On the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of Boko Haram insurgency, the Nigerian government has restated the position declared some four years ago: that the real Boko Haram has been degraded and defeated.
“At present, terrorist activities have been confined to the remote, rural agrarian areas of Borno State and pockets of outrages in Adamawa and Yobe States”, the Buhari presidency said on Tuesday night, as it awarded itself generous marks for taming the insurgents and listed various efforts being made to cement the success.
“What we have now is a mixture of remnants of the Boko Haram, fugitive criminals and the Islam in Maghreb together with West African terrorists bonding together. This is a fallout of the collapse of the Libyan State, and from farther away, of the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. They are taking advantage of our porous Sahelian borders”, said Garba Shehu, senior special assistant on media to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Shehu acknowledged the new problem posed by ISWAP, as different from the decimated Boko Haram and hoped that the ‘gallant’ Nigerian military and the multinational forces would soon deal with the menace its members constitute.
“The Buhari administration is strongly encouraged by successes recorded so far by our armed forces and the MNJTF, and is optimistic that in the same way as our military defeated the Boko Haram, so would the ISWA terrorism be defeated”, he said.
The Nigerian position, about the technical defeat of Boko Haram, was first postulated by former information minister Lai Mohammed, less than a year after Buhari succeeded Goodluck Jonathan.
Mohammed used the term, Boko Haram being ‘technically’ defeated. The phrase has been haunting the Buhari administration since then, after strikes and bombings by the militants.
Many critics fault the position adopted by government. The latest attack in Nganzai local government in Borno, where 70 villagers were killed by Boko Haram gunmen, is the latest pointer, to the critics, that Boko Haram is still alive.
Garba Shehu sees the flares of violence or attacks in Nigeria’s northeast as fallouts from the war in Libya and the collapse of the Islamic State that have unleashed armed gangs across the Sahel.
`’As a consequence of these international gangs, we have seen an increase of trans-border crimes and the proliferation of small arms in the Lake Chad Basin area. Outrages are common in Niger, Mali, Chad and Cameroon.
“Nigeria is a large country covering nearly one million square kilometres. This is roughly equivalent to the size of France and Germany put together. In addition to our porous borders, in the neighbouring Sahel-Sahara region, a lot of ungoverned areas provide haven for terrorists’ occupation and training.
“Without the tremendous efforts of our armed forces and the joint operations by the Nigeria-led Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, formed by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin, this single problem of illegal arms flow would have been much worse.
“At the moment, the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari has made the country safer than it met it. In 2015 when he took power, Boko Haram terrorism was active in nearly half the number of states in the country. They controlled a territory the size of Belgium, with a flag and systems of administration and taxation of their own. Emirs and Chiefs had fled their domains along with hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens. Such is no more; they have been taken from them.
“As the situation develops, our fantastic armed forces are changing their tactics. Just recently, they launched “Super Camps.” The essence of this is to act proactively and respond quickly to the changing nature of terrorism.
Shehu acknowledged the additional support the government of Nigeria is receiving from friendly countries across Europe, United States and the Middle East.
He also said the Nigerian government is spending large sums of money in weapons procurement to keep our military in good fighting shape.
“While the military arsenal is not something you pay for and get, requiring mostly long-time orders, weapons will come in accordance with the terms of contracts. This country is expecting the commencement of the delivery of Super Tucano fighter jets, very effective in this kind of warfare, beginning next year from the United States.
“The administration has embarked on an ambitious electronic/digital border monitoring scheme to curtail the porosity of the borders and, working with the UN agencies, the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, donor agencies and friendly countries, has started providing solutions to backwardness in development and poverty in the sub-region because at the very heart of recruitment schemes of the terrorists lies the issue of poverty’.
Shehu recalled the inauguration of the Northeast Development Commission, to fast track development and poverty eradication in the affected areas.