Wednesday, 4 May 2016

News---Boko Haram and the herdsmen war: can Buhari win?

Boko Haram and the herdsmen
war: can Buhari win?

Recently, when Alhaji Lai Mohammed said
Boko Haram insurgents have been
“technically defeated”, he also said that
Nigerians must expect some more attacks
by the jihadists.
Boko Haram has been defeated – Alhaji Lai
Mohammed says.
The minister of information and culture told
Nigerians during a town hall meeting in
Lagos that President Muhammadu Buhari’s
purposeful leadership has ended the
insurgency, adding that all that is left now is
the reconstruction of communities, and the
resettlement and rehabilitation of the
internally displaced persons as they return
home.
As assuring as the minister’s statement
might have sounded to some, to others it
was worrying, especially in the light of
recent attacks by the terror group. The
latest actions by Boko Haram have left many
Nigerians wondering about the true meaning
of the term ‘defeat’.
Scores of insurgents were reported killed
while some soldiers were wounded after



Boko Haram fighters attacked soldiers early
on Monday, April 18, near the border with
Niger in the northern town of Kareto in
Borno state. Military sources reported that
the attack, which followed many other
attacks on military and police formations in
the northeast, lasted for about three hours.
Prior to the attack at Kareto town, the
insurgents had reportedly attacked Zango
village, Gulani local government area in Yobe
state, on April 19, Tuesday. Vigilante
members and residents said that the
insurgents arrived on horseback and shot
dead 11 people.
The attack reportedly occurred around
midnight when the Boko Haram members set
ablaze houses and shot randomly at people
trying to run from the flames.
One of the vigilantes, who asked to be
anonymous, said: “The gunmen came
midnight after 11:45pm, set ablaze our houses
and opened fire on the people trying to
escape. They chased people on horses and
open fire on them.” According to the source,
similar attacks happened in the neighbouring
villages where over 20 people were
murdered.
The deadliest terror group
To underestimate the murderous potential of
Boko Haram is to play with fire. The flames
might not only engulf Nigeria as a nation, but
could at any time flare into an inferno that
could do irreparable damage to Africa as a
continent.
READ ALSO: Outrageous! See how Boko
Haram parents are training their children
(video)
The terror group, which first came to
prominence about seven years ago, has
grown to become the deadliest in the world,
as ranked by the Global Terrorism Index in
2015.
The fact that the sect’s actions have led to
the killing of about 20,000 people and the
displacement of about 2.3 million from their
homes, is reason enough why this group
must be taken seriously, and why they
should never be underestimated.
Boko Haram killed over 6,600 people in 2014
alone, and carried out mass abductions
including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls
from Chibok in April 2014.
According to an Amnesty International report
published in September 2015, at least 1,600
people were killed by Boko Haram since the
beginning of June 2015 when Buhari was
inaugurated as the president of Nigeria. That
means that twelve Nigerians were killed
every day by the jihadists from when Buhari
came into office to when the report was
published, or in other words that during that
period of time one Nigerian died every two
hours as a result of Boko Haram attacks or
suicide bombing s .
Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency
estimated the number of people killed by
Boko Haram during the same period of four
months as more than 1,320 victims.
According to UN figures, this massive death
toll approximately equals the number of
people killed in Boko Haram attacks for a
twice longer period of time in 2013 when
Goodluck Jonathan was in power. Over the
period from May 2013 to December 2013,
when jihadists intensified their attacks, at
least 1,224 people were killed.
As many as 2,000 people were killed when
Boko Haram attacked Baga town in Borno
state in January 2015. Before leaving
presidential office, Goodluck Jonathan
acknowledged that more than 13,000 people
had been killed in Boko Haram attacks since
the beginning of the insurgency in 2009.
In 2015, over 9,000 were killed and 1.5
million displaced. Besides that, 800 schools
were destroyed in 2014 by Boko Haram
militants.
Controversies and constraints

