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‘Nigeria should consider seeking foreign assistance’

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Jude Momodu is a Professor of Conflict Management and the Coordinator of Centre for Peace and Security Studies, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola. He spoke with EMMANUEL ANDE on the upsurge of insecurity in the country, especially in the Northeast region.

What would you say is the cause of the recent upsurge in Boko Haram attacks in Northeast? 
Why you see that there is upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram is that Boko Haram is learning their lessons from the soldiers. The response from the military seems Boko Haram are developing attacking strategies while our soldiers are not learning lessons. When Boko Haram attacks and discovers that there are gaps, they go back and address those gaps and come back with more forceful and successful attacks.

In terms of capability also, Boko Haram appears to be getting more sophisticated arms. The attack in Borno State last two weeks where over 30 travellers were killed means Boko Haram has stepped up its game in the aspect of intelligent information gathering; because immediately the military left they came and attacked. This means Boko Haram is learning their lessons in the hands of the military.

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In terms of planning and even acquiring better weapons, even though we don’t know the source of Boko Haram weapons, what we know is that they have more sophisticated weapons than our military. If Boko Haram are using missiles to launch attacks, you can imagine the level of killings. To be sincere, Boko Haram has stepped up their game compared to our military. The performance of our military is dropping daily. This could be as a result of poor funding or because of the rivalry among soldiers, Airforce, Navy and other security agencies. That is my feeling.

Are you satisfied with the funding of defence by the Federal Government?
It is time that a lot of money should be pumped into defence as a result of the fight against insurgency. But again the Dasuki gate is still fresh in our minds. That was the money meant to fight insurgency but the money went into political campaigns. How are we sure that a similar thing did not happen during the 2019 elections?

We all know that there is deep corruption in the funding of our defence. It is a chain of corruption. The National Assembly members who are supposed to check how the money is spent, the military leadership and the executive are all involved in this chain of corruption. International agency, Transparent International, last year released a report that there was a lot of corruption in Nigeria’s defence expenditure. When you compare the type of weapons our military is using today to fight insurgency to the same AK47 they have been using in the past 30 years, nothing has changed. But Boko Haram is stepping up its game in areas of buying more sophisticated weapons and planning. We are not seeing that happening on the side of the military. So, corruption is the major challenge militating against the successful fight against Boko Haram. The huge defence budget does not show on the type of weapons our military is using and even in the welfare of the military men in the war front.

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What is your take on calls for change of service chiefs?
On the changing of the service chiefs, I would like to approach that question from the two sides of the coin. The first side is that, yes if you change the leadership it will amount to putting a round peg in a round hole. It will trickle down; the strategy will change especially when you have a leader that is professional who is able to carry everybody along and who has the interest of the nation at heart that can bring positive result in the fight against insurgency.

Let me tell you. I graduated from the University of Ibadan. For so many years we had many vice chancellors that kept crying of poor funding. But we had one vice chancellor who came and changed the trajectory. He built all the roads, new structures, bought equipment and other things. So the question people started asking was where is the vice chancellor getting this money?

So, leadership is very critical. If you have the right leadership, he can change bad situations into good or even excellent situation. So leadership is key to development. A focused leader can bring new vigour and new vision into the counter insurgency war, which is what we need now. 

The other side of the coin is that changing the service chiefs is not the only thing that is needed. If you change them and corruption is still going on, poor funding still exists; the story will remain the same or even get worse.

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Fighting and winning insurgency is not what the nation alone can do. From the point of view of what we are seeing in Libya and Syria, we need international collaboration with countries that have the capacity to be able to assist us to win the war. In the case of Syria, if not for Russia, U.S. and Arab forces who are giving them the support in terms of weapons and capacity building, they won’t be able to rout out ISIS.

This is because terrorists themselves have a network. Don’t be surprised that terrorists from other countries are assisting Boko Haram. If Boko Haram is getting support from their jihadist network, we should also open our hands to nations that can help us. Israel is there; the U.S. president is ever ready to support any country to fight terrorist groups.

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Do you support the idea of recruiting repentant Boko Haram insurgents into the military?
Demobilisation, disarmament and rehabilitation (DDR) is a global practice. Israel has a DDR camp. You see we have three different types of insurgents. These include members of Boko Haram that are ideologically based. These are the ones that are fired by the ideologies of Boko Haram. The second group comprises those that were recruited by force while the third group comprises those that were enticed by money to join Boko Haram.
So, the second and third categories can undergo DDR. It happened in the Niger-Delta. The militants were economic saboteurs destroying oil installations but today they have repented.

So, you can allow them to go through DDR for not less than two years to be sure that they have repented. The military’s Operation Safe Corridor that takes only six months is a charade; it can’t work.  In Saudi Arabia, it takes them two years; they shuttle them from one camp to another to be sure that they have actually repented. But the way we are doing it in Nigeria for six months period, I think we are courting more trouble, because we are not sure that they actually repented.

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What is in the public domain now is that some of these Boko Haram so to have repented are being recruited into the military. If that is true, then Nigeria is sitting on gunpowder waiting for it to explode. If the military is actually doing that, they should stop because they are building another arm of Boko Haram into the military and it is going to be counter productive. 

Should the Nigeria government negotiate with Boko Haram?
There is nothing bad about that. Even U.S. that said that it would never negotiate with terrorists was seen negotiating with terrorists in Afghanistan. But before you say you want to negotiate with a terrorist group, you must make sure that you have an upper hand; you must be seen to be winning the game. You must negotiate from the point of strength.

Today, if we want to negotiate with Boko Haram, can we say that we are negotiating from the point of strength? So, it is not something that we should consider now but when we are having upper hand against them and they are willing to come to the negotiating table.

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In this article:
Boko HaramJude Momodu
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