The current resurgence of the insurgency in the North-east may be due to strategic blunders by the Nigerian government, security experts familiar with the dynamics of the Boko Haram conflict have said.
They said strategic steps taken by the government are now helping the insurgents to wax stronger and frustrating the efforts of the military. .
Against the new wave of deadly attacks by the terrorists, PREMIUM TIMES sought the opinions of some individuals familiar with the ongoing counterinsurgency operation in the North-east on why Boko Haram still carry out surprising attacks despite official claims that the group has been degraded.
In their opinions, the recent deals the Nigerian government had with Boko Haram have not helped the counterinsurgency efforts.
They suggest that the government exchanged money and some captured commanders of Boko Haram to secure the freedom of the 107 Chibok schoolgirls, the ten Borno women and three University of Maiduguri oil explorers.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how some senators had earlier acknowledged that the Nigerian government paid ransom to Boko Haram for some of the kidnap victims. The federal government is, however, yet to formally acknowledge that it paid ransom for the victims but had in the past hinted at a prisoner swap.
While Nigerians commended the government for securing the release of the victims, the ransom and the released terrorists may, however, have strengthened the terror group.
In the past two weeks, Boko Haram fighters have carried out some attacks in parts of Borno and Yobe which resulted in the abduction of over 110 schoolgirls and killing of some personnel of the United Nations.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed, said the attack on Dapchi was a sign that Boko Haram had been substantially defeated, and abducting the schoolgirls was nothing but a publicity stunt by the terrorists.
Exactly 11 days after the Dapchi attack, heavily armed Boko Haram fighters invaded the remote town of Rann, the headquarters of Kala-Balge local government area of Borno State, where they killed 11 officials comprising three UN workers and eight Nigerian security personnel.
The UN said two Nigerian midwives working for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) were also abducted by the gunmen during the attack.
On the same night, the insurgents were reported to have attacked a village under Madagali local government area of Adamawa State where they abducted three persons.
On Monday night, a lone Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a suburb of Maiduguri, killing three operatives of the Civilian-JTF and injuring 17 others.
Many Nigerians have blamed the recent bold attacks of the Boko Haram on the federal government for not being able to manage its successes in the ongoing counterinsurgency operation.
EXPERTS CONDEMN DEALS
PREMIUM TIMES sought the opinion of Ahmed Abdullahi, a former State Director of the Department of Security Service (DSS) in Borno for about six years until he left in 2015, who fingered negotiation with the terrorists as a major misstep in the war against Boko Haram.
“I used to think that Nigeria and her multiple problems were a headache for all of us; not anymore,” he said in utter disappointment with the organs of government prosecuting the counterinsurgency operation.
“When we have other countries with similar but milder terror problems meting out commensurate punishments including death to terror suspects in custody, here we trade them by releasing Boko Haram suspects.”
Mr. Abdullahi. who during his time as director of DSS in Borno not only personally led operations that resulted in the arrest of top Boko Haram kingpins but is also credited for establishing what is today known as Civilian-JTF, said he weeps seeing how the gains of such efforts are being wasted by the current managers of the country’s security.
“Over 400 BH (Boko Haram) suspects in Kainji detention facility were released by a local court in the area recently,” he said.
“Is this how the war will be won? Almost all the commanders in the DSS custody – dreaded criminals that we risked our lives to apprehend over the years – have been evacuated and traded under the guise of securing the release of Chibok girls.”
He said the recent abductions by Boko Haram are another avenue cheaply given to the Boko Haram commanders to generate more cash in hard currencies from the federal government which the insurgents could use to further arm themselves.
“Dapchi girls will further fetch more Euros to the current callous commanders (of Boko Haram) and security managers who have no sincerity of purpose,” said Mr. Abdullahi.
Another expert, Kabiru Adamu, a security risk consultant to some of the UN organisations working in the North-east, blamed the Nigerian government for “unwittingly” allowing a degraded Boko Haram to regroup by indirectly giving them oxygen to breath.
“The government has unwittingly allowed the group to regroup by, firstly, negotiating with them, and in the process allowing them some kind of funding – though I am not certain about this; as well as allowing them (recover) some of their members who had been in detention”, he said.
He said though the government has not made public details of the negotiation, “what we are hearing suggest that monies were received and possibly some of their members may have been released in all the negotiations that have taken place so far”.
He said the military, through its several operations in the North-east, succeeded in plugging all the channels and sources of funding for Boko Haram, but the federal government whom it is working for is using another hand to spoon-feed the starving insurgents.
“Their funding and supply sources may have been blocked; now they are looking for ways to generate more funding and one of the easiest ways to generate these funding is through kidnapping, especially since they know the Nigerian government is negotiating with them.
“So that’s why you see in recent attacks…they would end with kidnapping. This is something they ordinarily would not do in the past”.
Mr. Kabiru, who is the chief executive of Beacon Security, said rather than government continuing negotiation with Boko Haram, they could as well leverage on the opened window of communication to advance a bigger dialogue and possibly negotiate a deal to end the entire war.
“I agree with the opinion that negotiations should go beyond hostage release and ransom payment,” said Mr. Kabiru.
“In the measures to addressing terrorism, globally, the number one measure is to address grievances of affected communities, and sadly Nigerian government is not doing enough in that direction.
“Why I am saying this is that, if you are going to negotiate anything, the starting point for that negotiation is to indicate that you have addressed grievances. And what are those grievances? Poverty, deprivation, and other socio-economic issues that have been affecting the targeted region.
“Like in Borno, the poverty level is extremely high; illiteracy as well as lack of education is significantly high amongst the youth. So these are the kind of issues you use in negotiating apart from other pecuniary benefits that the leadership of the group may have.”
Just like the former Borno SSS director had opined, Mr. Kabiru said he suspects that the current state of insecurity, especially in the North-east may be benefitting some individuals in government.
“But unfortunately, as it is being rumoured, there are may be some elements within the Nigerian government, including the Nigerian military that perhaps don’t want this to come to an end for reasons best known to them,” said Mr. Kabiru.
“May be for personal benefits or perhaps lack of deeper understanding of the dynamics behind the conflict, but the truth of it is that no counterinsurgency operation is run through military exercise alone.
“Since they already have a channel of communication, I personally believe that they should expand the channel of communication to include broad negation towards ending the conflict,” he said.