This week there were fewer Boko Haram attacks reported. The first occurred on Monday morning at Awonori Village near the Nigerian-Niger border, in Borno state,. Several terrorists arrived in vans and motorcycles, attacked the village and killed 7 civilians. They then carted away food supplies and livestock. This attack is similar to the one that occurred last week when BH terrorists stormed a community in the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State, killing 6 civilians and abducting 4 women and carting away livestock and foodstuff. This is a known tactic BH terrorists use to replenish food and other basic supplies.
False Media Reports
There was a report that stated that BH members had been arrested by Army troops in Ondo state located in the southwest of Nigeria. This report turned out to be false. Both the state’s military and police officials refuted the claims and reported no record of such an arrest.
Another false media report that made its rounds this week was regarding a supposed BH attack which claimed the lives of 150 civilians in Yobe. Rumors of this false attack were carried on all major news outlets. The Nigerian defense spokesperson stated that the only incident involving BH in Yobe was an ambush the Nigerian troops and CJTF laid on an unaware BH group between Kukuwatashi and Kukuwa Gari, Yobe state. The Nigerian media has been known to spin stories without confirming with the defense media personnel, or clarifying its veracity.
While the Nigerian media could improve on its verification of stories prior to publishing especially when it has to do with anything defense related, the defense public relations team need to be a bit more proactive in responding to rumors of attacks and authenticating them before they run rampant. In the past, the Defense media spokespersons have been known to deny reports of verified BH attacks, dumb down the numbers of casualties, or undervalue the severity of an attack. All this was usually in an effort to save face with the top commanders and the previous presidential administration, which was willing to accept without question, the reports from defense headquarters and nothing else.
Things have changed now however, the military commanders are operating physically in closer proximity to the fight, therefore they are able to keep better track and account of attacks and counter attacks. For instance, this week, the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Gen Buratai carried out a morale boosting trip around the parts of Borno State the Nigerian military have acquired back from BH. While his advance team was journeying through Mafa to Gamboru-Ngala border town, his advance team was ambushed by BH terrorists. The troops managed to repel the attack, which resulted in 10 EKIA and 5 BH members were apprehended.
Nigerian Troops on the Offensive
NA troops have been reporting various successes on the ground. There is renewed energy, motivation and dedication amongst the military fighters and this is showing through with their various offensive successes. The military has been conducting increased patrols and offensive air and ground attacks. NA troops reported killing several insurgents who were fleeing their safe haven in Sambisa forest on motorcycles and pickup trucks mounted with RPGs and AAA in Gwoza, Borno State. More offensive attacks were carried out in Gudumbali town in Borno state, resulting in several EKIA and weapons and equipments destroyed.
One incident of note was of an IED attack which detonated an APC that drove over it. This happened between old Marte and Kerenoa junction in Marte LGA of Borno State, Two troops were KIA as a result and the APC was completely damaged. While troops are currently in high spirits and making headway in the fight against BH, the insurgents may switch their tactics towards more IED emplacements which could end up demoralizing troops who may feel helpless in defeating the device.
The Nigerian government needs to intensify its counter IED strategy before the insurgents choose this as their primary tactic in carrying out attacks and causing mass casualty. For example, IED attacks in Afghanistan at the start of the American military’s Operation Enduring Freedom were minimal. A few years later, IED attacks became the primary tactic employed by the insurgents in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. When things began to heat back up in Afghanistan, information about the success of IED attacks were now known in Afghanistan and insurgents there began to employ this tactic as their primary means of attack. By this point, there was an influx of foreign fighters who brought with them knowledge of IED making and wasted no time in training the local fighters on how to effectively employ IED attacks.
When it comes to Nigeria, there are already reports of foreign fighters within BH ranks and some local BH fighters who have gained foreign experience coming back to apply their knowledge against the Nigerian forces. Such fighters learned how to make IEDs and use heavy weapon machinery, knowledge which they have and are eager to share with the BH local fighters. The sooner members of the IED networks are identified and removed from the battleground, the safer the country will be. It is important that while doing such, targeting priority should be given to the expert IED makers.
ISIS and Nigeria
Evidence of more external influence on the Nigerian insurgency surfaced this week when reports of a Palestinian Cleric and known ISIS terrorist called Ahmed Al Assir was seized while trying to make his way to Nigeria after using a valid visa into Nigeria. Assir has been living in Lebanon and has been wanted by the Lebanese authority for the death of 17 Lebanese soldiers. He was attempting to visit Nigeria via Cairo but was apprehended at the airport while attempting to travel with a fake Palestinian passport and under a pseudonym. Assir is said to have undergone surgery to alter his appearance in order to evade security operatives. Nigerian officials claim Assir did not apply for the visa at the Nigerian embassy, and insist that it is a forged visa.
Aside from the above, there had been no known direct operational contacts between BH and ISIS. Back in February 2015, “US officials reported that ISIS had dispatched a team to Nigeria to negotiate a more formal alliance”. On March 7, 2015, BH pledged allegiance to ISIS, five days later that pledge was accepted by ISIS leader Al Baghdadi.