Like every other war, there is always
propaganda as to the cause, key players and
the goals of the sides involved. The Boko
Haram war has not been without its own
share of conspiracy theories.
Boko Haram seeks the establishment of an
Islamic state in Nigeria. It opposes the
Westernization of Nigerian society and the
concentration of the wealth of the country
among members of a small political elite,
mainly in the Christian south of the country.
In the early stages, the sect was seen as
the executors of a plot to Islamize Nigeria. It
was said to have the backing of certain
elites in the northern region of Nigeria. For
some, the fundamentalist group which is
influenced by the Wahhabi movement and
advocates a strict form of sharia law, was
sponsored to fight the cause of changing
Nigeria’s religious orientation
As the movement metamorphosed, some
political hypotheses began to emerge. The
imposition of sharia by local authorities,
beginning with Zamfara in January 2000 and
covering 12 northern states by late 2002, is
said to have promoted links between Boko
Haram and political leaders, although the
measures were considered by the group to
have been corrupted.
The order of things continued to evolve and
soon there were claims and counter claims
that the sect was a tool in the hands of
people opposed to the then ruling Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP).
Perhaps things would not have degenerated
to the pogrom which best describes the
sect’s campaign so far, but for the $2.1
billion arms deal scandal which rocked the
Nigerian military and involved members of
the Jonathan government.
A former national security adviser (NSA),
Sambo Dasuki allegedly mismanaged funds
while he served as the NSA. D asuki who
was arrested and arraigned by security
operatives, is said to have misused the
funds which were meant for the
procurement of arms to fight against the
insurgency which at the time was just
brewing in the northeastern region of the
country.
‘The general’ and a history of victory
It has been eleven months since
Muhammadu Buhari became the president of
Nigeria, and for some the former general of
the Nigerian army has fought well the battle
against insurgency, striving hard to bring to
an end the reign of terror in the northeast of
Nigeria.

For proponents of Buhari’s course, it was
just a few months ago that Boko Haram
hoisted flags of its imagined caliphates
across large areas in the northeastern part
of the country. At one point Nigeria had lost
territory to the tune of 14 local government
areas, an area bigger than the size of
Gambia, but most territories have been
reportedly recovered through the actions of
the Nigerian army under the leadership of
President Buhari.
Buhari’s supporters argue that prior to his
emergence most towns and villages in the
northeastern part of Nigeria had been made
desolate by the Islamist group. They argue
that millions had been displaced and
economic activity in these areas came
virtually to a halt. But as soon as the
president came in, he took the bull by the
horns, embarking on trips to strengthen
relationships with the nation’s allies for the
purpose of tackling Nigeria’s insecurity.
And though some hold contrary views, pro-
Buharists, as they have come to be called,
claim that the Nigerian leader promised
frequently during his campaign that he would
do everything possible to reverse the trend
of Nigeria losing territory to insurgents. They
say that such a reversal has happened and is
still ongoing, with a final showdown
speculated to be in the Sambisa forest
region.
His supporters claim that he is a man of
guts with a knack for glory. They claim that
Buhari’s leadership has inspired the Nigerian
military into launching offensives that have
seen them claiming back lands lost to the
insurgents in the past, rescuing those held in
the claws of the terrorists, freeing from their
talons men, women and children in their
hundreds, and sending the captives home in
peace.
Soldiers and Buni Yadi residents full of joy
after their Boko Haram-ravaged community
was liberated.
The Nigerian troops are said to have
reclaimed almost all lost ground in the
northeast. Shikah, Fikayel, Tetebah, Buza,
Kamla, Bumsa, Michika, Baga, Monguno,
Gulag, Bara and Gwoza are but a few major
towns that have been reclaimed by Nigerian
troops.
Old dog, new tricks
Having been pushed back, with land
reclaimed from their control, Boko Haram
had to come up with new ways of launching
attacks against Nigeria.
The fundamentalists began to explore other
means of waging terror. They increased the
production of improvised explosive devices
(IEDs). There were reports of Boko Haram
members disguising themselves as
legitimate fruit and vegetable sellers to
smuggle IEDs in groceries to crowded areas.
Members of the general public were also
informed that the insurgent group had
become so desperate that they hid IEDs
inside attractive objects ; those which the
average Nigerian would be tempted to pick
up if encountered on the road.
Livestock was also said to be used as IEDs,
and the government noted that the
insurgents had resolved to strap bombs to
cows and herd the cows to human
settlements before detonating the
explosives.
A major threat was also leaked by the Borno
state government in which the government
announced that the sect had developed a
deadly plot involving the collection of
permanent voter cards. In a statement
issued by the government, the terrorist group
was said to have started announcing to
citizens, particularly women, that if they
submit photocopies of their permanent voter
cards they will receive N6,000 from the
Independent National Electoral Commission
(INEC). The alleged goal of this scheme was
to group civilians at various buildings in
order to maximize casualties for suicide
attacks.
However, of all the schemes devised, the
most horrifying was the so-called “female
predatory martyrs” , a development which
caused dread over the fate of the more than
200 girls who were abducted at Chibok.
For Nigeria, it was an increasingly
disquieting and disturbing twist to the
insurgency. In what can be described as the
invention of an evil genius, Boko Haram
adopted the Palestinian model of jihadism in
its recruitment of teenagers and young girls
as suicide bombers in crowded places.
This trend has proven to be another tough
battle for the Nigerian security operatives,
and one that experts argue is much more
difficult to combat. These girls, who are
forced to drift from the naiveté and
demureness of their age group to the
savagery of rebels, were the agents
responsible for the perplexing rise of suicide
bombings.
Radical mothers are reported to have been
encouraged to compel their children to enlist
in the struggle against the enemies of the
nation of Islam and die as martyrs in the
name of Allah

