The recent prediction by the former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, that terrorism might persist in Nigeria for another 20 years, is damning. Buratai, an Ambassador-designate, reportedly made the prediction during the screening exercise by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. According to the former Army Chief, there is general misunderstanding of what insurgency and terrorism entail and stressed that it may take Nigeria 20 years to defeat the insurgents. This is a departure from the Federal Government’s earlier stand, when he was Chief of Army Staff, that the group had been technically degraded. He also pointed out that arresting the scourge will depend on the level of escalation and the appropriate responses by all the stakeholders, both civil and military authorities, including local and international actors.
Apart from Buratai’s damning prediction, prominent Nigerians, including former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, and Senate President, Ahmed Lawn, had raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the country. They have urged the government to show leadership in tackling the nation’s rising security challenges.
The erstwhile National Security Adviser, late General Andrew Azazi, had expressed similar concerns as Buratai. He also warned that the corporate existence of the country would be threatened by terrorism unless appropriate actions were taken. These are issues that the government should not toy with.
Since the emergence of Boko Haram in 2009, Nigeria has continued to experience increasing insecurity and violence through frequent attacks by terrorists, bandits and criminal herdsmen. Such attacks have escalated in states such as Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and other parts of the country. Lately, bandits had engaged in abduction of students for ransom in Katsina, Niger and Zamfara states. Kaduna State has also witnessed gory tales of activities of bandits, leading to loss of life and property.
States in the south are not spared the violent onslaughts of criminal herdsmen who rape women and kill at will. The lingering conflict between herders and farmers in the North Central region has also worsened the security situation in the country.
Without doubt, groups fuelling the rising insecurity in the country include the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS); Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM); Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb; a splinter of Boko Haram popularly referred to as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP); and the Fulani herdsmen of West Africa once rated the fourth-deadliest terror group in the world. According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), the Boko Haram insurgency had led to about 37,500 combat related deaths as at 2018 and the displacement of more than two million others. The figure must have risen, given the spread and frequency of the attacks.
It is likely that criminal elements from other countries in Africa take advantage of Nigeria’s porous and poorly policed borders to infiltrate the country and cause mayhem. Also, the number of unemployed Nigerian youths is steadily on the increase on a daily basis. There is no doubt that unemployed people are easy recruits for terrorism and other heinous crimes. Failure of governance, corruption and alienation of the citizens by all tiers of the government can also drive some people into insurgency and terrorist activities.
As the North East Governors’ Forum recently advised, we think that the Federal Government should, as a matter of utmost urgency, seek the help of neighbouring countries to counter the activities of the insurgents. Since terrorism is not a normal warfare, it has become imperative for those in charge of the war to come up with new pragmatic strategies to subdue the insurgents. We do not share the belief in some quarters that the war is interminable. With the deployment of adequate human and material resources, the war can be won earlier than the 20 years timeframe mooted by Buratai.
We urge the new service chiefs to work as a team and share intelligence and other war plans. This will make them to be in a better position to defeat the enemy. For this to be achieved, the troops must be adequately equipped and motivated. Intelligence gathering should be enhanced and other necessary modalities put in place to nip the activities of the insurgents in the bud. With enough political will, the battle against terrorism can be won much earlier than anticipated.