Boko Haram’s ceaseless killings

LAST week, Boko Haram reportedly attacked Faduma Kolomaiya community in Gubio Local Government Area of Borno State, killing 81 persons. Residents told Governor Babagana Zulum during a condolence visit to the area that the village head and six other persons were abducted by the marauding terrorists. The attack also left 13 people injured, with 400 cattle rustled. According to a survivor of the attack, the terrorists, riding gun trucks and armored tanks, stormed the village at about 10a.m on Tuesday, June 9, and operated for about six hours.  He said: “They gathered us and said they wanted to deliver a sermon to us. Thereafter, they asked us to submit whatever arms we had. Some villagers gave up their dane guns, bows and arrows. The terrorists pretended that they were on a religious mission but suddenly started shooting at will. Even children and women were not spared; many were shot at close range. We have buried 49 bodies here while another 32 were taken away by families from the villages around us.

Governor Zulum, while evacuating five injured persons for treatment, urged the military to launch a massive onslaught on the terrorists. He said: “Last year, about the same number of people were killed in Gajiram, like it happened again here. This is barbaric. It is very unfortunate. The only solution to these killings is  dislodging the insurgents in the shores of Lake Chad. Doing so will require collaborative regional efforts.” A member of the House of Representatives, Usman Zannah, however said the terrorists also attached Ban Ngudorum community. According to him, they had faced resistance from the villagers, a development that “made  them to  regroup and invade the villages in a reprisal that  resulted  in mass killings.”

Reacting to the incident, the military vowed to flush out the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists (BHTs) and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the North-East. The Army spokesman, Colonel Sagir Musa, indicated that a contingent of military personnel had been drafted to the  area to track, arrest or kill the culprits. He added: “We have also mandated the Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, to enhance security, dominate the area and reassure the affected communities of the  Nigerian Army’s commitment to protecting the population. The Nigerian Army equally notes with great concern, banditry incidents in some parts of the northwestern region of the county across Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states. It has come to our knowledge that some  bandits are shifting base and venting their anger on hapless citizens because of the ongoing operations in Katsina State.”

Sadly, the Presidency’s reaction to the incident left much to be desired. President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as saying that “the primordial nature of the killings is particularly shocking because they happened not long after the Ramadhan and Eid, and the country is preparing to celebrate Democracy Day.” This statement is, to say the very least, unfortunate. It gave the disturbing impression that the Federal Government was more concerned about the timing of the killings than it was about the killings. The statement suggested that there was a right time for Boko Haram to kill, and nothing could have been more preposterous. Contrary to the president’s statement, the killings were not shocking because they took place shortly after Ramadan; they were shocking because they took place in spite of the government’s hollow promises to Nigerians regarding the routing of Boko Haram. Pray, why is a “technically defeated” terror group able to inflict such maximum damage?

Given the frequency of Boko Haram’s attacks, particularly in the North-East, it is shocking that the government has been keeping up appearances, pretending to be winning the war against Boko Haram. Time and again, particularly whenever the military high command makes statements declaring victory in the ongoing war, the terror group has struck with deadly force, shedding blood at will. Thus, the military persuaded no one last week when, while sympathising “with fellow Nigerians and the good people of Borno, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states in particular, on these unfortunate incidents;” it assured all Nigerians of its “unrelenting effort in engaging with communities to rid our society of any and all remnants of these criminal elements.”

To be sure, we are not in any way suggesting that no progress has been made in the effort to contain the Boko Haram terrorism. Rather, we are appalled by the government’s refusal to admit the limitations of its counter-terrorism efforts. In our view, the war against terror cannot proceed in a climate of false assumptions and empty chest-thumping. It is a fact that the counter-terrorism war has been dogged by corruption and sabotage, but these issues are yet to be addressed. Again, the country requires a re-jigging of its security architecture along the lines of decentralisation. It needs federal, regional and state police. It also needs renewed dedication to duties on the part of government officials. The endless attacks by Boko Haram must stop.

 

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