Chiemelie Ezeobi, Sunday Ehigiator, Ayodeji Ake and Chiamaka Ozulumba write that the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the North-east, which has claimed hundreds of civilians and soldiers, undermine repeated claims by the military that the group has been decimated
In the past months, specifically from April 2019, there has been a consistent resurgence and escalation of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) attacks in the North-east (NE). Already, the renewed onslaught by BHT has claimed hundreds of lives, especially that of soldiers, who are often the first buffer in the line of attack.
It is therefore no gainsaying that the intensified and repeated attacks in recent times undermine the repeated claims by the military that the sect had been decimated. For years, and even in recent times, with the numerous successes they recorded, the military has maintained that the rampaging sect has been contained, but the recent resurgence has put paid to those claims.
Although Boko Haram no longer controls swathes of territory in the NE as it did in the height of insurgency in 2014, the recent attacks underscores the continued threat the sect poses to the region.
Globally, the threat posed by terrorism cannot be understated. Accordingly, nations have evolved various approaches to tackle the menace with mixed results depending on the country and nature of the threat. Nigeria has not been an exception when the rise of the sect assumed international notoriety in 2009.
Regrouping Boko Haram Forces
World over, the military and security forces battle one major challenge: regrouping terror forces. Although Nigeria continues to suffer the same fate in its fight against the BHTs, there is no doubt that the military has considerably recorded some successes by reclaiming lost grounds, pushing them back into the arid desert and sometimes, even crippling their sources of weaponry.
But despite these measures, the terrorists keep inventing new strategies to stay afloat. While they have been sacked from the caliphates they had arrogated to themselves, they still unleash pockets of violence in some areas, especially through suicide bombing, and most recently, the resurgence and attacks in Borno State.
According to security analysts, the insurgents are pulling off almost-daily attacks. As if that was not enough, they cut off power from the national grid.
Nigeria’s war against the extremist group is supposed to be over by now if one was to have believed the promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari, when he was contesting for presidency in 2015.
Done with his first term and a year into his second term, Boko Haram still roars. It so appears that they posses even more sophisticated drones, with their armoury well stocked.
Chronology of Attacks from April 2019 to February 2020
Since the commencement of hostilities, the casualty figures have expectedly been high. Here are some of the attacks and its resultant consequences.
In April, a former National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Abraham Amuta, who was abducted by Boko Haram insurgents. Recently, he reportedly rejected an offer to be freed by the terrorists, claiming he has now embraced Islam and Boko Haram ideology as his new religion.
On June 12, the sect attacked Kareto Village in Borno, where they killed a commanding officer, and other soldiers of the 158 Battalion. Shortly after the attacks, the terrorists relocated to Fuchimiram Village, six kilometres West of Kare.
On June 16, at least 30 persons were killed and 42 injured in multiple explosions in Borno after three suicide bombers, one male and two female, detonated explosives at a local tea shop and a Cinema centre in Konduga, where football fans were watching a match on TV, at around 9pm.
On July 28, dozens of mourners were killed by BokoHaram at a funeral in Borno. The gunmen reportedly arrived on motorcycles and in vans and opened fire on the mourners. The attack was said to be a reprisal of the death of 11 members of their sect.
On August 6, two female suicide bombers killed three civilians and wounded eight others in Mafa, about 30 miles east of Maiduguri. The suicide bombers entered the town with a group of local women who had gone to fetch firewood for cooking, they waited until around 8:30pm before launching their attack.
On August 15, three Nigerian soldiers were killed and others injured during a gun battle with insurgents in Molai Village on the outskirts of Borno. It took the intervention of the air force fighter jets to repel the terrorists.
On September 8, five local farmers were shot dead while working on their farm at Shamawa Village in Konduga LGA.
On September 15, Boko Haram fighters staged gun and suicide bomb attacks on a military camp outside the perimeter wall of the University of Maiduguri. When the sect staged an attack on the soldiers, they were repelled, forcing one to detonate his suicide vest.
On October 14, the sect again launched an attack on Babban Gida, the headquarters of Tarmuwa Local Government Council in Yobe State. Dressed in army camouflage, they stormed the council in nine Toyota Hilux and first attacked a military formation shooting repeatedly before proceeding to break some food stores.
On November 18, Jihadists killed four Nigerian soldiers and a member of a local self-defence group in an ambush outside the town of Marte in the Lake Chad region.
Although the Nigerian army said its forces thwarted an ambush by jihadists close to Marte, but they did not give any death toll.
On Saturday, December 15, Boko Haram gunned down 19 cattle herders outside Fuhe Village, near Ngala close to the border with Cameroon.
The herders had earlier repelled an attack by Boko Haram fighters who invaded the village to steal livestock, killing one of the militants. Giving chase again, this time around, the herders were overwhelmed and subdued by the sect.
On January 8, 2020, at least 15 people were killed when the sect launched an attack on Magumeri Town in Borno. They stormed the town in 11 vehicles and killed eight local militia members, six residents, and a security officer. The gunmen had hit the town with anti-aircraft guns and various caliber of arms.
Also on January 8, no fewer than three soldiers were killed in an intense fighting between the army and the sect around a key garrison town in the Lake Chad area. The soldiers died when an army vehicle burst into flames after a car filled with explosives rammed into a convoy.
A patrol team was attacked near Monguno, but the patrol was quickly reinforced and the attack was repelled. Though there were fewer casualties on the Nigerian troops through vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), many Boko Haram Terrorists were however eliminated during the encounter.
