Ahmed Khalifa Zanna, the Senator representing Borno Central,in the heart of Boko Harm Northeastern Nigeria, has blamed the federal government of President Goodluck Jonathan for its ineptitude in handling the ruthless Islamic sect.
“Recently about 2,000 or more [of the militants] assembled at a certain point called Sambisa,” he said in an explosive interview on SaharaTV.
“That is [only] about 40, 45 kilometers away from Maiduguri,” he said, referring to the federal government. “You know where they are, why can’t you go?”
An animated Senator Zanna, pulling no punches, spoke freely about the different variations of Boko Haram, the group’s camp location at a game reserve and the Nigerian government’s lackadaisical attitude towards going after the sect and shutting them down.
He told SaharaTV that the situation is far worse than the media has even portrayed so far, pointing out that 24 of Borno’s 27 local government areas are under the control of Boko Haram.
“The damages are more than what the international community has seen there is nothing like this in this world”, he declared.
Recently the villages of Baga and Bama became the scene of Nigeria’s worst confrontation between Boko Haram and the Nigerian Police Force, leaving over 200 people dead.
Asked if he had visited Baga village since the massacre, Senator Zanna said, “My colleague confirmed to me where some 223 people were slaughtered.”
He further disclosed that shortly after the Baga massacre, Boko Haram held up the local government in Bama Village for more than two hours, leading to the death of over 50 police officers.
Boko Haram has been in operation since 2001, saying it wants to enforce Islamic Sharia Law throughout Nigeria. In 2009, the group’s terror became internationally known when a bloodbath in July left more than 1,000 dead. The sect is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths in the country, with killings now a common occurrence in parts of Northern Nigeria.
Because of the negative image and reputation of the Nigerian military, some accusations have been made against them concerning their role in the confrontations in Baga and Bama attacks, among others. Nigeria’s military and police forces are widely-known to be involved in extortion, harassment and beatings of locals. Often seen as an army of occupation, they are therefore denied respect and cooperation.
Britain and the United States recently called for a thorough probe of the Bama and Baga killings.
“We are deeply concerned about reports of excessive use of force by Nigerian security forces in the name of combating Boko Haram, including extrajudicial killings, prolonged detention and disappearances,” the US said in a statement.
Many people in the region of Borno and Yobe acknowledge thatthe principal incitement of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria is the twin evils of poverty and unemployment, and that they must be addressed.
The governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, said recently in a report in The Guardian that “poverty was at the root of the problem. Unless, and until, we address some of these fundamental issues [of poverty], believe me, the future is very bleak for all of us," he said.
Of the methods of the militants, Senator Zanna explained to SaharaTV that when a local Government is crippled, Boko Haram group takes advantage and raids the area, killing, destroying buildings and burning residences and schools.
“And then they parade within the city and they say anyone who wants to join please come we got guns and go around in a pickup and small boys where cheering them”, Senator Zanna said.
He regretted that while everyone is crying for an answer, President Jonathan has not bothered to consult with any of the sitting Senators from Borno State to assess the situation. Along with the unproductive approach of the military and police, the Senator said, has led to confusion over the issue of fighting Boko Haram.
“The police agencies are not doing anything. I don’t know whether they are waiting for these boys to try and take over Maiduguri and the military will fight and then destroy the city,” he said.
It will be recalled that in October 2012, Shuaibu Mohammed Bama, a man identified as a “top commander” of Boko Haram was arrested by the Joint Task Force, which said he was picked up was in “a serving politician’s house.”
That home was alleged to belong to Senator Zanna, and the incident led to Senator Modu Sheriff, a former governor of the state, to urge the security authorities to fully investigate the incident and Senator Zanna’s possible links with Boko Haram.
Senator Zanna told newsmen that although Bama was his nephew, the arrest did not take place in his home, and “they should go and investigate [Bama’s] relationship with people they arrested him in their house.”