The latest suspected Boko Haram-led massacre has claimed a death toll of 110 people and an additional six injuries. The gruesome attack targeted farmers and occurred near the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri. In the village of Koshobe near Borno State on Saturday, farmers were reportedly tied and killed by armed insurgents. Farmers were attacked for a range of reasons, including unmet extortion money to retaliation in response to the arrest of a Boko Haram soldier. The incident occurred on the same day residents were scheduled to vote for the first time in 13 years to elect local officials.
No group has officially claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Boko Haram and a branch organization, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have a history of more than decade-long violence killing thousands and displacing tens of thousands in the area. The group has also left traces of blood and murder in the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Borno Governor, Babaganan Umara Zulum, has since urged the federal government to recruit more soldiers for the Civilian Joint Task Force and civil defence fighters to protect farmers in the region.
In a 2015 interview with BBC, Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari, said Nigeria “technically won the war” against Boko Haram militants. Buhari went on to explain that the group is no longer capable of “conventional attacks” against security forces. Critics at the time said the government exaggerated the scale of its success. Five years and multiple acts of insurgency later, Boko Haram has yet to be defeated or even intimidated by the Nigerian government or security forces.
Each attack Boko Haram commits reveals the gaping holes in Nigerian governance and military strategy. It is up to military leaders and international experts to advise on correcting the multiple blind spots in the Nigerian government that Boko Haram continues to take advantage of.
Bulama Bukarti, an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, explained to Al Jazeera Nigeria’s recent military strategy and the cracks that have caused dire consequences: “About 800 security forces were killed, mostly in the first half of 2019, and the Nigerian military responded by changing its strategy introducing what they called the ‘super camp strategy’ by which they withdrew soldiers from remote communities and rural areas. The strategy succeeded in reducing military fatalities, but the side-effect of that is that the Nigerian military has effectively surrendered control of rural Nigeria to Boko Haram fighters.” “The security forces are obviously losing this war,” Bukarti told Al Jazeera, labelling 2019 as “the deadliest year” for Nigerian security forces since Boko Haram’s armed campaign started in 2009.
“Our people are in very difficult situations. They are in two different extreme conditions: on one side, (if) they stay at home, they may be killed by hunger and starvation; on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” Governor of Borno State, Babaganan Umara Zulum, said at the mass burying of 43 bodies. “Borno state is a state with very good soil, there is a lot of water on the ground, and a lot of crops grow very quickly,” Vincent Lelei, the UN’s deputy humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, told Al Jazeera. “Given the opportunity, the livelihoods of the people could recover so quickly – but this insecurity, this problem of violence against unarmed civilians is reducing those opportunities.”
The fear and insurgency that plagues the targeted villages stunts potential growth destroys families and communities, and affects the economy of the entire country. A comprehensive military structure and plan must be created and followed through in order to stop this epidemic of violence. The government of one country will not be enough to end the insurgency. The combined effort of international organizations and the leaders of countries affected by Boko Haram and other breakaway groups must create a plan involving modern military technology, in-depth military training, peacekeepers and an increase in soldiers stationed in remote villages to protect civilians from a seemingly ever-looming evil. Decades of murder must be met with sharp and swift action to destroy all recruitment practices into extremists groups and ensure the safety of essential workers in their day-to-day lives before further consequences are irreversibly stained.
Leaders in all departments of the Nigerian government need to be fully informed of the escalating situation and of the foundation of Boko Haram. Weakness in security institutions and lack of a counterinsurgency strategy have handicapped Nigeria’s ability to put up a defence force against the growing threat. Since the actions of Boko Haram are often committed sporadically, the Nigerian military needs to be deployed all over the country with an emphasis on vigilance. The insurgency has devastating effects on both the communities and the country as a whole. Failure to defend Nigeria’s people and land will have detrimental effects on the economy and stability of Africa’s most populous nation.
Leaders must recognize that the efforts of Boko Haram are a relentless evil that will not be combated with a complacent government and military. The Boko Haram insurgency campaign took root in 2009 and has since spread to many countries in pursuit of recruitment, murder, extortion, and more. According to the Global Conflict Tracker created by the Council on Foreign Relations, Boko Haram has created nearly 244,000 refugees and killed more than 37,500 people since May 2011. In recent times, Boko Haram and ISWAP have increasingly preyed on loggers, herders and fishermen, accusing them of spying and sending information to the military and the local militia fighting them. The rampant corruption that poisons the government’s ability to make a change, the extremist ideology that persists, and the instability of Boko Haram needs to be battled in unconventional ways in order to produce different and long-lasting results.
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