On January 21, Boko Haram cut off Maiduguri from Nigeria’s national power grid. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), confirmed in a statement that the insurgents had damaged the electricity equipment serving the state capital and its environs.
On January 31, a girl detonated a bomb, killing three boys at an Islamic seminary in Muna Dalti,
on the outskirts of Maiduguri. The teenage suicide bomber walked up to the group of boys who were just ending their lessons and “blew herself up in their midst. Four others were injured.
Moments earlier, another young girl stormed into a house in the area and detonated her explosives, injuring one person and destroyed the house totally.
On Sunday, February 2, a major tragedy was averted at the Sabon Tasha branch of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) in Kaduna as a middle-aged man was caught with what is suspected to be an Improvised Explosive Device.
The incident coincided with the day General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, led members on a prayer walk to decry insecurity in the country.
On Sunday, February 9, not less than 30 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in a night attack on Auno village on Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway. The villagers while narrating their ordeal, said many other residents were abducted in the siege. Also, 18 vehicles comprising trailers, buses and cars were burnt by the insurgents.
The burnt persons were those that could not get into Maiduguri as the gate to the town was shut against them having failed to arrive before the 5pm deadline. That incident raised a lot of hullabaloo and rightfully so.
On February 12, hundreds of residents of Jiddari Polo in Maiduguri metropolis fled their homes into the city following sporadic shootings suspected to have been masterminded by Boko Haram sect.
The incident came barely few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari visited the state for sympathy visit.
On Friday, February 14, Korongilum community in Chibok LGA of Borno was attacked by suspected Boko Haram insurgents. Locals were just returning from their farms when the attack happened.
On Friday, February 21, soldiers engaged in a fierce gun battle with the sect who invaded Garkida, a town in Gombi LGA of Adamawa State. Many persons, according to the reports, were feared killed by the invaders who announced their entry into the town by shooting indiscriminately.
Maintaining his stance that the sect has been degraded, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, speaking in a recent interview with THISDAY and Arise News TV, said the military has defeated insurgency in the North-east, but is now facing the challenge of terrorism.
He said even though insurgency had been defeated, terrorism would remain in the country for years. “We must differentiate between insurgency and terrorism. I have tried to tell them at the National Assembly. Someone said three local governments are under Boko Haram. How? These guys are not controlling any territory. They attempted to establish their territory, caliphate in Gwoza but they have not been able to because they were flushed out. That is insurgency. They are not holding any territory.
“Typically, that is the end if insurgency. But what of terrorism? Terrorism will outlive you and me and probably everybody in this house because terrorism, since it started, just like armed robbery, like kidnapping, burglary, cultism, it would continue. These are all smaller parts of terrorism. It is when it goes higher that you have arsons.
“What is happening now is just criminality. Since last year, we have not given them any respite. They are now blocked. They no longer have access to food; their movements are constrained; they no longer get the fuel they needed easily because we have strangulated them. They are now in depressed state; so, they go out with vengeance to attack commuters, abduct individuals and target certain religious persons just for their propaganda. This is also is one of the Boko Haram terrorist’s strategy – propaganda.”
Call for Sack of Service Chiefs
On January 29, 2020, general security lapses in the country forced some senators to call for the sack of service chiefs and the resignation of the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Adamu.
In a rowdy session, the lawmakers who made the demand for the sack of service chiefs in their respective contributions to the discussion on the security situation in the country during plenary, were Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, as well as Senators Musa Sani, Betty Apiafi, and Solomon Adeola.
While Sani called for the resignation of the police boss, Apiafi and Adeola asked the president to remove the service chiefs. According to the lawmakers, the service chiefs should be replaced since they do not have new ideas in fighting insecurity in the country.
That was just one of the many calls for their sack. Across board, security experts, civil society organisations and even Nigerians have all echoed the call for their sack, especially in the wake of the resurgence.
Given the clamour for the sack of service chiefs, on February 15, the presidency cautioned against comments misleading the public and inciting protests against the heads of military institutions.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who gave this warning, said it became necessary in view of the reported plan to hire crowd to demonstrate against the service chiefs.
Shehu, who urged the media to remain unbiased and discerning in their reporting, instead of becoming unwitting tools in the hands of the opposition.
Further rejecting the call for sack of the service chiefs, the presidency on another occasion insisted that the armed forces are doing a great job deserving the support and appreciation of all Nigerians. Speaking on the NTA network ‘Good Morning Nigeria’,
Shehu also re-echoed the earlier stand that the crisis in Libya is responsible for the resurgence of Boko Haram activities in the North-east.
He said those calling for their sack do not have the kind of information at the disposal of the president, adding that the armed forces are doing an enormously good job, but the challenges have mounted because of factors extraneous to the region.
He said: “Europeans for their competing interests in Libya were dropping weapons into villages in Libya. A lot of these elements have found their way into ungoverned spaces in the Sahel. Could it be better with the sacking of the service chiefs?
“The president as the commander-in-chief is not a novice in the first instance. He was a military commander, a military head of state and the latitude of opinions intellectual, security, military available to him is not available to most of the critics. So, it is wrong of them to interlope in a way and begin to speak on matters of which they do not have the competence to pass judgement. I hope I don’t seem arrogant but I am stating facts as they are.”
While the military must be given accolades for the successes they have recorded so far, new strategies must be mapped out in this revolving menace of insurgency.