These sacrificial lambs are easier to work
with in terms of planning and have the
benefit of low cost, experts have suggested.
In relation to their low social status in some
societies, girls are considered expendable;
willing casualties of the latest jihadi trend. It
is also argued that women are more
emotional and easier to indoctrinate.
Moreover, as Theophilus Ilevbaree pointed
out in an analysis of the trend published by
Sahara Reporters in 2014: “When a human
bomb mission is accomplished, it attracts
higher shock value and more media coverage
if it involves a female martyr.”
So the girls and women carried out their
suicide missions under the guise of faux
pregnancies and breast implants, fitted with
explosive devices which are nearly
impossible to detect at security checkpoints,
since traditional female garb, such as the
hijab, is used to conceal them.
Old wine from new skins (a conspiracy
theory)
Boko Haram has been outmanoeuvred after
a regional offensive drove it from
strongholds in the northeast. However, they
have continued to come up with schemes to
launch attacks. Using children to carry out
attacks is one deadly method. Now there is
speculation that the sect has evolved into
something different. For the propagators of
this theory, the sect has started
masquerading as the now notorious Fulani
herdsmen.
Following recent attacks by alleged cattle-
herders in the southeast region, the Ijaw
Youth Council (IYC) has said that Fulani
herdsmen are not responsible for the
attacks, but rather Boko Haram terrorists.
Fulani herdsmen have been accused of
perpetrating frequent attacks on agrarian
communities, with the most recent being the
attack on Ukpabi Nimbo community in Enugu
state that left several people dead and more
injured. However, the IYC said the attack
was carried out by terrorists in the guise of
herdsmen, claiming the traditional herdsmen
have been grazing for years without any
trouble arising.
Nigeria’s minister of the interior, Lt. General
Abdulrahman Dambazau, has suggested that
there may be Boko Haram and criminal gang
angles to the frequent clashes between
herdsmen and farmers across the country.
He said in Abuja at the opening ceremony of
a stakeholders’ meeting on pastoralists’ and
sedentary farmers’ conflicts in Nigeria that
Boko Haram may be using the conflicts to
terrorise Nigerians. “Indications are that there
are opportunistic criminal angles to the
conflict in the nature of cattle-rustling, armed
robbery and kidnapping,” he said.
David Otto, the CEO of the UK-based global
security provider TGS Intelligence
Consultants, told IBTimes UK there are fears
the violence based on land control might
escalate into a religious conflict which could
be used by Boko Haram to its own
advantage.
“As land degradation increases in the Far
North, Fulani people have been moving
downwards towards the middle belt, which
provides vast grazing land for these nomads.
However, this area is dominated by Christians
or non-religious farmers who equally depend
on this vast land for agriculture. This scenario

