The Boko Haram insurgents intensify their activities in the North-east, seizing more towns and villages and putting the military and other security agencies on the defensive
The list is growing. And if the rate at which the Boko Haram Islamist group is attacking, conquering and acquiring communities in North-eastern Nigeria is not checked, the dreaded sect will have a firm grip of the region before the year runs out. As at last week, the number of towns the outlawed group had captured rose to 13, including Michika, a few kilometres to Mubi, in Adamawa State, which it overran on Sunday, September 7.
Before the Michika onslaught, Abubakar Shekau, leader of the sect, had declared Gwoza, in Borno State, a caliphate, a declaration the federal government denied. Government has insisted that no part of the country has been ceded to any group or sect and so called on Nigerians to disregard the claims of Shekau. Few days earlier, the Islamist sect took control of Bama, another community in Borno State. With over 100 people allegedly killed in the attack, as the group clashed with the nation’s troops, Ahmed Zannah, a senator representing Borno Central at the National Assembly, had cried out that the town of Bama had been taken over by the sect. But the state government countered the claim, saying the soldiers had repelled the insurgents and were in control of the town.
Before the seizure of Michika on September 7, the terrorists had, two days earlier, attacked Gulak, headquarters of Madagali Local Government, LG, area of Adamawa State. With the Michika attack, residents, including students, fled the town for safety. Authorities of the state university, Mubi had also announced the closure of the institution to forestall the destruction of lives and property in the school.
Boko Haram, believed to have links with the dreaded al-Qaeda group, is holding the North-east region and, by extension the country, hostage. Baba Jidda, secretary to state government, SSG, Borno, lamented that most parts of the state had been taken over by Boko Haram. “At this very moment, most parts of Borno State are being occupied by Boko Haram insurgents. Government presence and administration are minimal or non-existent across many parts of the state, with economic, commercial and social services totally subdued. Schools and clinics remain closed,” the SSG said. He further said that the ongoing crisis in the state had displaced a large number of people who are now refugees in neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Within the state too, the number of internally displaced persons is increasing. “At the moment, Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and Jere LG, are full of refugees from Marte, Gwoza, Ngala, Bama and other parts of the state,” Jidda added.
With such a challenge, he argued that it was irresponsible on the part of politicians to busy themselves with campaigns and politicking while the entire state was being jeopardised by the terrorists. “The enabling environment for politics and electioneering campaign is simply not obtainable at present in Borno State. In the view of many, the thought about politics and pursuit of political interest in this environment appears absurd, callous and morally repulsive,” he said. Jidda was actually referring to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which had slated October 3 for a by-election in Jere LG of the state. Rather than pre-occupying themselves with election matters, Jidda, who stressed that the threat of insecurity affects everybody irrespective of political inclination, had called on eminent citizens of the state to organise a summit to articulate broad-based solutions to the threat posed by the terrorists.
The activities of the Boko Hararm insurgents are not only affecting the northern region, its ugly effect is reverberating across the country. Though the killings take place in the North-east, many of those killed were not from the region. Thousands of industries have also been destroyed and the possibility of establishing new ones are very slim since investors may fear that their investments could be wasted. This explains why many Nigerians are calling on the authorities concerned to act fast to curtail the sect’s spread.
Jacob Anazodo, a Lagos-based lawyer, who also bemoaned the ferocious manner with which the dreaded sect launches their attacks on Nigerians, said the security outfit and government should be more proactive in tackling the monster. The threat of the Boko Haram group has gone beyond the shores of Nigeria. Convinced that the sect has connections with other terrorist groups in neighbouring countries, there is the need for cooperation among leaders of neighbouring states. Jonathan, too, knows that the war against the group should be taken beyond the country. Such a belief necessitated his recent visit to N’Djamena, Chad, for a meeting with President Idriss Deby. As Reuben Abati, special adviser to the President on media and publicity, stressed in a statement on September 7, a day before the President’s visit, the meeting was part of “the federal government’s efforts to forge a stronger alliance against terrorism with Nigeria’s neighbours.”
Further, he said that Jonathan’s talk with Deby, who is also the current chairman of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, AUPSC, would be a follow-up to their previous discussions during the recently concluded African Union Peace and Security Council summit in Nairobi, Kenya.
However, the soldiers in Borno State have vowed to reclaim the communities currently in the grip of the insurgents. Though Boko Haram still has Gwoza and Gamboru-Ngala, both in Borno State, as well as Banki in Adamawa State under its control, the Nigerian military has sworn to leave no stone unturned until it recaptures every territory from the sect. How soon the military will turn such a dream to reality still remains uncertain.
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