Boko Haram’s deadly resurgence
In the past few months, the ongoing war against Boko Haram appears to have changed tempo, with Nigerian troops suffering a number of losses - of lives of personnel - as well as equipment. Coordinated attacks on communities and military formations by the insurgents are on the rise, with the most recent, deadly one at Metele village, in Guzamala LGA of Borno State.
According to reports, insurgents overran the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele during an evening attack last Monday, November 19, and killed many soldiers and some officers, including the unit’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba. They also carted away arms, ammunition, and military equipment.
Boko Haram soon released a video, which was seen by Daily Trust Saturday, and widely available online, in which they were shown killing apparently unarmed soldiers in cold blood. In the video, an incapacitated soldier was also shown being hoisted onto a vehicle belonging to the insurgents. His fate afterwards, however, remains unclear.
A soldier who survived the attack, said their location was invaded after Boko Haram issued a threat letter last Friday.
Another soldier, who requested anonymity, said the attack did not last more than 45 minutes, as troops suffered due to lack of adequate weapons. He narrated that when they realised things were looking bleak, they decided to retreat. “But it was too late, and we were surrounded. Many of us were gunned down. Those lucky enough to escape walked to Monguno, where they boarded commercial vehicles Maiduguri,” he said.
The soldier also said attempts to evacuate fallen soldiers were thwarted by terrorists, and that troops are facing a major challenge, of inadequate ammunition and motivation to properly defeat the insurgents. “We find it shocking how the media seems to be unaware that we are suffering here, by no fault of ours. We can finish this fight, but first you have to equip us properly. I know some people will scoff at this, but it is the truth: We’re still suffering.”
When Daily Trust Saturday called Director Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, he declined comment.
On Thursday, 23 November, the Senate adjourned its plenary in honour of the 44 soldiers who lost their lives in the attack. The plenary was adjourned till Tuesday, November 27, 2018. Senate President Bukola Saraki said: “We must pay our respect to these brave men that have sacrificed and paid the ultimate price for our own safety and peace in our country.”
Senator Bala Na’allah noted that his cousin was one of the fallen, and citing Order 42 and 52, he urged the Senate to take judicial notice of the incident. The lawmakers observed a one-minute silence, and also agreed that the Senate Committee on Army will pay condolence visits to the families of the deceased soldiers, and the Chief of Army Staff.
Troops had in the recent past made some remarkable progress against the insurgents, seeing to displaced persons from Guzamala LGA returning to their homes. Two weeks later, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai visited Gudumbali, the headquarters of Guzamala, and flagged off farming activities, reassuring returnees of safety.
Weeks after that, Boko Haram attacks numbering more than 20 have occurred around a variety of locations, with varying degrees of deadliness. A tally shows that they have killed over a hundred soldiers in the past three months. However, military officials say that figure is inaccurate, and much higher than the actual toll.
Sometime in August, there were reports that insurgents attacked a military base in Zari, situated between Damask and Gudumbali towns. It was reported that many soldiers were killed, and dozens missing, but the authorities disputed the figures, saying while there was an attack, it was repelled by airstrikes.
Brig. Gen. Chukwu said then in a statement that combined troops of 82 Division Task Force Bridge and 158 Task Force Battalion involved in the counter-insurgency operations had an encounter with insurgents in Gudumbali. “However, no human casualty was recorded in the encounter. The troops have regrouped and normalcy has been restored.”
After the incident, Lt. Gen. Buratai visited Gudumbali, and there he said: “Sometimes when you set goals, you must have challenges. But most importantly, those challenges had been addressed. We will not allow such reoccurrences.”
But after Buratai’s reassurance, Boko Haram didn’t stop, but continued attacks on military formations, like one on the fringes of Lake Chad Basin, where at least 5 attacks were recorded in recent times.
Babakura Modu, in Kukawa LGA, said: “We salute the efforts of the military in restoring peace, both here and in Borno generally. We never believed it would be possible for us to re-engage farming activities. However, recent attacks have us extremely concerned.”
Many residents of Maiduguri metropolis spoken to by Daily
Trust Saturday expressed shock and surprise that insurgents could still have the capability to storm as close 4 kilometres away from Maiduguri, the capital, and set 12 villages ablaze. “After all the gains of last year, I think the military should intensify efforts,” Ahmadu Balori, a trader, said.
The first attack closed to Maiduguri occurred in September, when insurgents stormed Alaou general area, Amarwa and Wanori villages, and killed at least 8 villagers. Many were also injured in Konduga LGA.
Also, a month later, suspected Boko haram insurgents attacked Maiduguri suburbs and killed 5 persons and looted food items in all three villages of Dala Malari, Fuguri, and Femari, all in Jere LGA of Borno State. The list of daring attacks goes on.
Then last week, after insurgents burned down the village to ground, Villags head of Shuwari Balle, Mallam Suleiman Bale, decried that this is the second time the village attacked by Boko Haram, therefore threatened that if a village of not more than two kilometers from Giwa Barracks could not be protected against any attack by the insurgents, they have no other option than to relocate.
His counterpart, Village Head of Mammanti village a suburb of Maiduguri, Mohammed Ibrahim Bulama, lamented how insurgents set ablaze many houses and carted away livestock, after killing many and setting them on fire.
Many farmers, also, have been brutally killed in suburbs of Maiduguri, as well as Bama, Chibok, Gajiram, Nganzhi, Konduga, Jere and other places, and several times have not been reported because of poor telecommunications facilities in a good chunk of the state. This development has also raised major fears of food security in the state.
Chairman of the Network of Civil Society Organizationss, Ambassador Ahmed Shehu, called on the service chiefs, for a change in modus operandi, one that would see troops work closely with the community to make sure that civilians are safe. “People can no longer go to their farms, and roughly 70 percent of the population of these communities get their means of livelihood through farming. Now, with the threat of death, if they don’t farm, they will die of starvation. Between the devil and the deep blue sea isn’t a good place to be caught at all.”
Boko Haram leader, Shekau, in a still from an undated video
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai
Late Lt Col Sakaba