It’s exactly 10 years since the deadly Boko Haram sect took up arms against the Nigerian state in July 2009 through simultaneous attacks on symbols of authority it launched in Bauchi, Potiskum in Yobe State and Maiduguri in Borno State.
The altercation between police and adherents of Boko Haram, known at the time as Yusufiyya movement, snowballed into a major crisis, forcing then President Umaru ‘Yar’adua who was on his way to Brazil direct the Nigerian Armed Forces to ‘crush’ the uprising. Within five days, nearly one thousand people including civilians, security agents and Boko Haram fighters including their leader Mohammed Yusuf were killed. Many others were injured while public buildings including police stations were destroyed by the insurgents.
In turn, Yusufiyya movement’s headquarters in Maiduguri was demolished by the authorities; scores of its leaders and foot soldiers were arrested and detained while the group was proscribed, forcing its surviving members to go underground. into hiding. One year after, on July 26, 2010, there was an unexpected resurgence following a mass prison break.
Under the leadership Abubakar Shehu who was deputy to Mohammed Yusuf, the violent group unleashed systematic terror through urban guerrilla warfare by targeting policemen before extending it to other uniformed personnel including soldiers and paramilitary men. Hundreds of clerics, village and district heads, school teachers as well as ordinary civilians were also killed by the insurgents.
In June 2011, a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked Police Force headquarters in Abuja and on Friday, August 26, 2011, a suicide bomber rammed into the UN building in Abuja, killed 21 and wounded 60 people. Citing Section 305 (1) of the 1999 constitution, then President Goodluck Jonathan declared State of Emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Maiduguri International Airport was closed, GSM services were suspended, major roads were closed and thousands of troops were moved to the three states, forcing Boko Haram to relocate to Sambisa forest and shores of Lake Chad.
Still, the terrorist group managed to launch many car and suicide bomb attacks in many cities including Kano, Potiskum, Damaturu, Gombe, Yola, Jos, Zaria, Kaduna and Abuja. It also carried out mass abductions including those of the Chibok and Dapchi girls in Borno and Yobe states. At a time, they controlled many local government areas in the North East.
Founded in 2002, Boko Haram leaders claimed they wanted to “purify Islam” by describing western education as sinful, politics as sacrilege, leaders as exploiters and anyone who does not believe in their ideology as infidel. They have killed tens of thousands of people of all faiths and have destroyed mosques as well as churches and sacked many communities.
However, during the last weeks of the Jonathan administration in 2015 and the first two years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s rule, the terrorists were pushed back, big towns and many communities were liberated, bomb attacks reduced to a trickle while the insurgents could no longer mount large-scale attacks. Sadly, despite the successes recorded, including the arrest of high profile members, crippling of the group’s supply chain, formation of the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin Republic, and Boko Haram’s splitting with one faction loyal to Shekau and another loyal to Abu Musab Al-Barnawy, who has ties with ISIS, there is still a long way to go in ending the crisis.
The Al-Barnawy faction which is prominent in the Lake Chad region is still attacking military formations. Few days ago, the faction killed over 60 mourners in Nganzai Local Government area few days after killing an army colonel, a captain and some soldiers.
Two years ago, UN validated report prepared by Borno State government which indicated that the crisis consumed over 100,000 lives while homes, schools, hospitals and other symbols of authority worth $9 billion have been destroyed. It has also created over 50,000 widows and 53,000 orphans. It also displaced over 2.3 million people.
A decade into the crisis, the Federal Government and the Nigerian security forces must work out and implement a strategy to end the insurgency and terrorism once and for all. President Buhari had in June 2015 given the military a Decembern 2015 deadline to end the crisis. All hands should be on deck to end it by December this year.