WITH the December deadline for the total elimination of the Boko Haram Islamist terror group in the North East closer than ever, the picture of the progress made so far has remained cloudy.
In spite of almost daily reports of recovery of Boko Haram-held territory and the destruction of their camps, the terrorists continue to demonstrate their ability to mobilise suicide bombers and hit “soft targets” within and around the core theatres of the conflict.
For instance, it was reported that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had between July and October 2015 conducted a total of 1448 air sorties and also deployed over 300 ground troops from its Special Forces unit to fight alongside the Army. According to the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, the joint Army/Air Force operations have led to the killing of scores of terrorists and the destruction of their camps and weapons. Several Nigerians held hostage by the terrorists were also rescued. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, even recently boasted that Boko Haram no longer occupies “an inch” of Nigerian soil.
While government sources celebrate reports of military victories over the insurgents, it has been a continuing tale of bloodletting in the war-ravaged zone. This is no thanks to the frequent suicide bomb attacks.
The scenario appears quite chilling. For instance, in the last two months, no fewer than 126 lives have been lost to suicide bomb attacks in Borno and Adamawa states. Maiduguri was hit six times in October 2015 with 76 people killed. More than 1,000 people have been killed through suicide bombing since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office almost six months ago.
It is a great and sad irony that the more Boko Haram loses on the battle front the more it is able to inflict death and injuries through suicide bombing. A solution must be found to this.
The military should urgently review its current strategy and come up with an antidote to contain the terrorists’ attacks on soft targets in the North, including the Federal capital, Abuja. More efforts should be put in ensuring that insurgents are not allowed to escape from liberated areas to live among law abiding citizens.
The Federal Government should compel governments of states affected by insurgency to mobilise their people to be security conscious and help in identifying and fishing out suspected terrorists in their midst. Citizens should be taught simple ways of forestalling attacks and defending themselves when attacked.
In the same vein, vigilance should be the watchword in all refugee camps in the country, to forestall insurgents using them as hideouts.
The war against terror should not be left to the military alone.