The return of suicide bombings 

Recent multiple suicide attacks in Gwoza, Borno state, have rekindled dreary memories of the past. The latest count reveals 30 fatalities and 42 injuries, ranging from abdominal ruptures to skull and limb fractures.

On the weekend of June 30, 2024, a joyous wedding ceremony was tragically transformed into a funeral when the first bomb detonated. According to eyewitnesses, a nursing mother with a baby strapped to her back detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at the wedding venue. Minutes later, another blast occurred near the General Hospital. Subsequently, at a funeral service, another woman rushed into the congregation to detonate a third bomb.

The Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram has waged a violent war in the Northeastern states of Borno and Yobe and their environs since 2010. Gwoza has long been a battleground for the insurgents, who overtook the town in 2014. The Nigerian Army, with assistance from Chadian forces, liberated Gwoza in 2015. Although Boko Haram has lost ground, internal splits, doctrinal differences, and leadership rivalries have ensured their continued relevance. The Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) has since established a foothold in the region.

Boko Haram conducted its first set of suicide attacks on Police and UN headquarters in 2011. These daring forays raised the group’s international profile and increased its operational capabilities. The group later pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIS) and carried out numerous kidnappings, most notably the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014. Fourteen years of insurgency have left about 40,000 dead and 2 million refugees scattered beyond Nigeria’s borders.

The current suicide bombings, like those before them, indicate that the root causes of insurgency – misinterpretation of religious teachings, negative indoctrination, poverty, and illiteracy – remain unaddressed. The attacks targeted locations where many people converge: a wedding, a funeral, and a hospital. The bombs were detonated by vulnerable individuals – a teenager and young women – in a largely illiterate environment. This suggests that despite its best efforts, the Nigerian government has not made significant progress in changing the mindsets of potential insurgents. With rising living costs and poverty, some vulnerable individuals turn to Boko Haram for support.

President Bola Tinubu has strongly condemned the attacks, vowing to deal decisively with those responsible for these heinous crimes. He declared it a desperate act of terror, stating, “The purveyors of wanton violence shall have a certain encounter with justice. These cowardly attacks are but an isolated episode, as my government will not allow the nation to slither into an era of fear, tears, sorrow, and blood.”

Amnesty International echoed the president’s sentiments, describing the attacks as “deplorable” and demonstrating “complete disregard for human life.” The Defence Headquarters characterised the Gwoza attacks as “the end of cycle of terrorism… to attract attention and mobilise support,” and advised citizens to “stand united.”

The House of Representatives alleged that the bombers were “recruited, brainwashed, and imported from outside the state” to carry out the attacks. We urge the House to investigate further and identify these perpetrators and their sponsors.

It is deeply troubling that suicide bombings have returned after a long hiatus. Even more concerning is that the insurgency, which began in 2010, has grown in intensity and sophistication, enabling three coordinated suicide bombings within hours of each other.

The war on terror has consumed over $97 billion. Although the Nigerian Army claims the insurgency has been decimated, a truly weakened terror group would not be capable of killing 30 people in one day. This demonstrates the insurgents’ superior strategy despite the army’s firepower advantage. Inadequate intelligence gathering has allowed insurgents to remain strong and active. This resurgence is more than a reenactment of the past; it represents another psychological blow to our armed forces, who have suffered losses in Nigeria’s most protracted war.

The Tinubu government must work diligently to reverse this descent into fear and psychological warfare that once paralysed the nation. The insurgency contributed to the downfall of the Goodluck Jonathan government, and Tinubu must avoid the same pitfalls. Nigerians demand the arrest and prosecution of those behind the scenes who manipulate young people into becoming suicide bombers. We must address the root causes of this psychological warfare by improving our intelligence gathering capabilities. The military is war-weary, and Nigerians have grown impatient with the government’s handling of the situation.

To effectively combat this resurgent threat, a multifaceted approach addressing socio-economic factors, education, and improved security measures is essential. Only through concerted efforts can Nigeria hope to overcome this renewed wave of violence and build a more stable future for its citizens.