The main cities in northern Nigeria have been bombed on many occasions[/caption]
In our series of letters from African journalists, Mannir Dan Ali considers Nigeria’s inability to prevent the Boko Haram militant group from gaining ground in the north-east.Just when you imagine that it cannot get worse for the Nigerian military and its pride as a fighting force, it takes a further dive. With the abduction of the more than 200 teenage schoolgirls from Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria well past the three-month mark and no news yet about their rescue, the number of towns and villages being taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents is steadily growing. It seems military commanders have believed their own propaganda, ignoring the true state of affairs in the troubled region. For nearly a year – coinciding with the state of emergency in the north-east – there have been constant reports quoting foot soldiers saying they lack the equipment to match the firepower of the insurgents. Recently some soldiers claimed that sending them to engage the insurgents without adequate weapons was like sending them to die. Last month saw the unprecedented spectacle of soldiers’ wives protesting at the barracks in Maiduguri against the deployment of their husbands to the battle front on the grounds that they were not properly equipped. Before that the senior general in charge of the same barracks barely escaped with his life when angry junior soldiers turned their guns on him after they heard about a bloody ambush in which a number of their colleagues lost their lives. Courts-martial He escaped unharmed – after being whisked away by his security aides – and was discreetly replaced shortly afterwards. This was quickly followed by reports of mutinous conduct by some soldiers who refused an order to be posted to engage with the Boko Haram militants. At all times the Nigerian military authorities issue standard denials and in the case of the refusal to carry out orders attributed it to “mischief-makers working for terrorists”. On the wives’ protest, Nigeria’s army chief Lt-Gen Kenneth Minimah warned: “Any repeat of such acts, I will tell soldiers to use koboko [whip] on the wives and bundle them out of the barracks.” Who are Boko Haram?
- Founded in 2002
- Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
- Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state
- Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – but also attacks on police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
- Some three million people affected
- Declared terrorist group by US in 2013