It is exactly a decade since the war on terrorism was heralded in Nigeria with the elimination of Muhammad Yusuf, the late leader of the murderous Boko Haram (BH) sect. The killing of the insurgents’ sect leader immediately sparked an orgy of deadly terrorists’ onslaughts on mosques and churches—which will last for years, and till now; not only in Maiduguri and several other towns in Borno, but across the country.
The thing is: hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians—of both the Islamic and Christianity faith—have been killed. Several others have permanently been rendered incapacitated as a result of the life-threatening injuries sustained during coordinated bomb attacks on Muslim and Christian congregations. Also, suicide attacks have also been executed by young indoctrinated girls, who are willing agents of the extremists.
The fact that at least 22,000 Nigerians are missing due to the decade-long BH conflict, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is a grim reality that will sent shivers down anybody’s spine. In a statement, ICRC President, Peter Maurer, recently said nearly 60 percent of those missing were children, noting that it was the highest number of missing persons registered with the organisation in any country. Maurer, further disclosed that some families were often separated while fleeing attacks, just as others have had their loved ones abducted or detained and do not know their whereabouts.
According to a US study, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been responsible for more than 35,000 deaths since 2011. The study claimed that more two million people have been displaced as a result of insurgency activities, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the North-East region. ‘Mega’ Nigerian cities and towns such as Adamawa, Maiduguri, Kano, Damaturu and even the nation’s capital, Abuja, among others, have all witnessed pockets of bloody attacks orchestrated by insurgents in times past.
On the occasion of 2019 World Humanitarian Day, Mr. Peter Ekayu, Head of UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nigeria, while calling on the government to protect aid workers engaged in humanitarian services in the North-East, disclosed that 37 aid personnel have been killed in the 10-year BH insurgency.
While the days of insurgency may not yet be over in Nigeria, efforts by security agencies, especially the Nigerian Army (NA) have helped to check the activities of BH and ISWAP extremists. The combat strides of NA have helped to significantly reduce the spate of deadly bomb attacks on churches, mosques, markets and other public places, not only in the nation’s capital, but at several towns in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Aside liberating several places, areas and popular towns—which the insurgents have established caliphates of some sort—in the N/East, the Army, especially under the dynamic and visionary leadership of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, successfully captured the vast Sambisa Forest.
No doubt, I will be clever only by half to deny that the military, and Army in particular, have been recording casualties in recent times, owing to the resurgence of attacks launched by insurgents at military bases in Borno. Yet, we all cannot deny that the Army have continuously launched successful military operations in the N/East, eliminating several BH terrorists in the process.
It is worrisome that some fifth columnists, and especially foreign media, have remain unwavering in discrediting the efforts of the Army, through engaging in sensational reportage. But it is heartwarming that the Lt. Gen. Buratai, and the entire men and officers of the NA have remained focus, dogged and resilient in prosecuting the counter-insurgency security project. The COAS, an accomplished military officer with an array of intimidating academic laurels, have regularly visited troops in the frontline, charging them to be patriotic in defending their fatherland.
Like it has always devised and launched military operations and combat strategy, the NA, according to Buratai, have already established 20 Super Camps in the N/East, with a view to dealing with the terrorism cankerworm. It is gratifying that since the introduction of the Super Camp strategy, BH/ISWAP fighters have suffered heavy casualties, if the reports by reputable news mediums in Nigeria are anything to go by.
Speaking recently at the COAS’ combined second and third quarter conference in Abuja, Buratai stated that the Super Camp concept entails the concentration of fighting forces in strongholds that have the capacity to respond swiftly to threats and attacks.
Also, the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, while hosting members of the Borno Elders Forum in Maiduguri recently, explained that the Super Camp concept is one that will create military presence everywhere in villages and troubled areas in the entire N/East.
He said by the time the new warfare concept is fully and articulately implemented, the Army will ensure quick mobilization of troops, speedy reaction and longer reach at tactical level, combined with the striking power of the Air Taskforce, to see that the days of insurgents moving freely and passing in between static defence location, is over.
The Theatre Commander thereafter solicited the unflinching support and cooperation of the Borno Elders towards ending insurgency. Other Nigerians cannot afford to do less. They should offer their invaluable support to the NA, so as not to only stem the tide of insurgency, but insecurity in general. Nigerians must rally round our gallant troops as they fight the hordes of criminal elements holding the country to ransom.
Been a major stakeholder, the media must ensure that BH/ISWAP terrorists, who are daily unleashing havoc on the Nigerian State, are not made social celebrities through generous reportage of their dare-devil, callous and vicious activities. That is if it (the media) cannot help the counter-insurgency cause, by also reporting the combat successes recorded by the Armed Forces against the bloody vampires.
Mahmud, a freelance journalist and social affairs commentator, writes from Abuja.
He can be reached at: [email protected] and 08065262623.