MS Risk Blog

Nigeria Likely to Miss Boko Haram Deadline

Posted on in Nigeria title_rule

While Nigeria’s government vowed earlier this year to end Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency by this month, the fast approaching deadline looks likely to be missed with hit-and-run attacks continuing as the militant group in recent weeks has increased its tempo of attacks in the Lake Chad region despite a regional response, which so far has shown little sign of effect.

In August, newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari gave his military commanders until December to build on apparent gains in recapturing territory, which was seized by the insurgents in 2014. However despite further claims successes since then there has been no let-up in deadly suicide and bomb attacks. Regional analysts are now reporting that it will be nearly impossible for the government and military to meet the deadline as “Boko Haram is still in control of Borno North senatorial district,” adding that “there are still attacks occurring in Chibok, Buratia, Gwoza (in Borno state) and Buni Yadi (in Yobe), as well as in the Gulak region of northern Adamawa.” Despite the ongoing attacks, the Nigerian army has maintained that it has control of the situation, however the weekend announcement of the arrest of about a dozen suspects, which army officials disclosed were part of Bok Haram “sleeper cells” in the capital Abuja, has increased concerns that the ongoing military operations are pushing Boko Haram insurgents further out of northeastern Nigeria and into not only neighbouring states, including Niger, Cameroon and Chad, but further south, to areas that have been less affected by the insurgency. Furthermore, military officials have also disclosed that they have again begun operations against Boko Haram bases “deep inside” the Sambisa Forest in Borno, despite indications that fighters have now moved to islands on Lake Chad.

While President Buhari, a retired army general and former military ruler, has consistently vowed to approach the ongoing conflict differently from his predecessors, many were surprised that he had imposed such a deadline. The previous administration under former President Goodluck Jonathan had made repeated pledges of a swift end to the conflict. However all of these pledges came and went, which affected the government’s and military’s credibility. While President Buhari promised to restructure the county’s military, which was hit by complaints that money and weapons were not reaching frontline troops despite massive government defense spending, there have been minimal signs of an immediate overhaul. So far the major changes have been the redeployment of the high command to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, and a claimed upsurge in the morale of troops.

Since announcing the deadline in August, President Buhari has been more cautious. In September, he warned that guerrilla-style tactics would persist, while on Monday, he told army top brass that the deadline “should serve as a guide.” The ongoing conflict in northeastern Nigeria, and its spread to neighbouring countries, has proven the underlining need for a multilateral response and greater coordination rather than unilateral action. The Nigerian military has been focusing on defeating Boko Haram as a conventional fighting force. However little has been done in order to tackle the root causes of the insurgency. Furthermore, a coordinated, regional approach to ending the insurgency still looks far off despite an increasing wave of suicide and bomb attacks outside Nigeria. A new 8,700-strong multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF), comprising of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin, was supposed to have been deployed in Late July however the African Union (AU)-backed force has yet to start operations, with no reason given for the lengthening delay and questions over whether the countries have the resources to commit.

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