has resulted in massive casualties on both
sides for generations,” he explained.
“Ground report shows that these Hausa Fulani
herdsmen are well armed and carry out
coordinated attacks against local farmers. The
danger is that such conflicts can easily be
infiltrated by Salafi Jihadist Boko Haram
terrorists or even organised crime groups who
see an opportunity in chaos. The government
has been slow to act on these ethnic clashes
– seen as local skirmishes that had no
national security threat – but this could
become a serious security menace to the
region.”
The menace highlighted by the security
experts might be with us already. Arrested
for attacks in Wukari , Taraba state, some
Fulani herdsmen have confessed to acting
on behalf of Boko Haram .
From the plains of Plateau, Nasarawa and
southern parts of Kaduna states, these
armed cattle herders have increased in
numbers, pouring southward into Oyo, Ekiti,
Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Benue, Taraba, Kogi,
Enugu, Abia, Anambra, Delta, Edo and parts
of Rivers states. They brazenly herd their
livestock onto people’s farmlands and
threaten them with their deadly weapons at
the slightest sign of protest. Some of them
even go beyond that and engage in criminal
ventures such as kidnapping, armed robbery,
murders and rape.
The Fulani people are one of the largest
ethno-linguistic groups in Africa, numbering
approximately 40 million people in total.
According to Senator Ben Murray Bruce of
Bayelsa state, the Fulani herders have
wreaked more havoc than the Boko Haram
sect.
Following attacks by herdsmen in Agatu,
Benue state, the Nigerian Senate said
crimes of mass murder across Nigerian
agrairian communities were committed by
“overpowered” Boko Haram insurgents, not
Fulani herdsmen.
This assertion formed part of the Senate’s
resolution that followed a motion by
Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP-Taraba state) on
“the need to urgently flush out Boko Haram
insurgents reassembling in Taraba state” .
“The Senate is aware that that Nigerian army
has recorded tremendous success in the war
against insurgents in the states of Borno,
Yobe and Adamawa.
“There is a change of tactics by insurgents
who now parade as herdsmen to make it
difficult for the public to identify them,” Mr.
Bwacha said.
He said many communities in his Taraba
South constituency had been deserted,
following attacks by Boko Haram insurgents
“masquerading as Fulani herdsmen” .
Eight local government areas, comprising
Agatu, Buruku, Guma, Gwer-west, Logo,
Kwande, Gwer-East and Katsina-Ala, have
been under recurrent heavy attacks from the
Fulani herdsmen.
In a recent attack in Enugu state 100 people
were reported killed, while many churches
and homes were burnt to the ground.
Reports state that between 300 and 500
people were murdered in Agatu and other
communities of Benue earlier in March.
READ ALSO: Reprisals Attack on Fulani
Herdsmen: Gunmen kill 20 persons, 83 cows
in Nasarawa
Calls are being made for the federal
government to take drastic action against
the Fulani herdsmen, asking the presidency
if cows are now worth more than human
lives? Conflict experts fear that if the
attacks continue, the communities being
attacked will soon have no option but to
fight back.
There have been many sad stories regarding
the attacks by the now notorious herdsmen.
Ozie Okerefor, a divisional police officer
(DPO) in the Vunokilang police station in
Girei local government area of

Adamawa
state, had only spent two months at his new
duty post when he was ambushed and killed
by men believed to be Fulani herdsmen.
Okerefor was reportedly on his way to the
scene of a dispute between some Fulani
herdsmen and farmers in the area when he
and 29 others were killed on Sunday,
January 24.
On Tuesday, January 5, the people of Ubulu-
Uku kingdom in Aniocha South local
government area of Delta state received the
shocking news of the abduction of their
king. His Royal Majesty Akaeze Ofulue III
was on his way to church on the Obior/
Igbodo road when he was ambushed and
subsequently kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen.
According to Vanguard, the Fulani herdsmen
also abducted two Catholic priests on that
same road.
Three days after the king’s abduction, the
kidnappers demanded a N100 million ransom,
but later agreed to accept N30 million after
much negotiation. News reports claimed that
the kidnappers were afraid that the
community would involve the police despite
warnings, so they killed the king and fled.
As in this case, one of the most disturbing
aspects of the attacks is that there are
barely even any arrests after the herders
carry out their terrible acts.
Experts say that although President
Muhammadu Buhari has said that a plan to
map out grazing areas is under way to end
the recurring conflicts between farmers and
herdsmen, there is clearly a larger issue at
play, which Buhari has also acknowledged.
While speaking to a delegation from the
Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, President
Buhari noted that ethnic conflict and
religious conflict stem from poverty and
injustice. For decades, Fulani herdsmen have
been perceived as a harmless annoyance, so
the escalation of violence over the past year
requires much more than merely mapping
out grazing areas.
The inspector general of the Nigerian police
force, Solomon Arase, has said the force will
not allow the menace of the Fulani
herdsmen to degenerate into a new Boko
Haram.
Arase told journalists on Saturday in Abuja
that the police would continue to monitor
the Fulani herdsmen and “ amputate them
whenever they come up.”
The police boss attributed the killings being
carried out by the Fulani herdsmen to the
influx of arms and ammunition from Mali,
Chad and Libya.
Breaking the silence and the way forward
President Buhari has been accused of
adding his silence to the violence emerging
in the southeast. However, the president has
broken his long silence. Placing action ahead
of words, Buhari has condemned the attacks
by the Fulani herdsmen, and directed a
crackdown on the killers.
The president gave the order on Wednesday,
April 27, asking security chiefs to secure
areas where the suspected killer herders are
functioning.
He has directed the chief of defence staff,
Major General Abayomi Olonishakin, and the
IGP, Solomon Arase, to go after the
herdsmen who are terrorising people around
the country .

