THE Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA, the international affiliate of the Boko Haram terror outfit, continued its audacious assaults in the North-East on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, when it ambushed Governor Kashim Shettima’s convoy between Dikwa and Gamboru-Ngala highway, Borno State, near the border with Cameroon.
Casualty figures from the incident varied. While the terrorists claimed they killed 42 persons, independent media reports indicated six dead (including a soldier), several injured with “dozens” of people, especially women, abducted. However, the Director of Press to Governor Shettima, Mr. Isa Gusau, said three people died. ISWA claimed responsibility for the attack.
Coming at election season, and against the background of several attacks on military installations, including the assault on the 157 Battalion in Metele which claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers in November 2018, the latest ambush raised worrisome questions as to where we are in the war against terror after nearly four years of President Muhammadu Buhari in power.
It will be recalled that Governor Shettima, after the Metele attack, had led a delegation of Borno leaders to submit a letter to President Buhari in Aso Villa during which he openly wept over the resurgence of the terrorist outfit which the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army had repeatedly claimed were defeated. He was accused of crying wolf.
The Federal Government’s claim that Boko Haram no longer occupied “an inch” of Nigeria’s territory no longer holds water. Borno State officials have now admitted that the Islamic militants are now active in six out of the 27 local government areas of the state. In contrast, elections successfully took place in all local government areas of the state in 2015.
As we prepare to vote again after a sudden postponement, we expect whoever emerges as Nigeria’s leader in May 2019, to face the Boko Haram/ISWA challenge with new vision and renewed energy. There should be a rejuvenated international coalition of efforts, and it should go beyond the old Joint Multinational Task Force, JNTF, of the Lake Chad region countries.
ISWA’s alliance with Boko Haram has tipped the military balance. Faced with imminent annihilation in the Middle East, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda Islamic terror networks are shifting base to West Africa. They must be confronted with a global coalition of forces.
Nigerian leaders have over-politicised the war on terror. It has also been bedevilled by alleged corrupt profiteering and subterfuges. Unless a new and better approach is deployed, the 10-year Boko Haram war will stagnate permanently, increasing human suffering and further zapping the human and material resources of the country.