The Head of Humanitarian Assistance and Rehabilitation arm of the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative (PCNI), Dr. Sidi Ali Mohammed recently raised eyebrows when he said Boko Haram fighters were better motivated than Nigerian troops on the frontline. In his presentation at the unveiling of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Sub-Saharan Africa’s Economic Outlook Report in Abuja, the official claimed that Boko Haram fighters were paid $3,000 daily while our soldiers receive only N1,000 as special allowance for fighting terrorists in the North-East.
The statement by this official was not backed with any concrete evidence. Boko Haram most certainly cannot pay $3,000 daily to its fighters. Besides, most Boko Haram fighters are either motivated by misguided pseudo-religious zeal, or they were forcibly conscripted from their villages. Sidi Mohammed’s unguarded statement could demoralise the army, which was why the Army command took serious exception to it and called for his investigation. Even though soldiers are expected to make a livelihood from their assignment, it is not appropriate to compare the earnings of terrorists with those of a legitimate army.
However, Dr Mohammed made a lot of important remarks that are crucial to the battle against terrorism in Nigeria. He said, “Part of the reason why this problem has refused to go away is the abundant natural resources in the Lake Chad Region. We need to think outside the box. It is now more like a cartel. When you see the type of weapons they use, [they are] more sophisticated than the type of weapons that our military are using.” From this remark, it is apparent that the sure way of defeating the sect is by liberating all parts of the country’s territory from under Boko Haram control. As long as the sect members have enough space to camp their fighters, give them training, and mobilize them to action, this fight against terrorism will not end.
This dovetails to a second problem Dr Mohammed raised at the forum – the lack of governance at the local government level. He said, “States and local governments are supposed to be closest to the people. The local governments are supposed be closest to the people but in all honesty, are they really there? For those of us that know the North very well, not only in the North-East, even in the North-West, the only time you go to the local government secretariat and you see people is 26th, 27th and 28th of the month to collect their salaries. The moment they collect their salaries, they just disappear. Ninety per cent of local government chairmen in the North reside in their state capitals. So what do we see? That gap that has been created in terms of governance is what Boko Haram has taken advantage of. It might be news to you that Boko Haram is even collecting revenue from the people where they are operating. They collect taxes. They have government.”
The revelation by the PCNI official is a confirmation of a disturbing situation reported severally in the media. Though the sect has been decimated, it has not been defeated. Therefore, government and security agencies would have to think outside the box in order to deal with the situation. The strategy adopted, which led to their decimation, should be reviewed, as, apparently, that strategy cannot eliminate the fighters. A situation whereby soldiers sack Boko Haram from a community and move on to other battle grounds without leaving behind a security arrangement, has led to the return of Boko Haram to previously liberated villages and towns. That is why successes recorded get overshadowed by the sect’s fresh exploits.
We call on government to ensure that soldiers who have put their lives on the line to defend the nation are adequately remunerated. Government has voted a lot of money for this purpose. The money should be used to pay the soldiers their hazard allowances. This is the only way they would put in their best in the fight against terrorism.