Boko Haram’s arms stockpile poses existential threat to the Lake Chad Basin Region   

Olusegun Akinfenwa: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 May 2021:

The Lake Chad basin region, comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, has been grappling with terrorist attacks since the emergence of the Boko Haram sect, with Northern Nigerian being the worst hit. The group started its onslaughts on security personnel in mid-2010 with hit-and-run tactics at police checkpoints, killing officers and make away with their weapons.

But today, the Africa’s most deadly terrorist sect has grown in size, boldness and arms. It now has the effrontery to attack military bases with alarming frequencies and recording unimaginable successes against soldiers in the four countries. In 2021 alone, hundreds of soldiers have reportedly been killed by the insurgents.

Sadly, the bloodshed of this nature has become commonplace and hardly gets much media attention. While this is devastating enough, more worrisome is the growing size of the jihadists’ arms stockpile.

In April, members of Boko Haram and its aligned terrorist organization, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), showed off different kinds of operational Hilux vehicles and armoured tanks seized from Nigerian soldiers on April 25 in an attack on a Nigerian Army location at 156 Battalion in Mainok area, Borno state. Forcefully acquired weapons like these have kept the group in business and wreaked untold havoc on the region, especially in Nigeria.

With an 8.314 score, Nigeria currently ranks third on the Global Terrorism Index, which indicates that Boko Haram is gaining too much ground in the country and the Lake Chad Basin region. Cameroon, Niger, and Chad are 13th, 24th, and 34th on the list.

From January to April 2019, Safety Organization (INSO), an international NGO, recorded 896 attacks, including killings, kidnappings, and bombings in the region. Boko Haram is responsible for most of these. In April 2021, the sect attacked a military base in Borno, killing 18 soldiers and injuring 43 others. According to the report, the military base was “virtually completely destroyed”.

The jihadists also killed at least 10 soldiers when they attacked a military base near Diffa town in Niger. In Cameroon, more than 100 Boko Haram fighters attacked an army base in Dananga. Sometimes, the group overruns an entire battalion, just like in a 2018 attack in Yobe, Nigeria, where hundreds of Nigerian soldiers reportedly went missing.

Chad also recorded its deadliest Boko Haram attack in early 2020, losing 92 persons in an attack on the Boma peninsula that lasted for at least over seven hours. Whenever the extremists overpower a military base, various types of weapons and other military materials abandoned by the soldiers become theirs. Occasionally, Boko Haram releases videos to the public, either displaying their captives, victories or making threats to the government.

According to a retired military officer, Salihu Bakhari, the guns, gun trucks, Hilux vehicles, rocket launchers, and armoured personnel carriers that appear in these videos are from military troops.

In 2015, the Nigerian military, with help from Cameroon and Chad troops, successfully launched a counterinsurgency operation against the group. This saw the recovery of many military weapons, including sophisticated ones including army tanks.

The devastating effects of this lingering menace include tens of thousands of deaths, millions of forced migration, and life-threatening hunger in the region.

The terrorists have killed and maimed many soldiers using the same weapons stolen from the military. This has also greatly affected the morale in military camps, just as civil-military relations and confidence shrink by the day.

Boko Haram fighters have killed more than 36,000 persons since its emergence, including the recent gruesome killings of scores of farmers in Borno State. People run to seek refuge in other states and regions that are somewhat safer. These people are having to rely on humanitarian assistance to survive.

Boko Haram violence has displaced about 1.4 million children in Nigeria. In southwestern Niger, Diffa is home to over 280,000 refugees, most of whom fled from terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, even the refugee camps are not all safe. In 2020, there was a terrorist attack on a refugee camp in western Niger. In Nigeria, the militants have also attacked many IDP camps, killing and abducting many.

There is also a financial angle to these effects. Nigeria, for instance, has substantially increased its military expenditures in the past decade. The country spent more than $2.5 billion on military expenditure in 2020. In 2019, it was $1.86 billion. Despite that, insecurity continues to thrive, as many of the weapons procured with the funds ended up in insurgents’ camps.

It is worth noting, however, that militaries in the region have had some notable victories against the terrorists. About 1,000 terrorists were killed by an operation against Boko Haram by Chadian troops in 2020. The Cameroonian military also succeeded in driving the sect out of their borders and back into Nigeria in April 2021.

Early this year, the Nigerian military killed about 21 Boko Haram terrorists in Geidam, Yobe State. Several weapons were recovered, including an anti-aircraft gun. The military seized a large arsenal of assault rifles and machine guns and destroyed six war jeeps.

While these victories are noteworthy, the sect’s growing arms stockpile remains a great threat to the military and civilian populations in the region. This requires a concerted effort by political and military leaders in the region. The militants seem to be having easy access to military locations and weapons. This remains a mystery that authorities must investigate and unravel.

For the Lake Chad Basin region to experience lasting peace, Boko Haram must be stopped, and this will require blocking its sources of arms.

