Zulum meets Buhari, says Boko Haram causing havoc in Borno

...says Military ‘super camps’ not effective strategy against terrorists ...all ethnic groups now among insurgents

Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum has spoken of new havoc being wreaked by Boko Haram insurgents in the state and has therefore appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari for more action.

Following last week’s attacks on Gubio and Magumeri Local Government Areas of the state, the Governor met with President Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, seeking more effective action against the insurgents.

Speaking to journalists who pressed him on the situation on ground after the new attacks, he said: “Well, I don’t want to go into much detail but as far as I am concerned, there was an attack in Gubio and Magumeri, local government area secretariats were burnt down, health centres were burnt down, vehicles were burnt down, communication gadgets were burnt down.

“And it is disheartening to note that since the advent of this administration, burning of secretariats and other public buildings ceased for the last four and a half years.”

Asked why there appeared to be an upsurge in the attacks, he stated: “These questions remain unanswered. Most importantly, I am sure this government has done a lot and the discussions I had with Mr President show that we are getting to an end very soon and I am optimistic that we shall get enough support.

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“Right now we are receiving support from Mr President but we are only appealing that the system is strengthened, for him to look into the porosity of the system, evaluate the system with a view to enhancing it.”

Zulum faulted the military’s strategy of operating “super camps,” that he claimed leaves gaps to be exploited by Boko Haram insurgents to successfully attack areas in the state.

When asked by journalists why the insurgents could attack with seeming ease, he blamed it on the absence of the military on the ground because of the strategy to operate super camps.

Zulum explained: “Well, the most important thing is that there is the ongoing military strategy, according to the military authorities, what they called ‘Establishment of super camps.’

“That entails that all other smaller units in various villages and towns shall be collapsed to form part of the super camps in some critical major local government areas.

“In our thinking as laymen not as military personnel, we thought this decision is not wise. We must ensure there is a military presence in all the locations.

“We are very much aware of their numerical strength but nonetheless, their absence can create a serious vacuum and that has informed the recent attacks.

“However, I heard that the military is now trying to re-establish the military formations in those areas and that they should not form part of the super camps.

“Honestly speaking, the civilian JTF are working but the most important thing is that they don’t have the heavy weapons that they can use to conveniently face the insurgents.

“So, the absence of the Nigerian military in a particular place will create a vacuum in such a way that the civilian JTF and hunters cannot perform effectively.

“I have told Mr President and he has listened to our complaints. He has done a lot for the people of Borno State and it is our sincere hope that this time around, he will take necessary steps to forestall future occurrence.

“But most importantly, the presence of the Nigerian military in almost all the locations especially in local government headquarters, need not be overemphasized.”

The Governor stressed the importance of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) in complementing the work of the military, advocating that they must be properly equipped to deal with the insurgents.

He also stressed the need for a wholesome approach to tackling insurgency including addressing the root causing and dialoguing with repentant terrorists.

When asked what was being done to end the crisis, Zulum stated: “This is a very important question. You will recall that the federal government under the leadership of President Buhari has established what we call operation safe corridor.

“This establishment is purposely to ensure that the repentant Boko Haram insurgents are being reintegrated into the system. But somehow, I think we have to look into the efficacy of this system.

“In the last one month, I have been advocating at various local government areas that, let those insurgents who are willing to repent, return so that we shall open up windows for them under the operation safe corridor.

“This is very important because the dialogue is also very important because those that were forced into insurgency should be given the opportunity to come back home.

“Most importantly, we need to ensure that there is a robust mechanism on the ground to take care of them, to rehabilitate them and to reintegrate them.

“During our first economic council meeting, the president did mention that the governors should go back to their home and discuss with their traditional rulers and look into the possibility of resolving issues at their own levels.

“That entails empowering the traditional rulers, the civilian JTF and hunters and ensuring that dialogues are being held between the traditional rulers and repentant Boko Haram. I hope by doing so we can succeed.

“There is a renewed effort in this direction and very soon, I will be having a meeting with the Operation Safe Corridor team to ensure that this is put in place.”

Governor Zulum observed that even though Boko Haram started with the Kanuri ethnic group of Borno state, it’s composition has now embraced all ethnic nationalities and expatriates.

He also noted that the aim has metamorphosed from religious pursuits to economic war.

Zulum said: “Yes, Boko Haram started in our own place. Yes, I admit that most of them are from my tribe but I believe their composition now cuts across almost every ethnic group in Nigeria, most importantly including the expatriates.

“We have people from other countries that have joined them. I think that they are rebellious now and I think it is now a war economy. You can see them looting properties, carrying food items and what have you.

“I want to disabuse the minds of those saying it is religious. When they attacked Gubio, they burnt down an Islamic school, they burnt down the house of an Islamic teacher. So, that is all I have to tell you in a nutshell.”