The theater Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, in the evening of Monday, January 6, 2020, survived an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents along Maiduguri-Damaturu road. Adeniyi was going to Maiduguri, Borno State capital, after a visit to troops deployed to Jakana – a town on Maiduguri-Damaturu highway – when he was attacked. This awful incident served as a big alert to Nigerians that the Boko Haram terrorists are still on the prowl, despite claims by the Federal Government that they have been largely decimated.
A week earlier, the former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, lamented that poor funding was one fundamental problem punctuating the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency. “The challenge that the military have now is lack of resources and inadequate personnel. As long as the resources are not deployed in terms of what they would need, we would continue to have this (insurgency) challenge. In an operation like this, we have only 30,000 soldiers on ground which is grossly inadequate. They (Federal Government) have to do something urgently about that,” he said.
Ndume’s lamentation brings to mind the $1 billion approved by the National Economic Council (NEC), in December 2017, for President Muhammadu Buhari, to procure military equipment to fight Boko Haram. “We expect that the amount will include but not limited to the purchase of equipment, procuring intelligence, logistics and all that is required to ensure that we finally put an end the scourge of insurgency,” Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, said.
More so, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, at the end of a National Security Council meeting, on April 4, 2018, presided over by President Buhari, said: “I can inform you that of recent, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval for the purchase of more equipment for the military worth $1 billion.”
It is almost two years since Dan-Ali disclosed this. His utterances left little doubt that the military actually sought and expended huge sums of money on equipment, the value of which remains a subject of national debate.
Even then, there have been several concerns trailing how the money was processed and released.
Did Buhari arm-twist the governors?
When the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, (NGF), endorsed the President to take $1 billion from the $2.3 billion excess crude account, which belongs to the three tiers of government to fight the insurgency, eyebrows were raised over the legality of the process.
In several quarters, it was thought that the NGF lacked the right and authority to ‘dash’ out such amount of money. Many had argued that only the National Assembly could have so authorized. It was in the heat of this argument that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, as the spokesman of the past 8th Senate volunteered an explanation. “Only the National Assembly, NASS, can appropriate funds for the Federal Government. Recall that when President Goodluck Jonathan wanted funds to fight Boko Haram, he approached the NASS,” he said.
Interestingly, what many thought or believed to be the rule was dumped for exigency. Avoiding legalese, the concern of the generality of Nigerians, however, is the impact of the resources invested in fighting Boko Haram insurgency and securing the lives of the people.
Decimated or defeated?
The Commander of the Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, on the night of Friday, December 29, 2016, in a Guards Brigade Regimental Dinner, presented the President with ‘Flag of Boko Haram and the personal Koran of Abubakar Shekau’ – the leader of the fundamentalist sect. Both items were captured in the alleged last battle in Sambisa forest, according to the army.
The military claimed, by the initiative, that the Boko Haram war had come to a technical end. “I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the camp (Boko Haram’s camp) fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice,” President Buhari said, in reaction to the ceremony.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, lent his voice to the President’s remark and was quoted to have said on October 21, 2019, “I stand by what I said that Boko Haram is technically defeated. What we are having today is global terrorism where you have the ISIS, ISWAP AI-Qaeda all working together.”
It has been argued, in the face of continued Boko Haram attacks, that the claims of the Nigerian government are intended to paint an atmosphere of security and stability. Indeed, posers have been raised as to why the government sought $1 billion to fight the insurgency just a year after General Irabor claimed that the sect had been crushed.
Boko Haram still on the prowl
Perhaps, nothing paints a near helpless situation as the revelation made by a member of the House of Representative from Borno State, Ahmadu Jaha, representing Damboa/Gwoza/Chibok who alleged on September 24, 2019 that, “A number of geographical locations in Borno State and other insurgency-related areas are under the occupation of Boko Haram.” He further said that the group was occupying 8 out of 10 Local Government Areas, (LGAs), in the northern part of the State.
In late 2019, Jaha’s claims were accentuated by governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum, who on December 19 in a statement by his special adviser on communications and strategy, Malam Isa Gusau, expressed his displeasure over the Boko Haram attacks in the towns and villages of Askira-Uba Local Government Area of the State.
“Governor Babagana Umara Zulum is worried about the recent attacks by Boko Haram in Chul, Rumirgo, Lassa, Mussa, Kufa and Gwandam towns and villages in Askira-Uba Local Government Area of Borno State, the statement read in part.
From the submissions of Jaha and Zulum, it is evident that the insurgency in the northeast is still raging. It is also clear that the insurgents are unrelenting.
Chronicle of attacks in 2019
January 28, 2019, at least 60 people are killed following a devastating Boko Haram attack on Rann – a border town in Borno State.
January 29, 2019, the UN Refugee agency says escalating attacks by Boko Haram militants have forced 30,000 people out of the northeast zone into Cameroonian borders.
February 4, 2019, Boko Haram attacks three villages – Shuwari, Kirchinga and Shuwa – in Madagali Local Government Area in Adamawa State. One person was reportedly killed in Shuwari while another person lost his life in Kirchinga. Four vehicles, including that of the attackers, were burnt in the villages. The attackers reportedly carted away 10 cars and motorcycles, burned several shops and looted a dispensary.
February 23, 2019, one soldier is killed and 20 others wounded in Boko Haram attacks in Maiduguri, just hours before voting began for the 2019 presidential election.
April 29, 2019, Boko Haram fighters kill 21 people when they attacked Kuda village of Adamawa State and set it on fire.
June 17, 2019, three suicide bombers detonate their explosives outside a hall in Konduga village in Borno State, killing 30 people and wounding 40.
July 27, 2019, a suspected attack by Boko Haram on a funeral gathering in the Nganzai district near Maiduguri, Borno State, leaves at least 65 people dead.
How many more would have to be killed?
Though the government continues to give assurances, questions remain over how the sum of $1 billion has been deployed to prosecute the Boko Haram war. A major criticism that has trailed the entire campaign is the opaque nature of how public funds have been managed. The calls for transparency and accountability are unceasing, and is why the presidency and the nation’s military high command must answer to the concerns of Nigerians.
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