Curbing Boko Haram Attacks
Last week, the Boko Haram sect that has wreaked havoc on the country, grabbed the headlines again for its bloodletting prowess. The sheer scale of its latest offensive caught many by surprise given that in recent times, the northeast states where the group operates and indeed the entire country has witnessed some reprieve following a lull induced by the state of emergency declared by the federal government, and the subsequent deployment of platoons of soldiers to restore law and order in that part of the country.
In keeping faith with its morbid hatred for western education, a cause it has vigorously pursued, the Islamists invaded Government Secondary School, Mamudo in Potiskum Local Government Area of Yobe State, killing 29 pupils and a teacher. Some of the victims were burnt alive. Besides the fatalities, buildings and instructional materials were set alight.
As expected, Boko Haram has invited a barrage of public angst on itself. Among those who have spoken in unmistakable terms against the fundamentalists’ attack on the school is Manuel Fontain, the West African Director of the United Nations Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF. The diplomat was quoted as saying the attack should be condemned absolutely by all communities, because there can be no justification for the deliberate targeting of children and those looking after them.
This captures the general mood of those who feel that innocent children shouldn’t be wasted on the altar of religious fanaticism, given that over 48 students have been killed by the group since 16 June this year.
Gainful as the military operations have been in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa States, the recent weight pulled by Boko Haram calls for a re-jig of strategy. That this band of disaffected Islamists could carry out such dastardly act despite the heavy presence of the army in the state implies that something is wrong with the current military manual from which the commanders are gleaning their methods.
Terrorism, everywhere in the world is fought through spooks. An effective tracking system led by spies plays a cardinal role to rein in the enemies of state. Brandishing guns and amour on the streets only frightens innocent civilians while the insurgents plan ahead in their hide-outs. Using ciphers to infiltrate the enemies, sniffing the ground for their passage and counter-assaulting them at the slightest opportunity is the better method to forestall these massive attacks that Boko Haram has carried out in recent weeks.
Similarly, while infiltrating the group is useful, there should also be emergency response system in place. This will call for effective airlift and sealift to achieve. True, a retired senior military officer once said that the Nigerian Army lacks the requisite sea and airlifts to counter Boko Haram. We think that the officers at the Defence Headquarters should think in this direction to fix this problem, if it truly exists. Since the group is extremely familiar with the ground terrain, and operates with ease in the desert areas, the option for the military is to tackle them on both ends – land and air.
Now that most of the attacks are now carried out nocturnally, the army should device a means of squaring up against the enemy during the night. This implies that helicopters with night navigational equipment should be deployed to trouble spots. In other climes, where terrorist operate at unholy hours, this technique has helped to repel many of their attacks.
A rapid response system should also be installed. With regular communication facilities in a bad shape in the city, the bet for this military operation will be to rely on its men who are specifically trained to handle signals. Agreed that the army can’t be everywhere at the same time, but if there is a lot more of community relations, security breaches can be reported faster and assistance sought by linkmen in those areas. The army can’t do this alone. They need to win the confidence of the civil populace. This implies that they must operate with caution, imbibing the best counter insurgence practices.
Moreover, schools, hospitals, mosques and churches should be adequately protected. This is because at one point or another, a large population of people congregates in those places. These lives deserve to be protected. War is won through strategy, not by sheer cache of arms or the number of officers and men deployed to trouble spots.