The report of the Global Terrorism Index indicating that Nigeria recorded a substantial drop in deaths from Boko Haram attacks, is a welcome development. Cheering as the news is, it is too early to celebrate, as some parts of the country are not yet free from terrorist attacks, writes Shola Oyeyipo
The President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) attained power on the tripod of three broad promises: to end insecurity, fight corruption and to re-engineer the economy.
If one defines ending insecurity narrowly to mean fighting Boko Haram terrorists, then Buhari has done quite well. However, if ending insecurity means stopping killers herdsmen, kidnappers and other criminalities, then the president has failed.
In the fight against terrorism, the government has recorded some remarkable achievements.
Remarkably, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), a globally recognised report published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism since 2000, revealed that for the second consecutive year, the total number of deaths is down by 13 percent compared to 2015., with Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria; four of the five countries most affected by terrorism, recording 33 percent fewer deaths. It stated that Nigeria recorded the largest reduction in deaths attributed to Boko Haram in 2016.
According to the report, deaths from terrorism activity in Nigeria fell by 80 per cent.
This is no doubt a result of the commitment of the incumbent administration to stamp out Boko Haram.
This impressive statistics notwithstanding, Nigeria still lost quite a number of its citizens to terrorist related attacks during the year under review.
On January 7, at least five soldiers were killed by Boko Haram fighters at an Army base in Buni Yadi, Yobe State. The following day, two people were killed in a residential area in the Kaleri area of Gwange, Borno State after an attack by two female suicide bombers.
Shortly before these two attacks, three suicide bombers, all male, attacked a military checkpoint in the area, killing themselves and a civilian self-defence fighter when they detonated a vest bomb. On January 13, armed me attacked the 119 Battalion and 133 Special Forces Battalion of 7 Brigade deployed to Kangarwa, Kukawa Local Government Aea, Borno State and three soldiers were killed. 10 Boko Haram fighters were also killed.
That same day, four suicide bombers attacked in Madagali and killed at least five civilians. A twin-attack on the premises of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) on January 16 left three people, including Professor Aliyu Mani, the director of the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, dead. Also, on January 23 , eight people were killed and countless kidnapped when Dzaku village of Askira-Uba Local Government Area, Borno State, was invaded by Boko Haram fighters.
Two suicide bombers trying to make their ways into a mosque detonated their vests and killed a civilian member of the Joint Task Force in Borno on January 25. Amidst contested casualty figure, on January 28, seven persons lost their lives along the.Maiduguri-Biu highway in what was a Boko Haram terrorists’ attack. On January 31, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Dalori quarters, close to UNIMAID, during morning prayers and killed one person. Later, five United Nations contractors; a Kenyan, a Cameroonian and three Nigerians were killed
March was not better either. Though official reports pegged death toll at about 50 within the two months, there were no reliable information on the number of people killed or kidnapped as some young girls were abducted during attacks. The actual numbers of those who sustained injuries could not be ascertained.
Going further, in a data compiled by Amnesty International, at least 223 people were killed in Boko Haram attacks in North-east Nigeria between April and September. In fact, 11 persons were killed, three persons injured and four boys abducted by Boko Haram insurgents at the Internally Displaced Camp in Banki, Borno State, a border town with Cameroon.
Most of the attacks were in Borno with many of the suicide attacks carried out by radicalised women and girls. Up till date, not anyone can say for sure whether or not there will be another suicide attack or who will be the next victim. So, despite the gains by the military, Boko Haram has continued to carry out attacks in soft targets.
These attacks made it difficult for internally displaced persons to return to their homes. As at December last year, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states had the largest number of IDPs, with approximately 1.68 million persons, including approximately 528, 000 IDPs in Maiduguri Metropolis, Borno State.
This has resulted in a critical humanitarian situation that is not showing any sign of ending anytime soon due to the large scale of the displacement, and the ongoing instability in some local government areas (LGAs) in the North-east.
Despite the fact that the military have done so much to liberate communities that were under the terrorist control, the Borno State Government recently expressed concern over the fact that no fewer than 350, 000 internally displaced persons have refused to return to the liberated communities but chose to remain in the IDP camps for fear that the insurgents may strike again.
The state’s Commissioner for Local Government and Emirate Affairs, Mallam Usman recently told journalists that though the military had secured several communiities, over 350, 000 of the displaced persons have refused to return to their communities to pick up their lives but remained in Maiduguri resettlement camps.
He therefore urged the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the media to sensitise the IDPs in camps to return to their communities, since the Kampala Convention disallows forceful ejection of IDPs.
Many Nigerians, including the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, have also been concerned about the decision of the displaced persons to remain in camps.
“The most important thing for the military is to ensure that all displaced persons return to their towns and villages. But I wonder, why the IDPs are still living in camps of Maiduguri metropolis,” Buratai said during the flag off of the medical outreach of Nigerian Army at the NYSC orientation IDPs’ camp on Damboa road, Borno State.
However, no one should blame them for refusing to go home. The terrorists are still raiding vulnerable rural communities in the northeast.
Another dimension to the terrorism debate is that the decision of the federal government to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and labelled the group as a terrorist organisation has again increased the number of terrorist organisations within the country in the eyes of the international community. This is more so because it is not clear that the demand for Biafra is anything that will die soon as as result of the proscription.
So, any future engagement between IPOB and the Nigerian security forces will be considered as a fight with a terror group internationally and as such, this may retain the country on the list of terrorised nations much longer.
Furthermore is the unresolved issue of the abducted Chibok girls. Going by the position of the president as contained in a letter he wrote to Pakistani child rights activist, Malala Yousafzai, he said his government would not claim victory over Boko Haram until all the kidnapped Chibok school girls were reunited with their families.
No doubt, the government has shown doggedness, commitment and sincerity in ensuring the safe return of the Chibok girls, the reality is that a large number of the girls are still with the insurgents. Families and other well-meaning Nigerians have only kept their fingers crossed hoping that ongoing negotiations to secure the release of the girls would be successful.
Ordinarily, an 80 percent decrease in Boko Haram related killings is a significant drop. This has reflected in jubilant expressions by most Nigerians who seek a quick end to the insurgence. However, many are still of the opinions that more still needed to be done to stop further waste of innocent lives by the terrorists.
Nigerians in Diaspora under the auspices of Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group (NDMG), were quick to express excitement over the latest GTI report on gains recorded in the fight against terrorism.
NDMG president, Dr. Ibukun Ola, in a statement, said the report was an indication of great improvement in the fight against terrorism and that it was capable of boosting the image of the country and consequently attract the much required investors to the country.
“Two things that the president did which is worth special mention is the order relocating the operational headquarters of the military to the North-east zone and the relocation of the service chiefs to those areas. This has added verve and seriousness to the fight and boosted the morale of the soldiers on the field.
“We note particularity the report by the Global Terrorism Index and that of the BBC on the development which has confirmed Nigeria’s contribution to winning the war against global terrorism and other crimes against humanity.
“Apart from pockets of largely unsuccessful attempts at soft targets, several Nigerian cities hitherto groaning under terror are beginning to forget what the sound of bombs and armed attacks feel like while life has returned to normal in many former war ravaged areas.”
While Buhari must be commended for the success recorded so far in the war against terrorists, he can not afford to relax until total victory is achieved.
On what the military should do to end the war, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara tasked the military on effective intelligence gathering on terrorism.
According to him, terrorist acts are best tackled through prompt and effective intelligence gathering and sharing by relevant security outfits.