L-R: Chief of Defence Staff, Air-Marshal Alex Badeh; Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kenneth Tobiah Mimimah; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin and Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon
Activities of the Boko Haram sect remain a major threat to the body polity. Ademola Adeyemo and Shola Oyeyipo write
It’s been difficult for the ordinary Nigerians to understand the factors responsible for the sustained violent attacks in some parts of the North by the Boko Haram sect. In the past, the concerns of the security operatives have been armed robberies, kidnappings and communal clashes and which rarely made newspapers’ headlines.
But that really was in the past as the modern day Nigeria has gradually slipped into a phase of what is best described as a conventional war with forces determined to make it fail.
Although whenever insecurity is the thrust of any discussion, it is usually narrowed down to the militancy in the Niger Delta and the terror of Boko Haram, more than that however, insecurity in Nigeria is becoming a lifestyle.
Many lives are lost daily on the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road and many others across Nigeria. People die daily of preventable diseases – infant and maternal mortality is still a health concern, complicated by ineffective security system. But in the context of the high human causalities, the disruption of commerce and communal life, the activities of Boko Haram have grown to become a major concern in Africa and the world at large.
Boko Haram which according to an Australian hostage negotiator, Stephen Davis, started as a group of boys sponsored to the lesser Hajj by Senator Alli moduSheriff and “reorientated,” has grown to become a world class terror group. It was recently said to be inching towards a separatist tendency when the sect started capturing villages and declaring “Islamic Caliphate.”
The list of Boko Haram dastardly attacks is long but there some attacks that are significant in history like the July 2009 uprising in Maiduguri, Bauchi, Potiskum, and Wudil, where the militants reportedly killed over a thousand people.
Others are the August 2011, United Nations building bombing in Abuja, attacks on police stations, churches, and banks; clashes with security forces and the Madalla bombing of Catholic Church during a Christmas mass are still fresh in the memories of many.
In January 2012, there were attacks at Mubi, Yola, Gombe, and Maiduguri, where the sect attacked churches and Christian businesses. Same month, there were more attacks in Kano, where the terrorists attacked churches and businesses presumed to be owned by Christians. In April of 2012, they bombed a church on Easter day in Kaduna. There were various other bombings in Kaduna, Wusasa, and Sabon Gari.
The killings were sustained till 2014 when in January the sect launched a massacre in Kawuri, Konduga local government, Borno State, where no fewer than 36 persons were killed. In February, 39 people were again killed in Konduga town in an attack by the Islamist militants. In the Konduga attack, gunmen who arrived in 4×4 trucks reportedly opened fired on a mosque and razed over 100 homes to the ground.
Still in February, at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, gunmen killed 59 students at a boarding school. And in another attack in April, two bombs exploded in a crowded bus station in the outskirts of Abuja, killing 71.
In May, militants attacked at night and set houses ablaze in various villages in the North-east. When people tried to escape, they were shot dead and more than 300 people were killed in the attacks on Gamboru, Borno State and there have been various shades of attacks in Gwoza, Borno, Kano and Yobe States in recent time.
While the attacks continued, the two major political parties; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have continued to make unfounded claims about the sponsors of the militants, but the gravity of the problem confronting Nigeria came to international limelight when members of the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped at least 200 girls from the Government College, Chibok, Borno State, later in April.
The abduction triggered global outrage as world leaders condemned the act. There have been sustained protests by civil society groups and the social media campaigners, which gave birth to the #BringBackOurGirl. Nigerians called on President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure the release of the girls and to step up efforts at getting to the root of the problem once and for all.
There is also the swirling insinuation about the possible political angle to the insecurity challenges emanating from the activities of Boko Haram members. Just recently, North’s apex socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in an open letter signed by the duo of the chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, a former Inspector General of Police, and Secretary, Mr. John Ubah, a retired colonel, said it was not pleased with how President Jonathan was handling of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The ACF described as “nonchalant” the attitude of President Jonathan to the plight of northerners whose area has suffered gruesome murders and arsons from the sect since 2009,” adding that there has been “no decisive action to expose, contain and resolve the Boko Haram insurgency.”
Earlier, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) had given President Jonathan up till October to produce the abducted schoolgirls or forget his 2015 presidential re-election bid, a call the presidency dismissed as untenable.
The Alhaji Sule Maitama-led NEF noted that the warning became imperative because they were in firm conviction that the insurgency occasioned by the activities of the sect and other related security challenges posed a threat to the 2015 elections and the survival of the nation.
However, while the APC had battled the tag that it was sympathetic to the cause of Boko Haram, given its alleged intention to produce a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket in the 2015 election, the scenario changed when Davis alleged that a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika and Sheriff were sponsors of the insurgents.
The federal government has also made efforts to address the insurgency using different approaches. Jonathan once constituted a presidential committee to “constructively engage key members of Boko Haram and define a comprehensive and workable framework to resolving the crisis of insecurity in the country by granting amnesty to the insurgents.
At a different time, government had also set up eight-man presidential committee on security challenges in the North-east zone and recently, Committee on Victims Support Fund to mobilise resources and annex support to victims of insurgency and Boko Haram terror activities everywhere in the country.
Much more than any other sectors of the economy, military expenditures in Nigeria has been on the increase every year. Out of a total budget of N4.962 trillion, the allocation to the defence sector took about N968.127 billion. The Senate later approved $1 billion dollar (about N165 billion) loan requested by President Jonathan to tackle insecurity and terrorism in the country.
The president said he needed the loan to upgrade military equipment, to train personnel as well as provide logistics for the armed forces. But the military has intensified force effort at curtailing the insurgent and is said to be recording success lately.
As it stands today, many Nigerians live in perpetual fear of Boko Haram. Others resident in trouble-prone areas have fled to relatively safer parts of the country, including the neighbouring Cameroon. But the people are asking government to do more to curtail the insurgency which is assuming a global twist.
The president must therefore acknowledge the failure of the security agencies and as such, ensure complete overhauling of the security agencies in the county. In particular, the failure of intelligence gathering to contain the recurring security breaches is worthy of note.
The spate of bombings has once more brought to fore, the need for the Nigerian people to discuss their future and that of the country.
And until these structural distortions and anomalies are addressed, the monster of insecurity may continue to loom large. In addition, the president must act decisively in containing terrorism otherwise, the short and long term effects of a festering terrorism are better not imagined.