There is now a case for rethinking Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy in the wake of coordinated terrorist attacks on different targets in Gubio and Magumeri Local Government Areas of Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents August 21st, 2019. The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) which is pushing this position is arguing that the attacks have raised serious question on the efficacy of the country’s counter insurgency strategy.
While commending the patriotism and gallantry of troops, CITAD is, however, saying that “Rather than driving and squeezing out the insurgents, it appears they are daily gaining grounds and becoming more atrocious against our people”.
Addressing a press conference in Kano, CITAD further insists that the insurgents took advantage of the fact that both Gubio and Magumeri have no military presence or cover to protect the communities from attacks by the insurgents. Also insisted upon by CITAD is how entirely left without military presence is the stretch between Maiduguri to Damasak, at the border with Niger Republic, a space it says spans over 160 kilometers. That is since the reported flight of the what is called the remnant of the military from Gubio following the first attack on the military brigade stationed there and after which there had been no military presence.
CITAD is not just pooh-poohing the subsisting counter-terrorism strategy, it is also advancing a set of suggestions on what the Government should, as a matter of urgency, do. They are:
- Review and fine tune the National Counter Insurgency Strategy as to make it an effective tool to end the insurgency and secure our citizens and the territories they live. As it is, the insurgents seem to be gaining strength;
- Investigate and find immediate solution to the growing influence or the allure of war economy in which top military brass might be benefiting and becoming more interested in exploiting such an economy for their personal aggrandizement than in saving lives and ending the conflict. Noting that it is known that in some communities, soldiers have taken over control of major economic activities such as fishing, CITAD explains how there are even allegations of appropriation of cattle herds of villagers by some of the military leaders;
- Ensure that our troops are well equipped and supported with high quality of intelligence. CITAD’s fear, however, is the high handedness of the military may make it not likely to get the best from the communities;
- Investigate the allegations of the nonpayment of allowances of soldiers of which there have been reports about these and such situation which are capable of damping the morels of soldiers;
- Investigate cases of military high handedness on community members and abuse of rights and dignity of ordinary citizens, citing cases of how, few weeks before the forceful displacements of over 5,000 people from Jakana to IDP camps in Maiduguri in March 2019, villages in Kukawa had their market burnt to the ground by soldiers because people that were linked to the fighters were reportedly patronizing the markets;
- Compliment military strategy with efforts that will engage communities with a view to enhancing their resilience to not only repel but also make it difficult for the insurgents to launch an attack on them;
- Call for the immediate restoration of military cover in the two local governments
Although CITAD says the figures of casualties remain unclear, it nevertheless contends that the attacks on both Gubio and Magumeri Local Governments Areas of Borno State witnessed massive destruction in the communities because, among others, the attacks lasted till morning hours of Thursday, August 22nd, 2019. “The destruction and killings are serious setback to the efforts at resettling, reconstruction and rebuilding of these communities that have been ravaged by the insurgency for almost 10 years now”, pointed out CITAD which holds that it has now pushed many back to the status of newly displaced, some of them for the second or third time.
Coming at the height of the farming season, reasoned CITAD, has made the attacks to be sure to have serious impact on food security in the region, capable of exacerbating the humanitarian disaster on the ground in the region.
CITAD is shocked and worried that attacks have become more frequent, more brazen and very destructive in the last couple of weeks, expressing its condolences to the families of all those who lost their loved ones and wishing speedy recovery for those who have sustained injuries in the attacks.
General Bashir Magashi who has since emerged Nigeria’s Minister for Defence told the Senate during his own appearance for ministerial screening that there is collapse of co-operation among the Service Chiefs, a statement nobody has countered.
Counter-terrorism strategy is generally a combination of classical military tactics, peace operations, liquid warfare, surveillance and infowar. Critics of Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operation have since noted the weakness of its infowar component which is largely very obvious and non-dramatic narratives that never unsettles anybody. The principle of refraining from criticizing an army at war has, however, held experts back. With the intervention of civil society organisations such as CITAD and the coming of a new Minister for Defence who is himself a product of the Nigerian military, there might be changes. Whether they would be lightening strikes as CITAD, for example, is canvassing remains to be seen.