On Boko Haram’s renewed attacks

The renewed spate of attacks by Boko Haram or Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) on communities of Yobe and Borno states is worrisome. The attacks are a major setback to Nigerian government’s counter terrorism effort. The Boko Haram, the until in March 2015, when there was a misunderstanding between Abubakar Shekau camp and that of the son of the late Muhammad Yusuf that gave birth to ISWAP,i is a jihadist terrorist organisation that is active in the Lake Chad Basin Areas.

I came across the name ISWAP in 2015 when a renowned terrorism reporter and a journalist Ahmed Salkida on his twitter handle said that, Boko Haram is split into major groups. The group at that tim seemed nonviolen their modus operandi is like humanitarian workers helping the extreme or poor communities with water, shelter and other basic amenities. The group was doing so to create trust with the host communities and also create avenue of recruiting more young people into their group. 

The group is reported to have a strong allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, The group appears to be working hard to gain more favour and support from ISIS, though they do provide training and technical assistance to them.

Recently, the group executed four aid workers who were abducted on 18 July 2019 in Damasak in Borno state. They are in custody of the one woman among the aid workers and some other people including the lecturers from Adamawa. The group is kidnapping people and demand for ransom which is one of its sources of finance.

In November, Nigerian Air Force has successfully targeted the senior members of the group and killed several numbers of them in Jubilaram in the Lake Chad basin. The operation, according to the spokesperson of the Nigeria Air Force was part of the renewed offensive to end the protracted insurgency in the region.

The renewed attacks are very disturbing and came at a time the government is claiming that, the group has been defeated technically but seemed there are a lot to do.This month, the group has made several attacks at different locations in Borno and Yobe states.  The group reported that, they ambushed travellers along Maiduguri-Monguno road where six people were killed, an eye witness said four of them were humanitarian workers. Another one was in Damaturu whee the Nigerian Army  successfully pushed them back and killed many of them. After they left Damaturu, they were also sighted along Miringa axis of Biu firing gun shots taa to communities.At last,to the credit of our gallant troops,they were pushed back.

  The major concern is that, ISWAP is growing in power and influence especially in its territorial base on the banks and Island of Lake Chad areas. The group has cultivated a level of support among local civilians that Boko Haram destroyed their communities and neglected by government. International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) reported that, there is strong bond between ISWAP and these neglected communities and the terrorist group does provide economic support to them and treating them better than parent organisation (Boko Haram) and by filling gaps in governance and service delivery. Filling this gap in governance and service delivery is very essential in winning this war and of course getting information from the communities that will help in tackling the conflict.

ISWAP approach appears to have paid dividends in term of recruitment and support from the communities, displacing them will not be easy because of their deepening root in the population especially those communities of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The group reportedly extends micro-loans to local communities especially to women, youths and farmers. The government should not use force alone in fighting them; non-kinetic approach should be also considered to weaken their ties with those communities.

For Nigeria to win this war, one step to start is to address the issue of human right abuses committed by security personnel and conduct themselves more professionally in discharging their duties  in the affected communities. This will win the heart of rural communities to provide the necessary information needed to counter ISWAP terrorists in the region.

While military and other security personnel are doing their best to curb the situation, government should employ comprehensive negotiation and dialogue with them and also extend humanitarian assistance to the people.

Idris Mohammed writes from Abuja