity “to hold and govern over this large expanse of land sustainably. But in desisting from building visible administrative and military structures in the areas of their primary interest, ISWAP has evolved in a way that is difficult for Nigerian troops to track.

“On the other hand, by being fixated with claim of control of territories the military have only succeeded in making its troops sitting ducks and easy targets of the enemy,” he explained.

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