Ahead 2019: Emboldened insurgents’ attack on troops unsettles security
Unlike some months and even years ago, insurgents in the northeast appear to be shifting their attacks from soft targets- civilians, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp and hapless communities- to hard targets, including military bases and formations across the region.
In the last few weeks, different groups of insurgents have attacked military bases in Borno State, particularly the attack on troops of 157 Task Force Battalion at Metele, with the last resulting in the killing of scores of soldiers put at 23 by the military authorities, even as the actual number of military casualties remains disputed.
Insurgents from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction have so far attacked a base in Metele and launched pre-dawn attack on military bases/formations in Gajiram, some 80 kilometres north of Maiduguri, Kekeno village, near Monguno, Kareto, as well as Mainok.
Such attacks have increased in recent months, and are likely to be so unless urgent action is taken to curtail them, even as next year’s general elections draw near.
ISWAP is a splinter group from the Abubakar Shekau-led faction and their actions indicate a change from attacks on soft targets to hard targets, even as Nigerian combatants complain of fatigue.
In June this year, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole protested being redeployed to a battlefront in the remote Lake Chad region after fighting Boko Haram jihadists for years without relief/rotation, complaining of fatigue and lack of adequate and sophisticated equipment to match and overrun the insurgents. They were later court-mashalled. But the recent attacks, no doubt, have proved them right.
There were increased attacks across the northeast close to the 2015 election that brought Buhari to power. The President, a former Army General, rode to power on the alleged inability of the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration to defeat the insurgents, with a promise to crush the group.
Almost four years after and less than three months to the general elections, the insurgents, who the President, his administration and military top brass described at different fora and time as “technically defeated” or “decimated,” appear to be emboldened, prompting the federal government to direct Buratai to remain in the northeast until the security situation improved.
Some soldiers who managed to escape the onslaught reportedly told tales of how lack of sophisticated and modern weapons hampered their defence of their bases from falling to the better-equipped insurgents.
This has called to question, the utilisation of the billions of naira budgeted for the purchase of arms, ammunition and other modern military hardware, with many Nigerians calling for a probe of arms purchase.
But the Nigerian Army has come out to say it was yet to access the $1billion approved by the federal government for procurement of arms to fight the rampaging insurgents, who seem to be having a field day.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, told newsmen in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, during the just-concluded Chief of Army Staff Conference: “You know the process of funding is another major issue. The bureaucracy and so on is another issue. Approvals are given, but before you really get the money out is another challenge.
“So, the people are talking or the media have been talking of $1billion that has been approved, but I tell you up till today, the funds that are supposed to come from that amount to the Army in particular is still in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is yet to access the funds. When the ministry gets the funds, they will get the right equipment for us, as proposed.”
He, however, assured that efforts were being made by the MoD to facilitate the release and consequent application of the funds.
The Presidency has remained silent on the non-release of the funds approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in April this year.
Some military and security experts speak on the resurgence of attacks, especially on the troops and its effect on the fight against terrorism and insurgency, among other related issues.