Forty days to get Shekau
Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai recently gave marching orders to the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru to produce Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau “dead or alive” within 40 days. Director of Army Public Relations Brig.-Gen. Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army chief directed Attahiru to use everything in his arsenal to seize the terrorist leader, whose nefarious activities had led to the death of over 100,000 people and the displacement of millions of others. The theatre command is to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria, Buratai directed.
General Buratai’s order to get Shekau is a kind of reminder because many orders, directives and proclamations have been made on the elusive Shekau. This order probably became necessary because Boko Haram has recently stepped up bomb attacks and ambushes in Maiduguri and parts of Borno State that are still infested with insurgents. The military’s duty beyond killing or capturing Shekau is to bring the insurgency to an end once and for all.
Since 2009 Shekau had been declared killed or fatally wounded several times. Military authorities once said that Boko Haram was using look-alike fighters to impersonate the supposedly dead Shekau. There were rumours of Shekau’s death in 2011 alongside over 1000 fighters but he resurfaced in a video in July 2010. He was again reportedly killed in Kano in 2011 but he reappeared in a video taunting Nigerian and world leaders. In 2013 the Nigerian Army announced that Shekau was mortally wounded in an encounter in Sambisa forest but was sneaked into Amitchide, a border community in Cameroon for treatment and that he ultimately died. Shekau later appeared in another video on August 4, 2013.
In 2014, Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities provided “video evidence” that a Boko Haram commander named Bashir Muhammed, who “doubled as Shekau and took up the mantle of leadership after the real Shekau died in unclear circumstances in 2013,” was killed in Konduga in Borno State but Shekau resurfaced again in another video debunking the claims. It was amidst these claims and counter claims that the United States in 2013 declared Shekau wanted and placed a $7m bounty on his head. Earlier in November 2012, the defunct Joint Task Force Operation (JTF) in Maiduguri placed a bounty of N50 million on Shekau’s head. Buratai’s order this time around looks like a final push to get the Boko Haram leader.
A few days after this order was given, we recorded the very sad event of the death of 69 soldiers and members of an oil exploration team in a Boko Haram ambush in eastern Borno State. It was purportedly launched by the faction led by Abu Mus’ab Barnawy, son of the late Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf. The attack was unarguably the bloodiest this year as it led to the death of many soldiers, professors and supporting staff from the University of Maiduguri as well as vigilantes from the oil producing communities of Gubio, Magumeri, Monguno, Kukawa, Abadam, Guzamala and Mobbar. Three University of Maiduguri staff members kidnapped during the ambush were later paraded in a video, making appeals to Nigerian authorities to yield to the demands of the terrorists to secure their rescue. In July alone, Boko Haram terrorists killed over 150 people and raided many communities.
No wonder that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo asked military service chiefs to relocate to Maiduguri. Minister of Defence Brig Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali [retired] said the service chiefs are to move back to command centre with a view to consolidating the gains being recorded in the battle fields. He said the meeting agreed to get more surveillance devices, cameras and other vital security gadgets that will be able to see distant attackers coming to the position of Nigerian troops.
We urge the authorities to give the military everything it needs to enable our troops to bring this deadly insurgency to an end.