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Violence, Insurgency depopulating the most populous black nation in the world
For over two decades, Nigeria has suffered untold terror in the hands of bandits and extremists group known as Boko Haram. From what seemed to be a disagreement against western education has metamorphosed to a terrible nightmare for Africa’s biggest economy, decimating and occupying territories. Plaguing Nigeria’s peace and harmony, Boko haram operational since 2002, militancy since mid 1990s, banditry (farmers-herders conflict) since 2011. The Global Terrorism Index ranks Nigeria as third-worst nation prone to terrorism with no improvement since 2017
Nigerians have learnt to sleep with one eye open. The security architecture cannot hold anymore. In the last month of the last quarter in 2020, Nigeria have had 3 different attacks in 3 different States. According to a UN Humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria – Edward Kallon, the December attack on Bornofarmers working in rice fields in the Garin Kwashebe village of Borno state killed at least 110. For most of these farmers, they lived below poverty line (1.9 dollars a day). So, while they escaped death from hunger, it wasn’t within their powers to escape death from a national security negligence. Some young men woke up and couldn’t return to their wives and families anymore. Pathetic to say the least. These have sowed seeds of fear amongst farmers, reversing the collective progress made in food security.
As Nigerians were still mourning the forceful exit of 110 food producers, 333 boys who resumed school just after 8 months of worldwide lockdown and academic inactivity were abducted in the president’s hometown - Katsina state by 10pm GMT with motorcycles by same group. This quickly reminded Nigerians of the infamous abduction of 270 chibokgirls in Borno who innocently went to school to learn. Now we have a record of 270 chibok girls and 333 Kankara boys in Nigeria’s nascent democracy. No one appears to be safe anymore. There is a fear to farm, fear to school and essentially fear to live in Nigeria.
According to UNHCR, Over 2.5 million Nigerians are displaced, 7 million prone to attack and 1.4 million children have ran away from schools, hundreds of thousands of rural farmers have been sent to early grave due to the cruel and gruesome attacks by these faceless, mischievous elements. Terrorising every geopolitical zone, the worse hit states are Borno, Benue, Yobe, Taraba, Nasarawa and now Katsina.
This has caused the Nigeria’s economy millions of dollars, about 9bn dollars of our infrastructure has been destroyed. It has led to increase in price of agricultural products since farmers now flee from farms for the fear of being lynched, it has wrecked Foreign Direct Investment and short-circuited the confidence of foreign investors and partners. In an already resource poor area, insurgency has exacerbated suffering, poor child health outcomes, food insecurity etc.
The government of Nigeria have deployed several combat strategies against this
Insurgency and some diplomatic approach like putting them on a monthly payroll of 150,000 Naira (357 dollars), but all attempts have succeeded in futility.
THE BIG QUESTION THEN IS : WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
There’s something wrong with our strategy, and to adequately put an end to this territorial invasion, we’ve got to have a critical review of our approach. Engage deep introspection and figure out any porosity that weakens our strategy. Here are a few things I consider necessary;
1. Infiltration: In the art of war, your enemies are as strong as the number of infiltrants they have in your midst. We can’t be too sure and quick to dismiss that none exist in our military. We can’t launch a successful attack if we’ve got betrayals in our security architecture. I don’t say this as an allegation but as a necessary measure to take at multiple unsuccessful attempts in a war zone against an enemy. There has to be a hook that should be smartly planted to identify military men with questionable loyalty to the fight against these bandits. A sabotage can be cramped using technologies like body cam. It makes concealment and confidentiality of strategies possible. The military is long overdue to get rid of analogue mechanisms in this fight.
2. People-Centred policing: Government should adopt a people-centric, community-based and intelligence-driven approach to better police our communities. The people have got more intelligent information, use them. Empower them with tools that enable them give instant situation report on any smoke of attack before conflagration.
3. Track sponsors and weapon funding: This is war and wars are largely influenced by money. The Financially buoyant equips and intimidates. Launching attacks alone is just one out of thousands of strategy that should be deployed. We’ve got to deploy a multipronged approach. The CBN and local banks have huge roles to play in tracking who funds the operations, weapons, feeding and logistics of these bunch of viles. The government should investigate the internal and external sponsors of Boko Haram and intercept the financial flow so that government can have some control over the insurgency.
