6 Reasons Why the Nigerian Government Is Yet to Conquer Terrorists in Northern Nigeria
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been engaging in a protracted war on terror for more than a decade now since the terrorist group, Boko Haram, launched its terror campaign against the nation. In between, other terror groups have also taken up arms against the state especially in the North. Such groups as the Fulani herdsmen and Fulani bandits have since established themselves as thorns in the flesh of the Nigerian state with their regular murderous raids on communities. Even Boko Haram has birthed splinter groups who are engaged in the common cause of terrorizing Nigerians.
The terrorist group has also pledged allegiance to and entered into an international alliance with the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) and Al-Qaida to become the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). This alliance has further strengthened the group.
The federal government has not been able to conquer the terrorists despite many years of counterterrorism operations. Some of the reasons responsible for the government’s inability to summarily deal with the various terror groups are given below:
Failure to track down and apprehend the big local financiers of the terrorists
The federal government’s failure to track down, arrest and prosecute the local fanciers of theses terror groups is the number one reason why it is to win the war on terror.
As long as the terrorists have access to their sources of funding, victory in the war will continue to elude the nation’s armed forces. There are also strong indications that these groups get their funding from terror-sponsoring nations abroad especially now that some of them like Boko Haram have pledged allegiance to foreign terror groups. The international standard practice in winning the war on terror is to trace the sources of such foreign funding and block them. This, the Nigerian government has not done. The failure to deprive the terrorists of funding by applying this measure only prolongs the war on terror.
Failure to block the terrorist’s access to arms and ammunition and military hardware
Closely related to Number 1 is the the government’s failure to block the terrorist’s access to sophisticated weapons and military hardware.
Again, by now the nation’s intelligence community should have discovered how military hardware is delivered to these terrorists and mapped out strategies to block the inflow of such weapons. But unfortunately, that has not been the case as our air, land, and sea borders remain as porous as ever, even though the nation is fighting a deadly enemy. This makes it so easy for the terrorists to take delivery of their dangerous cargoes that one is wont to believe that access to weapons is the least of their headaches especially given the grades and models of weapons they brandish.
Not giving priority attention to the welfare of soldiers at the frontlines
The issue of poor welfare for soldiers at the frontlines of military operations across the North has been a lingering issue since the days of Goodluck Jonathan as the President. Unfortunately, the problem persists to date. On several occasions, videos of soldiers lamenting their deplorable situation at the frontlines have surfaced online for Nigerians to see. It is almost trite to say that such situations demoralize the troops and make them unable and unwilling to give their best on the battlefields because this should be common knowledge to everyone.
Negotiating with the terrorists
The federal government took the wrong step of negotiating with the terrorists. It is essentially wrong to negotiate with terrorists, especially when you do not have a clear upper hand in the war. When you negotiate with terrorists, they get the impression that they have overwhelmed you, that they have got you where they always wanted to get you. Terrorists set out to terrorize, intimidate, or strike fear into the hearts of their targets. And so when you call them to the negotiation table, they know that they have already achieved their primary goal.
Therefore, the come to the negotiation table to negotiate from a position of strength, which is why they will make impossible demands from you before they cede a little ground to you. This has been the situation in all the negotiations the government has entered into with the terrorists at different levels.
Government’s refusal to change the Service Chiefs
So many Nigerians including security experts have argued that the federal government should change the service chiefs who have been overseeing the war on terror since 2015. The main point of the argument is that the service chiefs have run out of ideas on how to tackle the terrorism menace, having been on the beat for too long. They opine that it is in the best interest of the terror war for the service chiefs to make way for new ones who would inject fresh ideas to reinvigorate the offensive against the terror gangs. This, the security experts say, is the standard practice when prosecuting a long-drawn war.
Engaging civilians to fight the terrorists
The federal government’s decision to recruit and involve local civilians to fight against the terrorists may have yielded some level of success in the short term, but it may have dire repercussions in the long run. There are reasons persons recruited into the armed forces undergo various stages of training before being sent into the battlefield, one of which is that such persons would be able to live with the civilian population without frictions.
The local civilians being recruited to fight these terrorists do not have the privilege of undergoing such training before they begin to bear arms. This can be counterproductive. An untrained man who bears arms may become a problem to the very community he is required to protect. He may feel he has the ultimate power to lord it over members of the community because he is armed, thus constituting a nuisance to the community. If he is a very perverted type, he might use the arms to engage in crime. Again, it is very doubtful if these civilian fighters are being prepared for the aftermath and effects of a protracted military campaign on their minds.
There are better ways to involve the locals in communities for a successful military operation than engaging them to fight the terrorists directly. Some of the best ways to engage them in the terror war would be to train and deploy them as spies and informants to the security forces.