Insurgent groups in Borno, Yobe and other settlements around Lake Chad are currently running quasi-administrative policies that include imposition of taxes on civilians in the territories they control, a new report by Reuters has found.
The news agency reported on Sunday that Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), a faction of Boko Haram, currently controls swathes of land that stretch over 160 kilometres (100 miles) into Borno and Yobe States, two states at the centre of the insurgency in the North-east.
The report quoted Nigerian livestock farmers around the territories controlled by insurgents as saying that they are being taxed N2,500 per cow and N1,500 for smaller animals.
The terrorists also run slaughterhouses for the cattle, taking a cut for each animal, as well as from other activities like gathering firewood, Reuters gathered.
“If you are a herder, driver or trader, they won’t touch you – just follow their rules and regulations governing the territory,” a herder told Reuters under anonymity. “They don’t touch civilians, just security personnel.”
The Defence Headquarters did not categorically deny the claims that terrorists are levying taxes on Nigerians, but rejected the claim that they are holding territories.
“They are putting people under pressure wherever they can get them, I don’t think that is new,’ Defence spokesperson, John Agim, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone conversation Monday morning. “Boko Haram has been making life difficult for people wherever they pass through, but that does not mean they are holding territories.”
“We’re putting measures in place to correct that,” he added.
The report comes a week after the Nigerian Army launched an operation it said would “totally destroy Boko Haram” within the next four months.
Reports of Boko Haram seizing territories in Nigeria and other countries around the Lake Chad region are not new. In 2014, the insurgents were said to have cut off huge swathes of Nigerian territory. The tactics appeared similar to the operation of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which had been widely reported as relying on seizing territories and collecting taxes from residents to sustain its violent campaign.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari said he had been able to take back all the lands and proclaimed victory over the insurgency in December 2015.
Since then, however, the terrorists of different factions have carried out scores of devastating attacks while also holding settlements difficult to reach by the Nigerian security agencies.
As at late 2016, Boko Haram controlled areas occupied by over two million Nigerians, according to the United Nations.
No one could say for sure how the Nigerian military deals with individual groups. When PREMIUM TIMES asked what the military knew about emerging Boko Haram factions, Mr Agim said affiliations are immaterial in the overall military counter-terrorism strategy.
“When we’re fighting with Boko Haram, we’re not interested,” in the faction, he said. “These are criminals, so we fight them as Boko Haram.”
“You want to know about the faction, you do that for research purposes, for academic purposes,” he said.
But if the time was auspicious, the military could use internal squabbles within the terrorists ranks to inflict maximum damage on them.
“We know that they disagree, and if there’s anything, we see how we could use the disagreement to our advantage,” he said.
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