4. Transparent recruitment: We’ve had multiple cases in court about paying your way into and upward our security architecture. This only weakens our security vibrancy, preclude the most qualified, passionate and best of our men and allow access to money hungry, debased and unpatriotic individuals. This has also contributed to the recent decry of police brutality by young Nigerians. Bribery as an investment is always recouped in human demeaning ways. It birth compromise against the oath, constitutional duties and even fundamental human rights.
5. Synergistic attack and Border strength: All security architecture should work in synergy with less consideration of which unit takes the glory. The cold unhealthy rivalry amongst our forces should be looked into and stopped. The victory against Boko Haram is victory for all. Our borders should be strengthened so we don’t have a case of populating troops after a technical defeat. With or without this insurgency, borders of sovereign nations are not kept loose.
6. Disguise and takedown: Since multiple attacks by these men have revealed that they come mostly for farmers and children in school, the military should have smart and nimble military men disguise either as farmers or teachers and take down these men unaware. Apprehend some of their men injured and alive and coerce them to get intelligent reports from their base that would enable occupying their base. Leverage their mobile devices, they’ve been reported to receive instructions through mobile phones. This is an art of war that quickens the end of a war
7. Improve our intelligencies: Technology should be leveraged across all departments of our forces. From seamless communication; data analysis; projections and forecast; swift response; sniffing and interception on opponent communication channel; facial recognitions and persona analysis; satellites etc. The analogue approach would only dig more graves.
8. Say no to corruption in military: Defence makes 20% of Nigeria’s budget. In West Africa, Nigeria’s military budgetary allocation is higher than the budgets of all other states’ defence or military operations put together. Niger’s is less than $190 million, Chad’s is $24 million, Benin’s is $116 million and Cameroon’s $244 million. Much of this money is said to have disappeared through kickbacks; payments to “ghost soldiers” who don’t exist, dead men on payroll; or via no-bid contracts resulting in inflated spending that benefits politically-connected contractors. As a result of this, the essentials to win a war of this kind aren’t squarely addressed. For instance, Battleground soldiers are not paid in the field. Some die of hunger. They’re unequipped, essentially lacking the support system required to send Bokoharam packing. Defence budget and procurement systems, payroll and contract bidding should be made more transparent. An ill-disciplined security sector that abuses power and resources only empowers the enemy.
9. National Database management: This is a critical strategy for appearance tracing and itinerary tracking. Nigeria can’t really tell who is a Nigerian and who’s not. There’s no central data base system that you can key in someone’s image or nomenclature and get their life records. The first step is to aggregate a comprehensive data of citizens in a central database system. Agencies could work hand-in-glove to achieve a quality and comprehensive data. This data can then be cleaned and Preprocessed, ready for use. Then every other thing can be integrated from here.
10. Update our weaponry: This is the least topic we should be debating after decades of insurgency and terrorism by this extremist group. On the ground soldiers have repeatedly lamented over inferior weapons. For most deaths recorded on our men are largely self-inflicted as a nation. They either starve to death or get overpowered by superior weapons. Equip our men with sophisticated weapons.
11. Enhance interagency cooperation: Nigeria have had historical records of helping neighboring nations during territorial invasion of this kind. Nigeria and other West African governments should join forces and share intelligence in the fight against terrorism. Improve the capacity of the security forces, enhance interagency cooperation and improve cooperation in the sub-region.
In conclusion, to defeat this extremist group and put an end to insurgency requires uncompromising political will and then a dynamic know-how of modern conquest. If the current service chiefs lack this, then it’s safe for the 200 million souls to replace them without recompense. Nigerians are dying in hundreds daily. Every Nigerian wakes up and just hope they don’t end up in statistics of the abducted, attacked or killed. It also baffles me that our security heads are all from these insurgent-ridden areas, they have a home knowledge of their terrain, the people’s habit, fantasies, idiosyncrasies, yet, nothing seem to work. The central government seem to be very weak in strategy. We are yet to have a president we can refer to as founding father of modern Nigeria. A modern Nigeria would probably be a Nigeria that’s safe and whoever takes us to that promise land secures this recognition just like Lee Kuan Yew who’s referred to as father of modern Singapore, who leveraged authoritatrian pragmatism or what is called soft authoritatrianism, garnished and embellished with a strong popular sovereignty to rebuild the walls of Singapore. Our walls are crumbling and we need a fast builder. Let this inform your voting decision when next you get to the polls. But for current realities, it’s regrettable, pitiable and pathetic. Anarchy in a sense.