Terrorism: Nigeria at crossroads (Part 1), By Dele Agekameh
The expiration of the emergency rule in the three Northeast states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe on November 20, 2014, and the seemingly foot-dragging by both Houses of the National Assembly to accent to a further extension of the state of emergency currently in the three states, has thrown the government into a quandary. If at the end of this logjam, the emergency is finally approved by the National Assembly, it would be the third time the President would be extending the emergency since the outbreak of the festering Boko Haram crisis in the country in 2009. The first state of emergency was declared by the President on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. This was later extended for another six months in November, 2013 and again renewed for a further six months in May, 2014, lasting till Thursday, November 20.
After 18 months, it is yet unclear if the emergency has had any serious impact on the security situation in the affected areas beyond the numerous checkpoints now dotting the landscape in the Northeast of the country. In recent times, rather than improve, the security situation in the theatre of war seems to be deteriorating to such an extent that the terrorists now control an expanse of land across the three states. They seem to have grown from a roving band of criminals – using guerrilla tactics to inflict pains on innocent people as well as confronting security agents who are mostly taken unawares – to become a formidable force that takes on the security agents, sack villages and declare such conquered areas as part of a utopian Islamic Caliphate, which they intend to create.
With the anticipated fourth state of emergency in place, the time has come for the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to this problem of terrorism, a problem that has accounted for the loss of thousands of lives, the displacement of many, while hundreds of schools and churches have been destroyed, with the economy of the affected areas lying prostrate. This is why many people think the emergency rule may not bring the desired result after all. Many are, therefore, advocating for a total war to be declared by the government on the terrorists as a way of uprooting them from Nigerian soil.
But the government seems to be handicapped by extraneous political considerations or the lack of political will which may have prevented it from declaring an all out war on the terrorists. Such a declaration could make life uncomfortable for the governors, the legislators, the Local Government administrations and all that, in the affected areas. It is doubtful if such a request would sail through in a divided and fragmented National Assembly such as we have in place at the moment. Besides, it remains to be seen whether this constantly renewed emergency which has already spanned 18 months, would bring an end to the menace of these terrorists at the end of the day.
Much of the job needs to be done by the military with the support of the government and the people. However, with dwindling oil-based revenue, the money may no longer be there to properly support the military and deal decisively with the terrorists. Equally telling is the fact that the country is currently being confronted by the ugly spectre of a demoralised military as illustrated by the ineffectiveness so far displayed by the soldiers drafted to the battle-front to fight Boko Haram. The problem with the military include: lack of adequate fire power to effectively confront and contain the terrorists, non-release and non-payment of duty allowances to the troops, insubordination and indiscipline among the troops, as well as cowardice and desertion, among others. The morale of the troops seems to be at the lowest ebb, which is why some time ago, a case of mutiny was recorded when some soldiers attached to the newly created 7th Division of the Nigerian Army based in Maiduguri, a division created out of expediency to take on the terrorists operating in the northeastern axis of the country – allegedly turned their guns on the General Officer Commanding, GOC who reportedly escaped death by the whiskers.
What we are witnessing is a situation where the terrorists who seem to be operating under the influence of an inexplicable murderous spell, are ready to die and kill as many people as they possibly could, while our soldiers either don’t want to engage the terrorists or often vote with their feet at the sight of the rampaging terrorists. This way, the terrorists have often effortlessly captured towns and villages as well as huge cache of arms abandoned by fleeing soldiers. In certain instances, some military formations have been laid bare for terrorists to overrun because soldiers claim their officers had asked them to pull out.
Though some of these anomalies are currently subjects of investigation by the Army hierarchy, they have nonetheless engaged the attention of military analysts who are of the opinion that the Army should possibly embark on the recruitment of fearless, able-bodied men to boost its manpower needs. Their contention is that most of the soldiers recruited in the last few years may have signed up mainly for the sole purpose of eking out a living, especially as they got recruited in peace time without weighing the possibility that a war of the magnitude of the current one could break out. In the alternative, some analysts say, the Civil Defence Corps, who are supposedly well-trained, could be converted from their sleeping mode into an effective fighting force to be incorporated into the Army.
The fact remains that soldiers may not want to be seen as incompetent; otherwise, the Army may need to fall back on the old, retired soldiers who are still active and may be willing to participate in the war. As it is now, there are no two ways about it: it doesn’t seem that the 7th Division of the Army alone can cope with this war. There may be need for the creation of several task forces, each with independent commanders to take care of specific sectors with a strict warning never to yield an inch of Nigerian soil to the terrorists. Besides, as this column has advocated in the past, there is the need for somebody of high competence to coordinate this war. By this, I mean a Coordinating Minister for the war.
In Israel, there is a Minister of Intelligence; the Americans have a Director of Intelligence, but here in Nigeria, all we have right now is a Coordinating Spokesman in the person of Mike Omeri, whose duty is just to speak turenchi everyday and no more. Also, our Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA, as presently constituted, is comatose, or perhaps, even as dead as dodo. The DIA, an agency that is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of gathering intelligence across our borders, has been caught napping while all manner of criminals are infiltrating our borders at will and roaming about in the country, killing and maiming people indiscriminately.
The Boko Haram war has, so far, defied any solution, just as the terrorists have remained defiant. From all indications, that band of gangsters is determined to prove a point through their signature mark of ceaseless brigandage and bloodletting. At a time people thought some respite had been achieved because of the lull in their bombing campaigns. But then, the terrorists swiftly swooped on the premises of Ashaka Cement Factory, located in Ashaka town, Gombe State. After a staccato of gunshots, during which a few people were killed, they exited the premises with some vehicles fully loaded with explosive materials and disappeared into thin air. What followed was a resurgence of their bombing campaign all over the place. At the last count, many states and cities in the northern part of the country including Kano (last Friday), Maiduguri, Potiskum had been hit by suicide bombers.
From the sudden resurgence of these bombings, it is apparent that Boko Haram has perfected its strategies to get replenishment for its war arsenal by conducting raids on possible weapon locations.