Boko Haram makes bloody mark again

Punch, Nigeria/July 2, 2024

After hibernating for five years, Boko Haram shattered the relative peace of the North-East again at the weekend, making a bloody mark on Gwoza in southern Borno State. The insurgents let loose young female suicide bombers in the state. The cost is heavy: 18 slaughtered and 42 injured. The death toll hit 20 on Monday. This is a harsh reminder that Islamic terrorism is still deeply rooted in the North-East despite the pretentiousness in government.

The attacks on Gwoza bore all the toxic imprimatur of Boko Haram. They were well coordinated, catching the security teams off-guard. A female suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device at a wedding on Saturday, wreaking mass mayhem. This triggered other calculated convulsions near the General Hospital. As the weary residents began burying the dead, another suicide bomber hit them at the funeral.

This is most callous, but it is the way terrorists operate for maximum impact: when you least expect it. Women and children were the worst hit. In Pulka, a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint the same day. Two farmers were incinerated on Sunday when an IED exploded on the Kekeno-Cross Kauwa and Monguno Highway.

In the past 10 years, Boko Haram and its splinter force, ISWAP, have rendered the Biu-Maiduguri Highway unsafe. On June 24, terrorists kidnapped a Borno State High Court judge, Haruna Mshelia, his wife, driver, and a police detail there.

Like other terror-afflicted countries, Nigeria is paying a huge price.

Apart from instigating a staggering number of internally displaced persons, Borno Governor, Babagana Zulum remarked in an August 2023 note to UNICEF that Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe – the epicentre of the insurgency – have lost 100,000 citizens to attacks in the 13 years to 2023. The North-East states lost $100 billion to terrorism in the same period.

Boko Haram gained notoriety for the UN Headquarters bombing in Abuja in 2010, the Madalla bus park bombing in 2014, the April 2014 mass abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls in Borno, the simulated bombings in Kano in January 2012 that caused 178 deaths, and the mass abduction of Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe under Buhari.

These are brutal attacks on the sovereign essence of the Nigerian state. The attacks undo all the military’s fight against terrorism. The terrorists undermine education, FDI, social life, and governance.

Action on Armed Violence said suicide bombings represented 54 per cent (72) of Boko Haram attacks and caused 2,278 (75 per cent) civilian casualties.

In fairness, Boko Haram is not occupying massive territories again, as it did successfully under Jonathan. Taoreed Lagbaja, the Chief of Army Staff, said that troops rescued 983 Boko Haram victims in the four months to June. Lagbaja said 5,630 fighters surrendered to the military, which neutralised 282 terrorists.

Instantly, President Bola Tinubu entered the default mode. After strongly condemning the bloodletting, the President vowed that the “purveyors of wanton violence shall have a certain encounter with justice.” These words are eerily familiar but sound hollow. From Goodluck Jonathan to Muhammadu Buhari and now Tinubu, the terrorists have practically gone scot-free after committing horrendous crimes.

Tinubu, like his predecessors, lacks an in-depth understanding of Salafism. It is a narrow, warped ideology: kill ‘unbelievers’ mindlessly and die a martyr in the process. In that elusive heaven, there is eternal hedonism where scores of virgins are at your beck and call.

The Boko Haram insurgents and their offshoots understand the Nigerian state’s weak position. They will continue undermining it if Tinubu does not launch an all-out campaign against them like Israel is doing after the Hamas attacks.

Tinubu should discard the reckless policy of deradicalisation. It has not worked elsewhere and will not work in Nigeria. Instead, terrorists should face the full wrath of the Nigerian state.

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