Progress is being made in tackling the menace of Boko Haram but much remains to be done
by Rev Fr John Bakeni (PhD)
The Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern region of Nigeria has lasted for over a decade now. A violent conflict that has claimed thousands of lives, caused wanton destruction, and displaced millions. The narrative of the Boko Haram insurgency has evolved and changed over time – from a religious or single narrative to an all-inclusive one. Human beings and humanity are at the centre of this conflict – Christians and Muslims alike. The most vulnerable, of course, are women and children.
There have been concerted efforts over the years by the Nigerian government and military in particular to take a kinetic approach to solving the crisis. There have been a few successful dialogues, like the negotiation of the release of more than half of the 276 girls abducted
by Boko Haram from a school in Chibok in April 2014. There have also been failed dialogues in the past due to distrust between the terrorists and the government.
The influx of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) and the rise of local non-governmental organisations (LNGOs) has complicated the crisis: what we are witnessing today is a big cash flow into the country and the commercialisation of the conflict. The apparent lack of will on the part of the present government – with due apologies to the Nigerian military and other security agencies for their efforts – is
regrettable and raises a lot of questions. This lack of will on the part of the government is manifest in the corruption of government officials; the lack of adequate equipment for the military and the underfunding of the various agencies involved in counter-terrorism; and the inability of government to name the sponsors of the terrorist group.
While the military and other security agencies have made remarkable progress and secured the city of Maiduguri, the environs are not as safe and secure as they should be. If they were, why are there still thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the camps and with host communities? Why are government institutions not functioning in most of the local governments? Why are some villages and towns
Some of the questions that beg answers are: Is the amount of funds that has been invested and spent in the northeast by the government and NGOs commensurate with the realities on the ground in terms of addressing the needs of the people? Have all the various humanitarian interventions – from providing food, shelter, health services and psycho-social services to empowerment, achieved their aims and purposes? How about building resilience and sustainable development? I would argue that these aims have not yet been achieved. Are there visible indicators that allow us to measure progress? In as much as there are many commendable efforts by the government and NGOs, there is still a long way to go.
There is a visible effort by the present governor of the state, Babagana Umara Zulum, to see an end to the Boko Haram menace. This will is manifest in his support for the military, recruitment of a Civilian Joint Task Force, local vigilantes and traditional hunters. [i] However, he needs the support and cooperation of all stakeholders. While it is true that the Boko Haram terrorists have been pushed back to the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin, the Mandara Mountains, and Sambisa Forest, there are still sporadic attacks taking place in many villages and towns outside Maiduguri city. Agricultural and agrarian activities have dwindled because people cannot go to their farms for fear of being killed or abducted by the terrorists. Many markets and roads remain closed and inaccessible.
Is there progress being made? Yes, but there is still a lot to be done. Remember, many men and women, boys and girls are still in captivity, including Leah Sharibu, an abducted Christian schoolgirl who refuses to renounce her faith. Recently the military has resorted to prayers and seeking divine intervention. We as pastors are doing our best and raising our case to God.
[i]Borno govt in fresh recruitment of traditional hunters to help fight Boko Haram, Premium Times, 8 October 2019: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/356661-borno-govt-in-fresh-recruitment-of-traditional-hunters-to-help-fight-boko-haram.html
Rev Father John Bakeni PhD is a Catholic priest working in Maiduguri, Borno State