About the author

Olusegun Akinfenwa is a correspondent for Immigration News, a news organization affiliated with Immigration Advice Service (IAS). IAS is a leading U.K. immigration law firm that helps people migrate, settle, and acquire British citizenship.

2 Comments

  1. Gentlemen – I sometimes get emotional when I hear Europeans and Americans whose light freighted vessels have almost reached their destinations complain and grumble that there were no logical reasons for our aid and loan dependent African continent to be lagging far behind Western Democratic countries. Geez! Try walking just ten steps in the tight-fitting shoes of an African from Nigeria,Somalia,Chad and Sierra Leone to be able to clearly and truly understand what the words ” Survival of the Fittest.” really mean. There was once a time in our history when there was a DREAM called Nigeria that made everyone believe that the real saviors of the African people we have long been waiting for were already here; A golden dream full of hope and promise where the sun rose and set at the command of old pragmatic Yoruba leaders and creative, innovative Igbo entrepreneurs and the highly skilled Fulani herdsmen that could raise healthy cattle as countless as grains of sand on the Sea shore.

    But that glorious dream of having an African giant showing our people the way that leads towards peace,progress and prosperity was short lived; It was a mist that lasted for a brief moment then vanished into thin air forever; It appeared like a giant turtle from the bottom of the majestic ocean only to take a quick peek,then plunge to the depths and vanish out of sight; Answer – What happened to such a glorious dream that promised us the sweetest fragrances of Jasmine and fresh Roses? How did we end up with the nightmare of dealing with Boku Haram – Terrorists that have very little regard for human life?

    Why has the inept African Union not been able to solve such a nightmare and replace it with sweet dreams of peace for our traumatised people? When will the cowardly government of Nigeria come up with ideas to eliminate stockpiles of weapons belonging to Boku Haram that poses a direct threat to the military and civilian population? Mr Akinfenwa things cannot continue like this; Its time for the AU to come up with an urgent plan to eliminate Buku Haram once and for all.

  2. The first duty of any elected government, or forced upon the population through military intervention, or otherwise, is to provide security for its people. When a government failed to provide safety and security for its people, the people will have no choice, but to find ways, and means to ptotect their lives, families and property. Quite often, such populations that found themselves under unprovoked attacks by terrorist organisations, will form vigilant groups to protect themselves against state, and none state actors that are terrorising their lives. Unfortunately, for some citizens in Nigeria, they have reached such crisis point, where they felt both the Federal, and State level of governments have abandoned their responsibilities to protect them. In some parts of Nigeria, the State only exist in name. Today, if you are a Nigerian citizen living in the Northern states, like Kano, Maiduguri in Borno State, and South West Regions in Nigeria, chances are your right to security to life and family, is not all that guaranteed by the Buhari government.

    And that is despite all the resources put in place by the Federal, and state level governments to meet the security challenges facing Nigeria. One criticism security experts have, is the idea of sending some senior police officers, to head a particular local division, or region, that he has no knowledge of the history of the communities he is suppose to protect, police and serve. lack of understanding of local communities, and tradition in this area, and since not every one in some of this areas speak English, it makes the job of head of policing this areas difficult. As a poilce Chief, you can’t always rely on interpreters to address local chiefs. And since not everyone in this communities speaks English, it makes it harder to know the culprits. Quiet often the terrorist are locals. And it doesn’t stop with community policing. The young military men, and women sent to the North to fight Boka Haram insurgents,are mostly Christians from the South. And sent to fight Muslims insurgents in the North. And some of this younymen and women soldiers don’t know the local areas, and sometimes can’t even speak the local dailet.

    Effectively they become sitting ducks for Boko Haram insurgents. And in majority of cases, local communities are reluctant to pass on vital human information, to the military intelligence officers that are planning operations. And when you add to the mix of the geography of the area,the Sambisa forest,where Boka Haram operates from, and the corruption of some Nigerian soldiers selling, or sometimes surrending their arms with out putting up a fight, we can see why the Nigerian security has become such a puzzle no government has yet able to solve. And sometimes, the difficulty, the security services face,the some communities feel more sympathetic with the causes of the terrorist. Because their government have failed to look after their intrest. So Opperessed communities can be easily persuaded to join the badwagon of the coming revolution. Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohamed Yusuf, a sunnie sect leader that was opposed to western education.And he wanted to establish Nigeria as an Islamic states. Never mind the Southern part of Nigeria is dominated the Christian Igbos. By 2009, after the death of his founder at the hands of the security police, under the leadership of one of his disciple, Abubakar Senkhun, later developped it to a more credible fighting terro outfit, and pledged his alliance to the Islamic State terrorist organisation. The overthrow of Gaddafi, and the huge stocks piles of weapons he left, made Libya an open season for would be terrorist organisation. And a heaven for would be arms smugglers in the Sahel region. And today, Nigeria and the Sahel region are still dealing with the consequences of Western intervention, and the overthrow of Gaddafi.

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