The recent Boko Haram ambush of a geological survey team at the Lake Chad Basin is yet another indication that the bloody insurgency in the North-east of the country is far from abating. The attack on the Frontier Exploration Services/Surface Geochemistry Sampling team reportedly claimed scores of lives, including those of five lecturers of the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, about 15 soldiers, eleven members of the Civilian Joint Task Force and some officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with at least three other persons abducted.
In spite of the asymmetrical nature of guerrilla warfare anywhere in the world, the reverses which the Nigerian military has suffered in the war against Boko Haram in recent times call to question its operational strategies. It has become necessary to urgently reappraise them to sustain whatever gains have been made in the battle against the insurgents. For avoidance of doubt, the team was attacked on its way back from its scheduled exploratory activities. As Major General John Enenche, Director of Defence Information, disclosed in his press briefing on the attack, the vehicles conveying the exploration team were carefully isolated and visited with mayhem.
This suggests high level sabotage and infiltration of our military and security ranks for the benefit of Boko Haram insurgents. It indicates that the terrorists may have penetrated our security organisations and are now able to launch attacks at will, and with impunity, despite the best efforts of our military and civilian authorities.
We are glad that the UNIMAID authorities and the management of the NNPC have read this incident correctly. This is definitely not a time to despair or retreat. It is not a time to succumb to the blackmail of the insurgents and threaten a strike, as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has done, over the abduction of the lecturers. On the contrary, it is a time for the Federal Government to redeploy its war resources and re-strategise on the battle against the insurgents.
It is unfortunate that Nigeria’s security agencies have not been able to sufficiently infiltrate the ranks of Boko Haram. To maintain their recent gains in this war and effectively reduce the ability of the terrorists to launch attacks, our security forces must always be ahead of the insurgents in their strategies, tactics and plans. Our military must be able to anticipate and nip their attacks in the bud. This will require a very sophisticated and adaptable counter-insurgency plan.
The second point is the understanding that our military needs well motivated men and adequate materials. Sequel to this latest attack, the news broke that the US has approved the sale of some aircraft to the Nigerian government. Belated as some of these actions may seem, they are welcome in our quest to totally dominate our territories and roundly defeat the insurgents. But, no one should be deceived that it is going to be an easy exercise. There will be reversals of the kind the nation recently experienced, but the challenge is to constantly reevaluate our strategies and rally our combined troops to resounding success. We must never lose sight of this ultimate goal.
In the meantime, efforts must be concentrated on finding the abducted members of the oil exploration team and ensuring their quick release and safe return to their work and families. The action taken by the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum authorities in suspending all exploration activities until the security situation in the affected region significantly improves is in order.
We must not forget that the search for oil in the Lake Chad Basin has been on for about twelve years now. The argument that oil is fast losing its global relevance as the fuel of choice cannot totally negate the importance of the product to our economy and the efforts to diversify it. However, the exploration must not be at the expense of human lives.