Boko Haram / ISWAP: Centre identifies high human rights compliance, Buratai’s regular visits to troops as factors in Nigeria’s war against terror

The Save Humanity Advocacy Centre (SHAC) has identified the secrets behind the success of the Nigerian troops in their fight against insurgency in the country.

The centre linked the success of the troops to high human rights compliance and regular visits of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai to soldiers on the battle field.

The Centre made the observation at the public presentation of its special report on the war against terror by the Nigerian military and human rights compliance.

The report, which was presented on Wednesday in Abuha, called on the Nigerian government to accept repentant terrorists so as to ensure they are fully rehabilitated so they can fit back into society.

The report jointly signed by Ibrahim Abubakar, Executive Secretary and Emmanuel Ogah, Director of Research and Documentation reads below.

Executive Summary:

The war against terrorism in Nigeria (North-east) had spanned over ten years since when the Boko Haram terrorist group resorted to violence against the state in 2009. The Nigerian military has since then been actively engaged in the battle for the soul of Nigeria. The turn of events has witnessed sordid tales of maiming and killings of innocent people by Boko Haram terrorist. This period also saw an increase in kidnapping of women and children, that drew the world attention to Nigeria.

The Nigerian military has indeed risen to the occasion in ensuring that the territorial integrity of the country is preserved due to concerted efforts of all relevant stakeholders, including President Muhammadu Buhari. This report took a cursory look at the various issues at stake as it concerns the protection of human rights by the Nigerian military in executing the war, as well as the multiple allegations of human rights violations against the Nigerian military by organizations such as Amnesty International.

This report was commissioned to put paid to speculation and to present issues in proper perspective for all sundry.

INTRODUCTION:

Boko Haram violence escalated from revenge attacks on the Nigerian police and security forces to (soft target) attacks on public servants, politicians, moderate imams, and civilians, through bombing and shooting attacks on schools, churches, mosques, markets, government installations, and other public places. Most writers and commentators have attributed the transformation of the group to the death of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, ostensibly at the hands of government security agencies in 2009. Since then the group has launched a full-fledged military campaign against public institutions and civilian populations. Although its methods have occasionally included terrorist attacks in a few towns and cities in other parts of northern Nigeria, the most severely affected communities are in the North-east, (especially Borno State) where these attacks have been concentrated. In other cases, attacks on rural communities are routinely carried out, resulting in mass murders and abductions.

Consequently, the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre, a civil society organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights and the entrenchment of good governance in Nigeria commissioned a special report to look at the various lingering issues in the theatre of operations in North East Nigeria as it concerns the protection of human rights and the multiple interventions of the Nigerian military in ensuring that the security of lives and properties takes centre stage.

THE WAR AGAINST TERRORISM IN NIGERIA:

The Nigerian military has fought the war against terrorism in Nigeria since 2009. However, there was a period when the Nigerian military was struggling to understand the peculiarity of the war, and in that process, lots of casualties were inflicted on them by Boko Haram terrorist, who were engaged in guerrilla warfare and were also conversant with the terrain.

This gave rise to casualties on the part of the Nigerian military and also saw to the control of over 16 local government areas in North East Nigeria by Boko Haram terrorist. In some instances, it was reported that women and children were taken into forced marriages and as sex slaves. Young boys were recruited in the Boko Haram fighting force, and young girls were used as suicide bombers.

All of these changed in 2015 by the change of government in Nigeria that ushered in President Muhammadu Buhari as president and the subsequent rejigging of the operational strategy of the Nigerian military that also saw to the appointment of new service chiefs for the various arms of the Armed Forces.

From the observations gleaned from the research work, a lot has been done by the Nigerian military in the fight against terrorism since 2015. The present crop of service chiefs has displayed a commitment that has seen to the dislodgement of Boko Haram fighters from areas it once held sway including the notorious Sambisa Forest.

Our team of researchers made discoveries that explain why the Nigerian military was able to turn the tide against Boko Haram terrorist. And they are:

ROUTINE VISIT BY THE CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF TO THE THEATRE OF OPERATIONS:

It was observed that the Chief of Army Staff, as an operational strategy towards boosting the morale of the fighting troops, carries periodic visits to the theatre of operations. In some instances, it was announced and in other cases not announced in an attempt to gauge the mood of the troops.

It was also observed that there are several times the Chief of Army Staff when on routine visits, his convoy was ambushed. These incidents didn’t deter the Chief of Army Staff from continuing with the regular visits that also involves occasional dining with troops at the battlefront.

The team of researchers was able to identify that the impact of the routine visits by the Chief of Army staff has had a tremendous impact on the morale of the fighting troops, which has resulted in the renewed vigour as exhibited by the troops in the battlefront.

The soldiers in the battlefront always look forward to the visit of the Chief of Army Staff to the battlefront. In some instances, the Chief of Army Staff visits the troops in trenches and passes the night in the trenches with them.

