Borno State Senator Khalid Ahmed Zanna painted a grim picture of more than 100,000 widows who lost husbands, and chief breadwinners, in the more than five years of the Boko Haram insurgency. A staggering number of deaths, and carnage, to much of the country’s northern tier, attributed to the actions of the Islamist group. Entire villages have disappeared, said the Senator, in strident comments that drove home a conflict that has dogged Nigerian elected officials in recent years.
The senator cited the Borno villages of Mafa, and Baga, as places where Boko Haram has nearly destroyed in recent months. Both are two large villages in the state. These are long term consequences of the insurgency led by the Islamist group, that has had a “heart sickening” affect on the state, he said. In addition, Maidugari, the capitol city of Borno, has been a repeated site of on-going battles between Nigerian forces and Boko Haram that has caused extensive damage to the city.
On the matter of where the armed forces stands in its fight against the group, the senator painted a gloomy picture over the status of Nigeria’s efforts to stem the tide of rising violence led by the Islamist group Boko Haram, in an exclusive interview with Sahara Television on Saturday. “They (Boko Haram) have been recording a series of successes in recent days, because of the inability of the military to curb their activities,” the Senator told David Miskis in a Skype interview.
“I don’t know, but for whatever reasons, (but) the military (has been) very lackluster in their fight against Boko Haram,” he said, in what appears to be a very different picture of the conflict than that painted by both Nigerian military officials in recent interviews with Sahara Television, and even comments by President Goodluck Jonathan. “It seems sometimes they are afraid,” he added, “that according to my own investigation that they (Nigeria’s military) are ill-equipped by Army headquarters.”
Noting a stepping up of Boko Haram violence that has spiked over the past four weeks, including incidents in recent days, the senator’s comments were striking, and in sharp contrast to the view held by military officials who speak to the media on the matter. As recently as a month ago, Ahmed Zanna had said that the Boko Haram forces likely have better firepower, and equipment, than Nigerian forces. He called the recent attacks on students and ordinary people in recent days, “very, very serious.” But in perhaps the most damning of comments during the interview regarding the continuing fight against the Islamist group, he said he believes the military “has been very lenient (in their fight) against Boko Haram.”
In a recent Sahara Television interview exclusive, General Muhammadu Buhari said that the present government needs to secure its borders with neighboring countries, like Chad, Cameroon, and the Benin Republic, and needed to reach an agreement with them in a special ‘security arrangement.’ Such an arrangement, the general had said, that would deny Boko Haram a safe heaven when they retreat militarily. This was an issue the senator shared with general Buhari. “Yes, it seems that the president has started doing that. I have been urging them to do that for the past year,” he said, regarding using different methods in the conflict. But he said that he was “really surprised” that it has taken the president and Nigerian military chiefs this long to act on this suggestion.
The news out of Nigeria’s northeast is not all gloom, the senator did say. He noted what he called ‘recent successes’ in the military theatre in the fight against the Islamist group. Success he attributes to military chiefs, like the newly appointed Nigerian Defense Minister, Gen Aliyu Gusau, who are sensitive to the concerns of northerners, and thus his constituents. He did note a kind of frustration with many residents of the north, with the Nigerian forces not using it’s air defense units against the Boko Haram. Such a tactic, he noted would go a long way in shutting down advances by the Boko Haram. He said that (Boko Haram) “forces would (carry out) an operation for four or five hours, and return to their resting places, only to do another operation within a day.”