Following the alliance, BH has rebranded themselves as Islamic State in West Africa Province or ISWAP. There has also been a remarkable difference in the quality and style of BH media propaganda videos. The recent videos utilize more polished style and high resolution graphics similar to those of ISIS. Recent BH videos now utilize multiple languages including English, Arabic, French and Hausa indicative of a group that is receiving more external support. Another influence of ISIS in BH has been the drive to take and hold territory. This year we saw more frequent attacks in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger indicating BH’s will to broaden the landscape of their operations.
This past week, there were also reports of young Nigerian’s from Kano who currently school and reside in India, who were arrested along the India-Pakistan border on their way to Iraq to join ISIS. The Nigerian Immigration Service says it barred over 23,000 people from departing the country en-route to ISIS affiliated territories.
The ISIS commander travelling to Nigeria is a possible indication that there are ISIS sympathizers who currently reside within the country. These incidences have been a huge embarrassment for the Nigerian government who is starting to realize the gravity of the terrorist threat within its soil and attempting to establish counter-measures. Reports this week pointed out that the DSS is intensifying its search for suspected ISIS members who are already in Nigeria.
Nigerian Police Adopting New Measures
The Nigerian police announced a series of actions it plans on taking to ensure more efficient law enforcement and the accomplishment other duties. First is its intention to recruit an extra 10,000 police officers into the force to help boost security. A secondary benefit of this action will be to tackle youth unemployment.
The force is also planning to commence a crime and incident data bank. This database will enable the police acquire and maintain the profiles of suspected and known criminals. This will allow for the execution of biometrics on crime scenes. This is a welcome development which is long overdue. The inability to utilize forensics on crime scenes has hampered the proper identification of criminals.
Aside from commencing this biometric data bank for crime, there needs to be a means by which the biometric data banks that currently exist can be merged together. Biometrics has been collected for passports, driver’s licenses, voter’s cards, and bank verification to name a few. Collating all the existing biometric databases will help reduce redundancy, which will in turn save funds. It will also ensure that all necessary agencies can have access to and complete information about all personnel within its territory.
Road side Victims
A long haul bus driver was driving along the Lagos-Ibadan express way when he stopped to assist and pick up 12 passengers whose vehicle had been attacked by robbers at Kogi State. During his journey, he was stopped by FRSC personnel who proceeded to arrest him when the number of passengers on the bus exceeded the number of those on the manifest. Attempts to explain the situation fell on deaf ears and the driver in essence was arrested for performing his civic duty and helping out his fellow Nigerians.
This week, the IG of Police Mr. Solomon Arase had to urge members of the public to intervene and assist accident victims when they see them, and inform the police afterwards. The IG released this statement because members of the public stopped coming to the aid of victims for fear of being unjustly blamed for the incident.
This unfortunately is a scenario that occurs a lot in Nigeria. Directing police officers not to harass good Samaritans assisting victims is a step in the right direction. The police leadership however, needs to ensure that this rule is enforced across the force, by involving all within the chain of command. While the risk of perpetrators of the crime posing as good Samaritans exists, with some training on proper crime scene management, cross-examination and witness interviews, the police will be better able to avert this threat.
There has been an increase in the levels of traffic within Lagos metropolis. This increase in traffic is as a result of several factors including increased rains, flooding, bad roads, and various ongoing road constructions to name a few. Some criminals have seized this gridlock opportunity to carry out armed robberies. Some of the locations witnesses have reported to the police include: Odo Iya Alaro, Maryland, Fadeyi along Ikorodu road, and Apongbon, CMS.
Traffic Robbers Tactics
- They robbers sometimes use motorcycles, other times they pose as hawkers and arrive on foot
- They may get the driver of the vehicle to come to a complete stop by pretending to cross the road while his accomplice swoops in on the vehicle and robs the occupants
- Sometimes they tell the driver his tire has gone down or that his fuel tank is leaking, once the driver stops to check it out, they attack.
Criminals continue to carry out this act unhindered because a lot of times there are no law enforcement policemen in sight. The presence of police roadblocks around Lagos were removed after several complaints that the policemen were causing gridlock and extorting motorists. As a result of this drawdown, security operatives are rarely seen on the roads and this has contributed to the success of these highway robberies as the perpetrators know they can get away with it.
What security officials can do:
- During high traffic hours or rush hour, the policemen can increase their presence on the roads. Once traffic is freer flowing, the number of personnel can be scaled down.
- The current police patrol vehicles on the roads tend to just stay parked in one location, security officials need to make sure that the policemen in the patrol vehicles move back and forth and patrol their areas of responsibility, instead of being stationary. Doing this will prevent the robbers from simply carrying out their business in another section, confident that the police are stationary far away.
- There needs to be an easy to remember (preferably 3-digit) hotline where citizens can call into incase of the robberies and the police can immediately dispatch the nearest security patrol team.
- Additional awareness campaigns need to be given to members of the public highlighting the dangers of tailgating which prevents the motorist from maneuvering away from a situation.
What you can do:
- Try not to drive too close to a vehicle in front of you in case you need to maneuver out of that lane should an incident occur.
- If the robbers are not armed (they will show you the weapon if they are indeed armed) press your horn and cause a lot of attention towards you to scare away the robbers
- Remove valuables from the car, put laptop bags and other valuable items in the trunk or boot of the car prior to departing from your point of origin