…Says composition of insurgents now cuts across ethnic groups
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—–GOVERNOR Babagana Zulum of Borno State at the weekend faulted the recent military strategy of establishing super camps in designated areas in the fight against terrorism in the state.
Gubio and Magumeri local government areas in northern Borno and other localities in the state were under heavy attacks last week with the Secretariats, health centers, communication gadgets as well as vehicles among others burnt.
The establishment of super camps according to the governor could entail that all other smaller units in various villages and towns would collapse to form part of the super camps in some critical major local government areas.
Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Zulum said that the new strategy could put some communities that would not be where the super camps are located in great danger.
Fielding questions on why it was easy for the militants to operate especially as it was reported that the terrorists struck at about 6am without any resistance by the security apparatus, he fingered the new policy as a possible reason.
He said, “Well, the most important thing is that there is 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 military presence in all the locations. We are very much aware of their numerical strength but nonetheless, their absence can create 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.”
Also commenting on the formation of Civilian Joint Task Force, he said, “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 terrorists.
“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.”
Asked to comment on the present situation in the state as it was said that the Boko Haram insurgents have taken over some communities, he declined to give details of the situation.
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 centers 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.”
On strategies that could make the repentant insurgents accept government programmes in order to prevent future attacks, governor Zulum said that one of the ways was to create a window for those that were forced into terrorism to come back home and be reintegrated in the society.
He said, “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, dialogue is also very important because, those that were forced into insurgency should be given opportunity to come back home. Most importantly, we need to ensure that there is a robust mechanism on 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.”
He explained that he was at the State House to see the President with respect to the recent happenings especially the attacks in Gubio and Magumeri local government areas in northern Borno and other localities in the state.
The governor said that President Buhari assured the government and people of Borno State that he will do everything possible to ensure that properties, lives and citizens of the state were protected.
While calling on the people of Borno State to be patient while the government strengthen the civilian JTF as well as supplement the efforts of the military and the Police, he said that the root cause of the insurgency should also be tackle headlong.
“By and large, we must also address the root causes of the Boko Haram insurgency which is not limited to endemic poverty, pervasive illiteracy, financial and economic hardship, unemployment, environmental degradation, drug abuse among others. We must ensure our youths are employed.
“We shall support the Nigerian police and the Nigerian military, most importantly the gallant civilian JTF and the hunters to ensure that the remnants of Boko Haram are eliminated.”
Reminded that poverty and unemployment which he attributed as among the root causes of insurgency were not peculiar to the state, he said that the strategic position of the state has also contributed to the problems.
He said, “One peculiar problem we have in Borno is that it shares borders with three countries – Republic of Niger, Republic of Chad as well as the Republic of Cameroon. You can understand these borders and their proximity to Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Libya. It is a sub-Saharan region, it is very difficult to man such areas.
“Going back to the poverty index, you can recall that climatic situation in the region. We have three major climatic regions in Nigeria – the humid region, semia region as well as the areal region.
“Borno State is semia region, is an extreme region in northern Borno. Rainfall is usually less than 200 millimeter, crop can hardly do well without irrigation, you can understand what we mean.
“No rainfall means there is no employment. But by and large, the situation has been compounded for a long time because of lack of education. Education is also a veritable tool for fighting this insurgents.
“My predecessor has done well in terms of building more schools, recruiting more teachers but I think you are right that the entire problem about employment covers the entire country but because of the porosity of our borders among others, we have major problems in Borno State.”
Asked whether the insurgents were indigenes of Borno or outsiders trying to destabilize the state, he said that the composition cuts across almost all ethnic groups in the country.
He 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.”