Archive for July 2014

Why Has Nigeria Failed To Contain Boko Haram?

July 18, 2014

First published by Aljazeera on July 15, 2014

The erstwhile general officer commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, is a lucky man. Some two months ago, he was addressing his troops in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, when some disgruntled soldiers fired gunshots at him. But he narrowly escaped death as his aides shielded him and drove him out of danger.

This is one major indication that the morale of many soldiers fighting insurgency in Nigeria is low.

They have lost a number of their colleagues to terrorists. And they are not happy with some of their superiors who they feel are working against their interests.

The situation is as variegated and complex as Nigeria itself.

On one side of the coin is corruption. The United States under-secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, Sarah Sewall, said this much recently.

According to her, despite Nigeria’s $5.8bn security budget this year, supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles do not reach the frontlines of the struggle against Boko Haram.

Besides, soldiers grumble, rightly or wrongly, that their leaders do not pay them their wages when they are due.

Some of them have also complained that some of the weapons given to them are obsolete.

Even some of the weapons the terrorists use were reportedly stolen from the Nigerian military.

Some online media reported in May that nine generals and some other senior officers were under investigation for their alleged role in the sale of arms to Boko Haram.

Though the military has denied this, the suspicion is also strong that some soldiers allegedly collude with insurgents to coordinate terrorist attacks.

The fear in some quarters is that the insurgents have some sympathisers in the barracks.

Even President Goodluck Jonathan once said Boko Haram had infiltrated his government. That is why some secret information on military movements is allegedly leaked to the insurgents.

And that is why the American officers, who came to help rescue the young schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram since April 14, 2014, reportedly said they would not share intelligence information with their Nigerian counterparts.

Religious cum political sentiments may have also weakened the fighting spirit of some soldiers.

Jonathan, a Southern Christian, took over from Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who died in office in 2010.

Many northern politicians claimed that the president agreed to run for only one term and hand over power to the north in 2015. Jonathan appears to not be ready for this. Hence, some people see Boko Haram as a tool to destabilise the incumbent government.

For Nigeria to survive the terrorist onslaught and prevent a recurrence of the near mutiny in Maiduguri, there is need to overhaul the intelligence network of the security agencies.

The federal government must find a way to motivate the soldiers and summarily deal with every act of corruption in the military.

In all, the need for Nigerians to unite and fight terrorism cannot be overemphasised.