The dynamics of Boko Haram attacks

WITHIN the last one month, members of Boko Haram, the deadliest terror group in the world, have struck in a number of places in the North-East. Significantly, the spate of suicide bombings increased sharply amid the euphoria generated by the fall of Sambisa forest, its fortress for many years. The self-adulation in government circles culminated in the assertion by the Presidency that the fall of Sambisa forest after an offensive by the Armed Forces marked the “final crushing of Boko Haram.”While we would for the umpteenth time salute and appreciate the gallantry of the military and the government in combating the sect, it is imperative to sound a note of caution once again. The country may have won the war against the sect but it now needs to chart diligent and compact methods to win the peace in the next phase of the battle against terror. Terrorism has never been defeated wherever it has taken hold, be it in Pakistan, India and Latin America. The recurrence of suicide attacks demands a holistic review of strategies in the ongoing war against Boko Haram whose dastardly act has claimed an estimated 20,000 souls since 2009. As we noted in our previous editorials, the dispersal of the terror group from Sambisa makes it even more dangerous. Therefore, it is imperative that the Federal Government desists from sounding exultant.

Evidently, the cases of suicide bombing have created a fresh climate of fear and trepidation in the North-East where the sect has caused humanitarian crises of unimaginable proportions. They have equally triggered uncertainty in a number of other states in the country where suspected members of Boko Haram were apprehended. Having been dislodged from Sambisa forest, they are on the prowl, recruiting girls and boys for suicide missions after due indoctrination. The number of surprise attacks by the group in parts of Borno and Adamawa states attest to the fact that it is not deterred by the heavy onslaughts on it by the Armed Forces.

Instructively, security operatives confirmed the arrest of Boko Haram members in Kogi, Nasarawa, Taraba, Lagos, and Oyo states. In Oyo, the state police command confirmed the arrest of two suspected Boko Haram members in Ibadan, the state capital. The incalculable damage the group has done to the nation is further underlined by the discovery, by the military, of the corpses of a missing Lieutenant Colonel and 15 other soldiers in Borno State. On Friday, January 13, several people were killed in an early morning bomb attack in Madagali town in Madagali Local Government Area of Borno State.

The arrest of these heartless and bloodthirsty beasts in parts of the country, especially in the South-West, is a matter of serious concern for a number of reasons. One is the long distance between the theatre of war and the South-West. The ubiquitous presence of the personnel of the law enforcement agencies on the nation’s highways and other places that could serve as escape routes for the terrorists is another. And yet another critical factor is the seeming complicity of some unscrupulous members of the public who have chosen to place personal gains and businesses above national security and collective safety by serving as conduits for Boko Haram members, providing them with vehicles. There is also the issue of the obvious lacuna in the intelligence machinery of the state, since these wicked souls are not spirits.

It is particularly worrisome that the sect could infiltrate Lagos, in view of the wide security networks in the city. As the economic and commercial hub of the country, nay the West African sub-region, such fresh incursions cannot and should not be treated with levity. A possible strike by the group in Lagos is capable of creating a damage of unparalleled proportions for the nation. It therefore behooves the nation’s security agencies to step up their game and fish out possible accomplices that may be aiding the movements of the fleeing Boko Haram members. That they found their way into the densely populated Lagos, especially with the arrest of one of them said to have been planning to bomb the Third Mainland Bridge, means that many more of them might have sneaked into other states of the country, especially given the interlocking nature of Nigeria’s road network.

On the whole, the recurring suicide bombings also signpost the fact that the battle against terror has entered a more critical phase that requires a new thinking and approach. As we urged in our previous editorials, the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) of the Nigerian Army should give counter narratives and combat Boko Haram’s extremist ideology. There must be a conscious and pragmatic effort to ensure aggressive public education and enlightenment on the latest antics and tactics of the terrorists. The airwaves should be abuzz with anti-Boko Haram materials, including jingles, as well as other potent and effective means of mass communication capable of complementing other efforts to raise the morale of Nigerians on vigilance and neighbourhood policing.

The government must develop necessary synergy with well-meaning experts who have consistently emphasised that every war has dynamics and changes with time. It must acknowledge that poverty constitutes a veritable factor in Boko Haram recruitment, and put in place real governance underscored by vision, transparency, contentment, sacrifice and thrift, as opposed to ostentation and profligacy with the attendant effects of perverse values.

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