Boko Haram terrorists

Adebayo Obajemu

As the military stepped up their campaigns to exterminate banditry in Northwest, especially Zamfara State, many of the bandits have reportedly been fleeing the theatre of war in their hundreds towards Jigawa, Kano, but particularly Kaduna and Niger States, where they have set up camps around Rijana forest.

A large group of Boko Haram terrorists have moved out of their base in North-East Nigeria to join forces with criminal gangs and bandits in the North-West where they are engaged in weapons training and kidnapping, military sources told Agence France Presse (AFP) a fortnight ago.

Boko Haram’s Islamic State-allied rivals have been consolidating their grip on the North-East after the reported death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, this year, in a major shift in Nigeria’s 12-year insurgency.

Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has been moving into Boko Haram’s territory, fighting Shekau loyalists, assimilating some or forcing others to surrender to the armed forces, security sources say.

Details of the Boko Haram fighters moving could be the latest sign of cooperation between jihadists and criminal armed groups in the northwest, who raid and loot villages and conduct mass abductions for ransom.

Military sources said a faction loyal to Shekau based in Borno State had dispatched two commanders and 250 fighters to the Rijana forests in Kaduna State.

Both commanders are allied with Bakoura Buduma, a Boko Haram chief who remains loyal to Shekau and whose fighters are resisting ISWAP consolidation, according to security sources.

“They are the masterminds behind some of the abductions in the northwest,” the military sources said.

The source said Boko Haram militants were also training the gangs, known locally as bandits, in the use of anti-aircraft guns and explosives and other weapons.

A Nigerian security agency communique earlier this month had warned that a Boko Haram commander and foot soldiers were moving across the country from their base in Borno State to Kaduna State and other North-West states.

Analysts say there have been growing signs jihadists and bandit gangs are developing deeper ties where both stand to gain: Jihadists supply arms while profiting from criminal activity.

North-West Nigeria has long been plagued by the bandit groups, but this year, attacks and kidnappings have surged as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic feeds criminality.

Criminal gangs have targeted schools in a series of high-profile mass abductions of students and pupils for ransom.Attacks have also become more brazen.

Last month armed criminals assaulted the country’s elite military college in Kaduna and kidnapped one officer while in June criminal gangs shot down an air force jet conducting operations on their camps.

The Army, earlier this month began in the Northwestern Zamfara State, neighbouring Kadunaa military campaign against bandits and ordered a complete telecoms blackout in a bid to disrupt bandit communications.

Reports said last week that over 800 Boko Haram soldiers and bandits surrendered to troops as the operations intensified.
Last week, the State Security Service (SSS), asked security agencies in Kaduna to brace themselves up for likely attacks.

According to the secret police, leaders and foot soldiers of Boko Haram terrorist sect have relocated to a forest in Southern Kaduna from Sambisa Forest.

The terrorists are said to have relocated from Sambisa Forest in Borno state to Rijana Forest in the Chikun local government area of Kaduna.

The Peoples Gazette, an Abuja- based daily last week quoted from an Army memo,“senior Boko Haram fighter, Ibrahim (FNU) alongside his foot soldiers” were relocating to join their counterparts “under the leadership of one Adamu Yunusu (aka Saddiqu).”

The DSS, therefore, ordered the Nigeria Security and members of the Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to tighten security in the “aforementioned areas and environs,” adding that its operatives “should be placed on alert and report accordingly.”

According to the memo, the NSCDC was also “directed to step up surveillance and intelligence gathering on the aforementioned areas and environs.”

This was coming a day after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Faruk Yahaya tasked army commanders to step up the fight against terrorism in the country.

Yahaya said he would no longer accept excuses in the war against terrorism, banditry and other crimes in the country.
He made the statement on Monday at the opening ceremony of the ‘Combined Second and Third Quarter Chief of Army Staff Conference’ in Abuja.

He said, “Commanders must, therefore, glean from my `Command Philosophy’ to ensure that operational and administrative proficiencies of Nigerian Army units and formations are sustained and improved upon.

“Commanders must seize initiative and commanders must take initiative, they must take decisive actions to defeat the threats in their respective areas of responsibilities (AORs).
“I will not again take or accept no excuses. Gentlemen, failure is failure irrespective of the circumstances.

Scores of armed bandits September 13, fleeing the ongoing military operation in Zamfara and Katsina States met their waterloo in the hands of soldiers at Maganda village near Allawa in Shiroro local government area of Niger State.
The bandits who were allegedly escaping through the notorious Alawa thick forest, ran into the military camp stationed at Alawa, and engaged the soldiers in a serious gun duel for several hours.

About six machine guns and several AK-47 rifles and bags of live ammunition were said to have been recovered from the bandits.

According to a source close to Alawa community, most of the bandits killed all resembled foreigners as they had no resemblance of Nigerians.
Many analysts, including Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, are not surprised that many of the bandits allegedly killed near Shiroro in Niger State were said to be foreign-looking, wearing long hairs like Tuaregs of the Sahara Desert.

“Many of them are Fulani from outside the country. We can recall that a governor in Northwest once said he paid foreign Fulani not to kill Southern Kaduna people.”

Moritiwon told this newspaper.
The words uttered on December 3, 2016 by Governor Nasir El-Rufai, the then one-year-and-six-month-old head of government in Kaduna State, downright shocked, bewildered and disturbed many. Still, some -arguably in the minority -were pleased to hear the otherwise unsettling confession.

El-Rufai, speaking to journalists from the comfort of his Kaduna office, admitted to tracing some violent Fulani herdsmen with alleged grievances to their homelands in neighbouring African territories and paying them to stop the killing of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities.

“It was when they were moving up with their cattle across Southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them. Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal.

“Fulani are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with cattle. So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back for revenge, so a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria.

“We got a hint that the late Governor Patrick Yakowa got this information and he sent someone to go round some of these Fulani communities, but of course, after he died, the whole thing stopped. That is what we inherited.”

El-Rufai, after having shared the findings made by the (Gen. Martin) Agwai (retd.) committee set up by his administration to address the Southern Kaduna killings, told the journalists that he swung into action.

“We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger Republic, and so on, to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.

“In most of the communities, once that appeal was made to them, they said they have forgiven. There are one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they had forgiven the death of human beings, but wanted compensation for cattle.

“We said no problem, and we paid some. As recently as two weeks ago, the team went to Niger Republic to attend one Fulani gathering that they hold every year with a message from me,” the governor said without holding back.

Incidentally, barely seven years later, the governor’s tune seems to have changed, despite the widespread violence in the state under his administration.