“Ending the recent upsurge of attacks on
communities by herdsmen reportedly armed
with sophisticated weapons is now a priority
on the Buhari administration’s agenda for
enhanced national security and the armed
forces and police have clear instructions to
take all necessary action to stop the carnage,”
said the president .
It is on record that Nigeria celebrated a
major victory against Boko Haram last year
when the military, supported by the Republic
of Chad, Niger and Cameroon, launched an
aggressive attack against the insurgency
over a six-week period. This culminated in
the recapturing of a large part of the
territory previously under Boko Haram’s
control.
The destruction of these camps yielded 128
suspected Boko Haram members to the
Borno state government. After being
interrogated by the Nigerian army, the
suspects were released to the state
government, which stated that they had no
ties to the radical group.
The chief of army staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur
Buratai, presented the released suspects
comprising of 109 men, seven women, 11
boys and one unattached teenager, to the
state governor, Kashim Shettima.
Though the military seemed to have been
successful in dampening the energy of the
terrorist group, the sect’s mode of operation
has continued to change. There have been
several cases of relapses and reports of the
jihadists constantly ambushing security
operatives and even taking the war to
Nigerian security operatives.
The acting general officer commanding 7
division of the Nigerian army, Brigadier
General Victor Ezugwu, escaped an attack
by Boko Haram fighters who ambushed his
convey enroute to a visit to troops in Bama
about 8.30am on Tuesday, April 19.
During the attack a soldier was killed while
two others were injured. Soldiers attached to
Ezugwu’s convoy were able to repel the
attack by the insurgents, killing some of the
terrorists in the process.
Meanwhile there are depressing reports that
the Nigerian army is yet to retrieve the dead
bodies of soldiers killed in Gubio , Borno
state, during a Boko Haram ambush, a
soldier at the war front claimed.
Speaking to The Cable, the soldier said
despite the successes recorded since
President Muhammadu Buhari came to
power, the Boko Haram insurgents were still
fully in control of Gubio. He added that the
army has not been able to penetrate Gubio
because of the insurgents’ “superior fire
power”, and has not been able to retrieve
the bodies.

On Wednesday, April 27, a controversial
report emerged, showing photographs of
items captured by Boko Haram fighters from
Nigerian troops in Borno state recently .
All this news if critically analyzed shows
clearly that if the snake’s head has been
chopped off, the body still remains deadly.
While the troops continue to advance
nothing must be left to chance. The battle
may be almost won but there are questions
left to be answered; the snake has to be
buried entirely. One question which the
Nigerian government must address is the
whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the
supposed leader of the sect? Is he dead or
alive?
The Nigerian government must also answer
the question of where the missing Chibok
girls are. Only recently, a few of the girls
were featured in a video allegedly put online
by the extremists. The video shows 15 of
the Chibok girls abducted two years
ago, alive and looking well taken care of.
The recording was reportedly sent by the
jihadists to negotiators as proof that the
girls were alive. For the parents of the
abducted girls, the video rekindled their faith
and revived their hopes of being reunited
with their daughters again; however, the
question is how soon?
Maj-Gen. Leo Irabor, the commander of
Operation Lafia Dole, the campaign against
Boko Haram in the northeast, has renewed
the hopes of many Nigerians regarding the
case of the Chibok schoolgirls. Irabor said
the girls could be saved soon.
According to the army commander, credible
army intelligence shows that t he missing
girls are still being held in a notorious
stronghold of the Boko Haram, Sambisa
forest , as well as in a location close to the
Chad-Niger border. There have been so
many promises of this nature, but the
question is can the army and this
government make good its promises?
Amnesty International estimates Boko
Haram has kidnapped about 2,000 women
and girls since 2014 for use as cooks, sex
slaves, fighters and suicide bombers.
There are fears that the abducted Chibok
girls are being indoctrinated and conscripted
to carry out terrorist attacks.

Experts say
that some years down the road, we will have
a much bigger problem on our hands with
the radicalisation of these children.
The US army has said that it remains
unclear how Boko Haram coerces children
into carrying out the attacks, but those who
have been raped are psychologically
damaged and vulnerable. UNICEF notes that
a third of the suicide bombers in Nigeria
have been girls.
Although many children are being released
from captivity as the military reclaims
territory from Boko Haram, they often face
stigma and rejection. Human Rights Watch
reports that almost one million Nigerian
children are missing out on education as
Boko Haram has destroyed more than 900
schools and killed more than 600 teachers.
For the Buhari-led administration, victory in
the war against insurgency will not end with
the military defeat of Boko Haram. Bringing
the abducted girls back will be a measure of
any victory, and integrating the orphaned,
lost and kidnapped into the society will also
be a key factor in measuring success.
Finally, President Buhari cannot speak of
having made good his promise of security if
the menace of the Fulani herdsmen is not
laid to rest soon.
Buhari’s ability to redeem our country from
the shackles of corruption and illegality rest
a great deal on how secure the people feel.
The nation is surely on course to win the
war against Boko Haram, but it is not yet
time to dance.