ONITSHA (SundiataPost) – If truly “over 1400 Boko Haram terrorists including their commanders and arms suppliers have been killed in the past two months or since 11th April 2020”; with “about 1000 earlier killed between 1st and 9th of April 2020 by Chadian soldiers led by its President Idris Derby; 1400 “repented” or “low risk Boko Haram combatants” released in Feb 2020 and another batch of over 600 about to be set free or amnestied”; our questions to Lt Gen Tukur Buratai led Nigerian Army are: how many Boko Haram fighters are remaining in the Northeast including Borno State? By the country’s military and secret police intelligence, how many Boko Haram fighters operate in Nigeria? How many are found in the neighboring Republics of Chad, Niger and Cameroon? How many have been “killed” in Nigeria since mid June 2015? How many have been arrested and tried or are still being held? How many have been freed and released to civil society and how many have been enlisted into the Nigerian security forces? Are Boko Haram fighters now operating as conventional armed opposition group (i.e. with land army and defined location or territory, space and numerical strength) or as terrorist guerillas; or both?
It is recalled that Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, had on 11th April 2020 announced his relocation to Borno State (his State of birth) and vowed never to return to his Army Headquarters base in Abuja “until Boko Haram and its fighters are flushed out or forced to surrender”. The COAS relocation and vow followed the official announcement, backed with pictures and videos, by the Chadian Government of major onslaughts recorded against Boko Haram including killing of about 1,000 Boko Haram fighters in operations conducted on the islands of Lake Chad in a vast area between Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. The Chadian Government also announced the loss of over 52 of its soldiers and wounding of over 200 others. The Chadian Government’s attack led by President Idris Derby and his son was in retaliation for Boko Haram’s attacks on its Bohoma military base in March 2020, killing over 92 of its soldiers.
Since then, Nigerian and international media have been awash with unverified stories of Nigerian Military and its Army’s “killing spree” against Boko Haram. It is hard for two-three days to pass by without Military or Army’s produced stories of “killing of dozens of Boko Haram fighters including their commanders and arms or logistics suppliers”. Five days ago, the Army Chief, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai visited the Presidency and told same that “over 1400 Boko Haram fighters have been killed in the Northeast (since his relocation)”. Back in Feb 2020, the same Nigerian Army announced the release of “1400 low risk Boko Haram combatants”. The Nigeria Police Force, on its part, also announced “the killing of 350 Bandits in Birnin Gwari and Giwa LGAs of Kaduna State, between Feb and April”. The announcement was made on 29th April 2020.
Yet, the reality remains that despite “these killings” numbering “thousands” under two or three months with their attendant litany of loopholes and unanswered questions, more innocent and defenceless citizens have been killed or abducted since then. Just four days ago or on 9th June 2020, Boko Haram jihadists struck in the remote Village of Faduma Kolomdi in Gubio Local Government Area of Borno State, killing 81 defenceless and innocent citizens. The attacks took place on Tuesday, 9th June 2020 and lasted for over six hours with no soldiers, police personnel and other military personnel including Air Force personnel and their fighters in sight. The most gory part of the story was how the villagers were gathered by the jihadists as if “they were being conveyed for hours-long meeting or for religious sermon or crusade’; only for the jihadists to open fire on them when done. Less than three days or 72 hours after the massacre, the Boko Haram jihadists released another shocking video and photo of the public execution of two members of the Nigerian security forces: a Christian soldier-named Lance Corporal Emmanuel Oscar and a Christian police officer-named Inspector Johanna James.
They were believed to have been captured on 11th June 2020 along Monguno-Maiduguri Road in Borno State and executed on 12th June 2020; to mark the country’s central Government imposed “Democracy Day”. By the religious composition of the targeted and slain victims, the jihadists have sent two strong messages: one to Nigerian Christians reiterating their jihadist mission and the other to the central Government of Nigeria challenging and mocking same for issuing empty threats or being ‘a toothless bulldog’.
It must be stated that Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations under the current central Government have remained a puzzle taking key or strategic international observers including counter-insurgency experts and modern violence theorists aback. They have remained a puzzle defying demystification; forcing the experts to ask several unanswered questions such as: is Government of Nigeria truly engaged in counter-insurgency operations or insurgency-support operations? Are there really counter-insurgency operations or ‘conflict profiteering operations’ going on in the Northeast? Are there remarkable differences between the ousted Omar el-Bashir’s Government in Sudan and its clandestinely affiliated Janjaweed Militia terrorism in Sudan’s Darfur region and the current central Government of Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast and the operations of Boko Haram, ISWAP, Ansaru and Herdsmen jihadist terrorism in the country?
Statistically speaking, the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria are highly sketchy and shrouded in secrecy. The state owned and independently owned media reports of same are totally below the international best practices. This is to the extent that it is almost an act of impossibility for local independent media houses to seek to credibly investigate or verify government official statements or reports regarding same. To continue to operate and stay safe, such media houses have no other option than to ‘report or publish as written or given or directed’. For instance, when the military or Government says: “150 Boko Haram fighters “killed” or “vanquished” or “neutralided”; the story is published as issued; with little or no right of independent verifications.
Totality of these explains why despite official reports of “vanquishing” or “neutralising” or “killing” and “dislodging” of “over 1,400 Boko Haram fighters” since 11th April 2020, little or no results have been recorded or seen. Same thing applies to ‘Northern/Zamfara Bandits’ including “the killing of 350 Bandits in Kaduna” by the Nigeria Police Force as reported on 29th April 2020.
It also saddens our heart that despite relocation of most of the country’s military arsenals and counterinsurgency and banditry combatants in the Northeast and Northwest to counter terrorism and banditry, there is practically nothing to show for same. That Boko Haram terrorist group could have a field day in the broad day light of 9th June 2020, operating from 8am in the morning to around 2pm or for six hours, unchallenged; is a clear indication that something is fundamentally not right with Nigerian defence and security policy and management. The country is so aerially short that a flight to any of its parts is completed within one hour and-a-half, yet all the country’s war helicopters and jet fighters especially those deployed in the regions of Northeast, Northwest and North-Central always go to permanent sleep whenever insurgents and jihadists strike.
We have, therefore, identified insincerity or dishonesty, violent religiosity and dry quest for criminal enrichment through human misery or ‘coffin entrepreneurship’ as the three monsters responsible for monumental failure of the country’s state actors’ handling of the security challenges. Nigeria may most likely not survive the three hydra headed monsters unless it reversed and retraced its chaotic and dangerous steps including total overhauling of its current security composition, leadership and policy.
Intersociety, therefore, remains strongly opposed to killing outside the law of any Nigerian citizen or group of citizens through state actor and non state actor criminal and malicious processes. This is irrespective of such citizens’ locations, tribes, classes, genders, ages, educational levels and disability categories; and not minding whether they are Muslims or Christians. The 9th June 2020 killing of 81 innocent and defenceless citizens and public execution of two Christian security officers belonging to Nigerian Arm and Nigeria Police Force is hereby strongly, unreservedly and totally condemned.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chair and Amaka Damaris Onuoha, Esq., Head of Campaign & Publicity