Borno Residents Agitated Over Observed Military Synergy With Boko Haram
There is palpable frustration and angst among indigenes of Boko Haram-ravaged Borno state over what is regarded as a return of Nigeria's military's alliance with Boko Haram and participation in crimes against the people.
In a tersely worded 7-point write-up, a very notable northern intellectual, Professor Ahmad Isah Harun laid out no fewer than 7 reasons why the people's suffering had no foreseeable end and deadly sabotage was suspected. After speaking with other indigenes and intelligence sources, I will make a more clear list of the reasons why there is short and long-term anxiety in Borno and security circles.
1. Sambisa 2-week Conspiracy
It is quite popular news that right as the Nigerian military commenced an attack on Sambisa forest, Boko Haram's main forte, there was a surprising 2-week halt in operations which supposedly allowed the terrorists relocate. Sources explained that as the weathered military commanders and air force pilots began the assault, right before they were to attack Camp zero, the Nigerian army suddenly announced a rotation of active troops. This process took a full two weeks by which time Boko Haram had fled the forest to areas which include border towns between Borno and Cameroon, leaving only women and children. Last December president Buhari congratulated the troops for conquering Sambisa with the words, "The terrorists are on the run..." This comment could be taken totally literally. Reports say practically no shot was fired when Sambisa fell. There is no military video showing details the assault on Sambisa.
This is by all means a very, very serious allegation that deserves thorough media and agency scrutiny to examine the facts and investigate and how high up the level of such instruction might have come. It is recollected that during the Jonathan era, when defeating the terrorists was imminent, there were similar military rearrangements, like the sudden extraction of the efficient JTF and replacement with the docile division 7.
2. Rann Bombing
Related to the above 2-week lull while troops were suddenly reshuffled is the deadly bombing of an IDP camp at Rann on January 17th of this year. It is gleaned that among the reasons for the Rann mishap was the exuberance and unpreparedness of the new air force pilots brought in suddenly at a crucial time in the battle last December. These pilots due to human error, misfired and bombed the IDP camp killing as many as 236 innocent civilians. The military blamed the tragedy on "wrong coordinates."
3. Military Takes Over Trade As Governor Amasses Property
Perhaps the most significant threat to existence short and long-term is the threat to livelihood and sustenance felt by the people of Borno. It has long been reported and is common knowledge that even at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, the governor of Borno has been acquiring all available choice land and property. Property owners in Maiduguri's GRA have personally told us the offers they received from the governor's agencies for their typically abandoned homes.
But adding on this is a new loss of livelihood as the military has been described as having taken over all trade in Borno. The people of Borno are fishermen, farmers and livestock herders; however all three of these professions have been obstructed by military take over. Locals complain that military and their partners' trucks are allowed access through military road blocks to fishing points or farms and herds, and the military along with their Civilian-JTF partners have taken over trade of fish and farm produce across the state. This has crippled the local farmers and traders.
Furthering on the problem of the abuse of the Civilian-JTF, Professor Harun complained that governor Shettima is also inserting thugs and thuggery into the erstwhile noble organisation. Thus the vulnerable and desperate youth of Borno are being abused by both the state governor and military.
4. Maiduguri Attack
In a reminder of the painful chronicles of the Jonathan-Ihejirika era, the recent attack on Maiduguri bore all hallmarks of failure at the least or treachery and treason at the worst.
Here are the list of suspicious notable features of that attack:
a. Locals reported to that they alerted the security services of Boko Haram's formation at least three hours before the successful deadly attack on the capital city but that the army did nothing.
b. The area outside Jiddari Polo from the protective trench to Sambisa forest is bare land, several kilometers of it. This can be recollected from the videos in which escapee terrorists were pursued after the attack on Giwa barracks. How the terrorists were able to cross this vast barren land to attack and retreat with arms without coming under fire from Nigerian military reeks of collaboration or criminal negligence.
c. The coordinated attacks which were successful and involved several dispatched terrorist units some of whom invaded and raided military equipment while others detonated bombs at Mosques, happened auspiciously the night before the planned arrival of Acting president Yemi Osinbajo for a scheduled visit. This is reminiscent of the days of political Boko Haram when Senator Ndume used to pass along threat messages for the terrorists to AGF Adoke and VP Namadi Sambo and also the era of Boko Haram bombing Maiduguri whenever former governor Modu Sheriff visits. Modu Sheriff accused current governor Kashim Shettima 's government of being behind those political Boko Haram attacks. Governor Shettima was stunned that Acting president Yemi Osinbajo continued with his visit, SA Laolu Akande reported.
5. Remnant Terrorists
The question many are asking is, if Buhari has indeed decimated Boko Haram and not just negotiated agreements with them; where are the dead and where are the reports of the arrested or killed terrorists? Unlike the time the Chadians fought Boko Haram and when the army along with brave Civilian-JTF under Goodluck Jonathan degraded the terrorists in its desperate pre-election battle, this time there are no army press releases and no videos of any achievements under the Buhari government. Locals have also been threatened into silence.
There are no details of numbers of terrorists killed or captured. Only a handful at a time are announced in sparse DHQ releases. It is known in intelligence circles that there are at least 30,000 Boko Haram terrorists. Where are they? Locals report seeing them around, sometimes moving peacefully as though resettled with an accord with the government. This will amount to an unofficial and unconstitutional amnesty and portends a later danger as it means the threat is only contained and not neutralised. Boko Haram's elusive leader "Seakau" has appeared in new videos with a retinue of military vehicles that suggest he operates safely enough and retains military tactical capacity and operational terrain.
The 2 million euros recently allegedly paid to the terrorists according to the BBC, during desperate negotiations to free some of the abducted Chibok girls right before Buhari left for urgent medical attention as well as the five terror commanders released provides necessary funding for terror and the return of masterminds known to motivate and inspire soldiers. It is said that Boko Haram's main commanders remain mostly free while forced conscripts are the ones thrown forward to die in reported clashes with the army.
These are just some of the serious matters. There are many more of the above numbered concerns among the people of the state who typically don't protest and are less inclined to due to the relative improvements in security from the dirt hopelessness of the recent past.
There is no lid on Boko Haram yet, and while this end eludes Nigerians, the inhabitants of the northeast are becoming increasingly frustrated as once again it appears the Nigerian military has put their survival and restoration last and is working to fill its pockets while preferring to negotiate deals with the terrorists it is sent to combat.
Dr. Perry Brimah; @EveryNigerian; http://AdvancedNigerian.com