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Resurgence of insurgency: Need to identify the missing link in sustainable security architecture

Crucially, the initial coordination in effort between the four Lake Chad countries has deteriorated, allowing Boko Haram to exploit the cracks within the differing operational strategies mounted against it.

There has also been increasing friction between the Civilian JTF and the military on the one hand, and the military and international aid agencies on the other, eroding both the intelligence and avenues of building trust on the ground available for engaging with the insurgents.

Political scandals such as the one concerning the IDP Welfare Funds embezzlement for which the Secretary to the Federal Government was accused and suspended, have not done much to help matters in this regards.

In places that the military has won back, the government has failed to adequately step in with to maintain effective presence and efficient governance, leaving room for gaps which the insurgents have proved more than willing to exploit.

Finally, as supply lines have been stretched out, the military has appeared to cool off on its aggressive offensive and returned to a more defensive minded approach.

This is reminiscent of the earlier approach which yielded little in results and allowed the insurgents to come within hitting distance of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the largest population centre in the country’s North-East.

On May 10, the Nigerian Army announced a major shake-up which resulted in the redeployment of many of its most senior officers, including the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Leo Irabor who was appointed the Field Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force.

In his place, Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru was appointed to lead the war against the terrorists.

The official reason given for these redeployments was to re-strategise the operations of the military.

The redeployment of General Irabor came as a surprise to many close observers of the Boko Haram conflict, as he is highly regarded and credited with many of the successes of the army in pushing back the terrorists.

There is some speculation that the rise in attacks could be attributed to the redeployment, but we do not agree, given that General Irabor is still very much involved in the war by being the Field Commander of the MNJTF.

The fundamental problem is the distinct shortage of manpower to effectively police the vast expanse of Borno State – the state with the second-largest landmass which borders three countries.

The military which is now deployed in 32 states across the federation is over-stretched. In one sense, the military has accomplished what is militarily possible within this multi-faceted conflict.

The missing link in the construction of a sustainable security architecture for the region is intelligence-gathering, surveillance, community security and policing – all of which are outside of the traditional remit of the military.

There is a need for other agencies such as the NSCDC, SSS, and the police to be more involved in the process of reclaiming the North East and have their operational capacities rapidly scaled up for the demands that will be placed upon them.

The result of this gap in the security chain is that even areas that have been liberated by the military are left fallow and ungoverned and risk falling back under insurgent control or serving as hideouts from where they can launch more hit and run attacks.

In short, there are still far too many places where Boko Haram can hide in plain sight.

The military is being strained by the burden of having to carry out policing in addition to its orthodox combat role.

Certainly issues of the insurgent group’s funding and recruitment (whether coerced or not) are well within the sphere of intelligence-gathering and policing.

If other agencies pick up the slack and liberate the military to focus purely on combat, it could turn the tide decisively in the counter-insurgency campaign.

It is important that the government refrain from repeating the mistakes of the recent past by allowing an unhealthy suspicion of criticism, and a near concerted effort at spewing propaganda to guide its reaction to this situation.

It is also imperative to study our recent successes if Nigeria is to begin to turn the tide again. What is at stake is the lives of millions of Nigerians and we must commit never to return to a period when Boko Haram occupied Nigerian soil again.

SBM Intelligence is a research organisation based in Lagos

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