COMMANDERS AND TROOPS OBSERVE THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF HUMAN RIGHTS WITHIN THE THEATRE OF OPERATIONS:

Another area where the routine visits of the Chief of Army staff have impacted positively in North East Nigeria is in the area of helping to ensure that commanders and troops observe the highest level of human rights within the theatre of operations.
This is on the heels that there has been a series of allegations against the Nigerian Army on human rights violations in executing the war against terrorism.

However, what was observed was that the bulk of the allegations are speculations that were propelled by rumours and not any verifiable fact gave the tough stance of the troops on the battlefield. It was also observed that so e aspect of the rumour was also fuelled by the narrative been pushed in the media by some foreign NGO’s whose activities have been questioned by the military authorities as to their sincerity in the rendering of humanitarian services in the North East region.

Available information that was deposed by locals and community leaders in the affected communities indicates that the issue of human rights violations is on the side of the Boko Haram terrorist who has carried on with a high level of recklessness and without regards to the sanctity of human life.

The team of researchers also noted that the operational structure of the Nigerian military in the theatre of operations is structured in such a way that ensures strict adherence to best practices as it concerns the civilian population. There is also a human rights desk that constantly probes cases of human rights violations that arises, and such cases are given speedy attention and action taken in the overall interest of all concerned.

This is also attributed to the routine visit of the Chief of Army staff to the theatre of operations alongside the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs who constantly briefs the Chief of Army Staff on the relationship between the military and the civilian populace in the theatre of operations.

COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE MILITARY AND THE GOVERNMENT OF BORNO, YOBE, AND ADAMAWA STATES:

The Save Humanity Advocacy Centre took out time to analyse the various collaborations entered by the Nigerian military with the government of the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. It was observed that the collaborations in place are yielding the required dividend that has manifested in some of the success stories of the Nigerian military in the war against terrorism. However, it was observed that more work has to be done in ensuring that the collaborations are watertight to yield more dividends in ensuring that more success is recorded.

The Nigerian military has always engaged these states governments on critical issues as it concerns its operational strategies, but there are some bottlenecks manifest in government bureaucracy that somewhat slows down the process. Therefore, there is a need for a review of the collaborations to make it more robust and encompassing to improve the synergy between the Nigerian military and the state government.

The state government must see themselves as critical stakeholders and live up to expectation by giving the Nigerian military all the necessary support it needs in the war against terrorism.

THE LAKE CHAD BASIN AREA AND THE MULTINATIONAL JOINT TASKFORCE OPERATIONS:

The Lake Chad Basin is the largest endorheic drainage basin in Africa, centred on Lake Chad. It has no outlet to the sea and contains large areas of desert or semi-arid savanna. The drainage basin is roughly coterminous with the sedimentary basin of the same name but extends further to northeast Nigeria. The basin spans seven countries, including Nigeria, Chad and a part of Niger.

By its geographic situation, the Lake Chad basin is the buffer zone between the Sahel and Sub-equatorial Africa; between Central and West Africa. Indeed, the former great lake is shared by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. It is because of this strategic position in the trade routes that the British colonial power made Maiduguri as the capital of Borno state in Nigeria.
The first Joint Task Force operation aimed at the Boko Haram insurgents was code named Operation Restore Order I. It was established on June 12, 2011. Later in the year, Operation Restore Order II and III were launched to provide security against Boko Haram in Bauchi and Yobe states respectively. The mandate of the task force was to restore law and order to the north-eastern part of Nigeria and Borno State in particular.

The countries in the Lake Chad Basin region established the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in April 2012 and upgraded it in 2015 for managing the Boko Haram crisis. The decision followed the realization that the problem is not necessarily Nigerian, as initially perceived, but a regional question. This security management formation is with a counter-terrorism mandate.

The most critical of the problems is that the countries need to work collaboratively at dealing with a common enemy, they are suspicious of each other over border issues. This factor has reduced the effectiveness of this security community.

It was observed that the current operations of the Multinational Joint Taskforce need to be scaled up for more effectiveness given the fact that Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist has made the Lake Chad Basin region as a haven for their operations. There is also a need for an improved financial commitment from the countries in the Lake Chad Basin region for the effectiveness of the Multinational Joint Task Force operations.

CONCLUSION:

• The Save Humanity Advocacy Centre after comprehensive scrutiny of the operations of the Nigerian military in the war against terrorism states that the Nigerian military has displayed a considerable commitment towards the fight against terrorism in Northeast Nigeria. The determination of the Nigerian Army is impeccable and worthy of commendation given the fact that despite the avalanche of challenges associated with unconventional warfare such as this, it has strived to adhere to global best practices in human rights.

• The Nigerian military must sustain the tempo of the war by ensuring that Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist are not allowed to regroup.

• Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist must surrender in the light of the prevailing circumstances in an attempt to ensure a seamless transition into civilian through the instrumentality of Operation Safe Corridor.

• The Nigerian government must accept repentant terrorists but must ensure they are fully rehabilitated so they can fit back into society.

Signed: Ibrahim Abubakar
Executive Secretary

Emmanuel Ogah
Director of Research and Documentation

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