Fight against Boko Haram has claimed many lives and displaced millions of Homes

In a recent article I read, the writer was complaining it appeared the Nigerian media was no longer interested in reporting about Boko Haram. The writer argued that the media could no longer be bothered and that the ones that did report about the sect had moved the stories from the front page to the inside pages.

Well, it turns out, that the reporting of Boko Haram directly correlates with the number of attacks or activities taking place. So if the volume of front page presses being doled out to the group has reduced, then perhaps that is a good sign.

Feeling the Neighborly Heat

The number of attacks reported in Nigeria may have reduced; but, our neighbors are still feeling the heat. The Boko Haram attacks reported this week took place in Chad and Cameroon and involved two female suicide bombers detonating simultaneously. Boko Haram insurgents appear to have increased the number of suicide attacks against neighboring Chad and Cameroon despite the deployment of regional Multi-National Joint Task Force.

The Chadian government responded to the recent spate in attacks by imposing a state of emergency in the Lake Chad region because they believe it has become a gathering point for Boko Haram fighters fleeing the offensive crackdown from the Nigerian Armed Forces. This state of emergency allows authorities to stop, search and detain persons who they deem suspicious.

After the former Nigerian president first declared a state of emergency in the three North-Eastern states that were dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency, several reports of human rights violations began to surface. Some unruly troops misinterpreted the rules of the state of emergency to mean anyone could be harassed and tortured at will. Months later, we were pointing fingers at Western nations for “frustrating” our efforts to obtain weapons needed to “crush” Boko Haram, all because of these human rights violations.

The Role of the Public

The Chadian security operatives should take a cue from our experience and ensure that they uphold the dignity of the local populace, who are already dealing with so much loss. Their actions should encourage better community relations as the public are ultimately the ones who will help put an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.

I stumbled upon an article that talked about a U.S Charity organization which provides humanitarian and economic assistance to their country’s troops. The founder said he came up with the idea to start this organization after he watched a documentary in which a Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan won the goodwill of a village through the supply of baseball equipment donated by friends and family back home. In gratitude, the village formed a “night watch patrol” to protect the US soldiers in their community, and “Taliban attacks ended”.

The role of the public in defeating an insurgency cannot be underestimated. President Buhari reiterated the need for the general public to join in the fight against boko haram in ending the insurgency when he stated that “In this new phase of war, all of us are generals, all of us are foot soldiers, and all of us are intelligence officers”. I read a report recently that quoted a security source in Kano saying that “Most of the successes they have recorded against Boko Haram in their area were through tip-offs from residents and the local authorities, who report suspicious new characters in the community.”

Fleeing Inward

Two insurgents from the Boko Haram wanted list were apprehended this week after members of the public recognized their faces from the poster and tipped off security officials. One of the insurgents was caught at the Abuja airport on his way to Lagos.

While the military offensive is driving some fleeing Boko Haram terrorists further into the neighboring country territories, it is also making some of these insurgents flee further inward to other parts of Nigeria. This is a real threat that Nigerians need to be aware of and take adequate actions against.

The Rehabilitation Phase

This fight against Boko Haram has claimed close to 20,000 lives and displaced as many as 2 million people. The Army has been destroying the last few standing Boko Haram camps and rescuing numbers of Nigerians from captivity. But as things progress, the country will sooner rather than later, have to start focusing on reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. Questions remain about what to do with the scores of single mothers raising fatherless children, orphaned children, severely scarred individuals, crippled leather and agricultural economy, destroyed schools, damaged infrastructure, cratered roads and other broken down socio-economic amenities.

In addition to all this, there is also still the case of insecurity and ensuring that insurgents don’t just flee for the moment and come back once things have winded down and the military has packed up and left. Members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (vigilante) for instance, can be recruited into the Police Force which will provide much needed jobs, while providing security at the same time.  The people need to join hands with the government in improving socio-economic conditions of all Nigerians, and more so those in the North-East. Doing so will ensure that those factors (lack of jobs and monthly stipends from the group) that made joining Boko Haram attractive become a thing of the past.