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Boko Haram is broken, but not finished

Since 2015, Boko Haram’s capacity to carry out daring attacks especially on civilian populations has greatly diminished. Of recent, it mostly carries out isolated attacks in the fringes of the Lake Chad in far Northern part of Borno, on the borders of the lake, Niger and Cameroon Republics. Though there are occasional attacks along the Sambisa and Alagarno forests axis, military and civilian authorities as well as locals all agree that Boko Haram’s ability to inflict serious damage has been greatly reduced.

Yet, insurgents still pose enough a threat to stop millions of Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs] from returning to their homes in northern Borno State. Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Yusuf Tukur Buratai said last Saturday that Boko Haram appears to Nigerians to be very strong only because it has already instilled fear in them. He said the group had long been degraded but that the effectiveness of its psychological warfare on the psyche of Nigerians is still powerful.

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Security expert Mohammed Abu, a retired military officer who worked in the North East for years, said Nigerian authorities must change their tactics so as to rout the insurgents’ remnants and embolden the citizens. “It is very important to sustain offensives all year round,” he said. “The greatest undoing of our security operatives including the Army, Air Force, and the secret service is that they do most of their intensive operations during the dry season and once the rainy season sets in, they tend to relax.” He said the Federal Government must procure fighting equipment for all seasons in order to finish off the fight.

Another expert, Barrister Mic Moses said government must also break the motivation behind the survival of the two Boko Haram factions led by Abubakar Shekau and Abu Mus’ab Albarnawi. He said, “Albarnawi who has ties with ISWAP is still influential along the shores of the Lake Chad. We should ensure that the resolutions of Lake Chad Basin leaders are followed to the letter by strengthening the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to guard our porous borders.”

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Umma Aliyu, a humanitarian health worker, said the root cause of the insurgency must be addressed by providing educational and economic outreach in the North East. “Fighting insurgency is not only through military might; it involves empowerment,” she said. She said fighting an ideological war is never easy, especially a pseudo-religious one such as the Boko Haram. Government, she said, must consolidate its successes by fully reintegrating people in their liberated communities through quality education and economic opportunities so that the Boko Haram would not have any window to conscript the gullible again.

The Boko Haram war has cost an estimated 100,000 lives in nearly a decade, almost tripling the time taken by the Nigerian Civil War that lasted between 1967 and 1970. At the height of the war four years ago, many communities in six North East states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba states were under siege. At the time, insurgents on the move mercilessly ransacked communities, burnt houses, farmlands and business premises. Young boys and girls were forcefully taken away and conscripted into violent extremism or were turned into suicide bombers.

Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said in December 2016 that 2,114,000 persons were internally displaced. He said 537,815 were in separate camps; 158,201 were living at official camps that consist of six centres with two transit camps at Muna and Customs House, both in Maiduguri. At present, many of the camps have been closed and the IDPs have returned to their towns and villages. Borno State government and donor agencies have built thousands of houses but the gap is still wide, hence the need for the North East Development Commission (NEDC) to start operation with full financial and logistic support.

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