Nigeria’s military is in distress. President Muhammadu Buhari’s over-due reforms aren’t yet enough to turn an under-resourced, over-stretched and corrupt army back into a professional force. A complete overhaul is needed, including accountability for human rights abuses, if Nigerians are not to be left at the mercy of Boko Haram and other armed groups.
Clashes between army and Boko Haram (BH) continued in NE. In Borno state, army killed several insurgents and seized arms including anti-aircraft guns 1 Feb around Damboa, three soldiers killed; BH 9 Feb ambushed military convoy near Mafa, killed seven soldiers and captured female soldier, army reportedly killed several insurgents; BH 22 Feb attacked army post in Gajiram, killed at least seven soldiers. In Yobe state, army 24 Feb repelled BH attack on Kumuya village, killed eighteen insurgents. BH 15 Feb shot at Nigerian Air Force (NAF) helicopter flying from Maiduguri to Gwoza, injuring airman; NAF said subsequent airstrike “neutralised” insurgents. BH also continued attacks on civilians: security forces repelled attacks by suicide bombers in Maiduguri 16 Feb, at least eleven killed including nine bombers and two civilians; BH attacked Yaza-Kumaza village, southern Borno state 19 Feb, killed at least four. Govt 10 Feb said Muslim Brotherhood, hitherto unknown BH affiliate group based in Lokoja, Kogi state in centre, was planning attacks on banks, arms depots and prisons in several cities. BH factional leader Shekau, in audio recording released 24 Feb, disclosed he had killed group’s spokesman Tasiu (aka Abu Zinnira), confirming earlier-reported internal disputes. Situation in Niger Delta remained fragile but stable. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo stepped up talks with delta ethnic and political leaders, led federal govt delegation visit to Bayelsa state 9 Feb and Rivers state 13 Feb; delta leaders encouraged govt to act. Communal violence continued in Kaduna state: at least 26 people killed when armed men attacked four villages in Kaura and Jema’a local govt areas 19-20 Feb. Also about twenty people reportedly killed mid-Feb in three-day clashes between residents of Oku Iboku, Akwa Ibom state and Ikot Offiong, Cross River state over long-running boundary dispute. President Buhari early Feb extended two-week medical leave in UK indefinitely.
Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents. But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated.
Women have suffered violence and abuse by Boko Haram, but they are not only victims: some joined the jihadists voluntarily, others fight the insurgency, or work in relief and reconciliation. Women’s experiences should inform policies to tackle the insurgency, and facilitate their contribution to peace.
Boko Haram is losing ground, resources and fighters. But defeating the group and preventing a future insurgency needs more than military success. The 14 May summit in Abuja is an opportunity for Nigeria and its Lake Chad basin neighbours to prepare and implement what's been long overdue: a holistic response to the extremist group.
The Niger Delta is rich in resources, but poverty, unemployment and pollution could reignite a rebellion that ended in 2009. Despite the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, Nigeria must fulfil its promises of support for the southern delta’s economic development, social justice, and environmental regeneration.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
[Tourists in Nigeria] don’t want to go to some places… they think twice before travelling by road and sometimes don’t have the money to travel by plane. It’s very harmful for the local economy.
The Nigerian government owes [the Chibok girls'] parents and the public the fundamental responsibility of accounting for every one of them.
[Nigeria's IPOB group's] separatist demands are actually drawing attention to certain fundamental flaws in the nation's federal system, particularly on the rights of citizens.
For some women trapped in domestic life, Boko Haram offers an escape. But this reflects a huge abyss of desperation among women and a failure of society in the northeast [of Nigeria].
We have to think very carefully about the use of violence [against Boko Haram], sometimes it is necessary, but it mustn’t aggravate the situation, rather it must help to reduce or resolve the conflict. Force should be used cautiously.
Only a quarter [of Boko Haram's recruits] learned about the group at mosques or Islamic schools. [They] used to be the place to get new recruits, but now they are under the spotlight.
The Boko Haram insurgency is weakening in the Lake Chad basin, but its underlying socio-economic drivers remain to be addressed. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017, we urge the EU and its member states to support regional governments with winding down vigilante groups, funding youth employment projects, rebuilding agriculture and trade, and restoring public services.
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.
It is largely because of women’s compromised position in society that insurgent groups such as Boko Haram can continue to survive.
Originally published in Mail and Guardian Africa