23 December 2013

Nigeria: Urgent Need to Confront Borno Crisis

Photo: Premium Times
Boko Haram


In the early hours of December 20, 2012, Bama town in Borno State came under massive attack from more than 300 Boko Haram rebels, who stormed the 202 Tank Battalion Barracks with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. The number of casualties remains unknown. In reaction to the development, President Goodluck Jonathan almost immediately convened a security chiefs' meeting. About two weeks earlier on December 2, Boko Haram rebels had also launched a massive attack on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital; they targeted the air force base, the 33 Artillery Battalion Barracks and a police station. Three airplanes and two helicopters were destroyed, several people were killed and many injured.

Public affairs analysts are still trying to imagine how about a thousand rebels were able to infiltrate Maiduguri at that time and virtually take over the city, even with the state of emergency and huge military presence. The federal government has maintained that they have been able to contain the crisis within the state capital and have isolated the theatre of operation to a remote forest more than 100 kilometres from Maiduguri. After the attack, the president summoned a security meeting with all the security chiefs in attendance. So far, however, no action has been taken, thus diminishing the enormity of the Boko Haram attack.

A week after the incident, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, appeared in an unverified video claiming responsibility for the act. He admitted that he lost seven men, but killed many federal soldiers.

It is becoming clear that the nation has reached a confluence of lies in which it is difficult to discern even half-truths. Official sources always speak in favour of government actions. They never admit their mistakes or the number of causalities. They always claim that they are winning the war against terrorism. Underlining all this is the obvious cover-up of exactly who is sponsoring Boko Haram. A recent development also indicated that there is discord within the top military command, over its relocation and control element from the office of the chief of defence staff to the office of the chief of army staff. This, in our opinion, is ill advised, as the war against terrorism is not being waged by the army alone, but also by all other arms of the military and the intelligence community.

We are worried that in spite of the state of emergency in Borno, there has been a serious escalation of the crisis. And, from all indications, Boko Haram seems to have the upper hand. If thousands or hundreds of Boko Haram extremists can operate so boldly with little or no interference, then the state will soon be lost. This crisis, in our view, is no longer a minor insurgency. The nation may unwittingly be engaging itself in a full-blown civil war. The sooner the government realises this and takes urgent steps to curb it, the better.

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