At the start of the month of July, Nigeria Chief of army staff, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai claimed that his military had defeated #BokoHaram. In an interview with BBC, he said, “militarily, Boko Haram has been defeated”.
Nevertheless, the presence of the group is still being felt, and in the most tragically tangible way possible. In June there were 53 deaths attributed to Boko Haram. More than 50 people were killed in a Boko Haram ambush on an oil exploration team in northeast Nigeria in the month of July.
“Militarily, Boko Haram has been defeated” What does that even mean? What is obvious and pathetic is that Boko Haram is still taking lives of Nigerians in the North East. Although Boko Haram now lacks the capacity to hold territory, they are still a potent threat in as far as carrying out suicide bombings and attacks on isolated communities and rural areas are concerned. Certainly, Boko Haram hasn’t been eliminated, and it is arguable that it hasn’t even been defeated.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of such attacks in motor parks, in and around the University of Maiduguri and on neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city where Boko Haram can easily gain entry.
In order to avoid detection, they often use young girls to perpetrate these attacks. What is still unclear however, is if these girls are willing tools, or acting based on coercion. It has become clear that some of these attacks are coordinated, and are actually multiple attacks across various places, either suicide bombings or accompanied by gun attacks.
The reality is that suicide attacks and the occasional bombing in both Yobe and Adamawa have mostly gone unreported in the mainstream media. For example, there was a suicide bombing in Damaturu, Yobe on Thursday, 28 June. There were two at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Diffa in the neighbouring Niger Republic on the morning of June 29 and host of others.
The University of Maiduguri, the highest-ranking federal institution in Borno, has been targeted many times this year despite being seemingly ignored since Boko Haram metastasised in 2009 and became a full blown insurgency. The question what has changed? There is a serious doubt that Kashim Shettima’s ₦50 million trench to be dug around the back of the campus is a joke at best.
The bitter truth is that the Nigerian Army is stretched beyond its capacity to be able to man every inch of the Borno State. At 70,000km2, Borno is Nigeria’s second largest state in terms of landmass, and unfortunately, the population in the Central and Northern areas where Boko Haram still has a presence is sparse.
The army’s operational tactics leave much to be desired as they appear to mostly be on the defensive from Boko Haram attacks rather than taking the fight to them. It seems #OperationDeepPunch is getting a serious punch from the #BH insurgents
There is an urgent need for a strengthening of the intelligence capacity of the security agencies to enable them to nip attacks prior to execution.
Special attention should be given to the University of Maiduguri for two reasons: one, an attack on the University is symbolic for Boko Haram in line with its opposition to anything Western, including modern education. Secondly, the University is situated on the edge of the city and is very vulnerable to attacks as it is unfenced in many areas extending into areas where Boko Haram seems to be able to move around freely.