Remains left by Boko Haram in Burno
AFTER OVER THREE YEARS OF INDECISION, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON TUESDAY EVENTUALLY PICKED UP THE COURAGE AND IMPOSED EMERGENCY RULE IN BORNO, YOBE AND ADAMAWA STATES. THIS, THE GOVERNMENT SAYS, IS AIMED AT PERMANENTLY DISLODGING THE EXTREMIST BOKO HARAM SECT, SO AS TO HALT THE PERSISTENT HORRENDOUS ATTACKS ON INNOCENT NIGERIANS BY THE GROUP. MICHAEL OLUGBODE TRACES THE LONG WALK TO EMERGENCY RULE IN BORNO AND YOBE STATES
For many, the imposition of a state of emergency in Borno and Yobe States is coming too late as both states have been under the siege of the extremist Boko Haram sect for over three years now. Many have come to see President Goodluck Jonathan as perhaps too soft on the states for allowing this to go on for so long without stringent response.
History of the Boko Haram sect…
But how did the sect emerge and grew to the extent that it has become a monster? Jama’atul Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad popularly called Boko Haram is largely made up of people who believe in the supremacy of eastern education or Islamic education. Boko Haram members are against formal western education and in a country like Nigeria where certificates obtained through western education are used to rate everyone; they are often left at the bottom. This makes them feel maltreated and further add to their hatred of western civilisation and culture. They have sworn to wage battles against the nation until they and their belief are recognised. The group also known as the Yusufari group after their slain leader Mohammed Yusuf was founded in 2002. In 2004, it moved to Kanamma, Yobe State, where it set up a base called “Afghanistan”, and at that time attacked nearby police outposts, killing police officers. Yusuf throughout his life was hostile to democracy and the secular education system.
Members of the group love to live an isolated life, refusing to mix with local people and some of its members are said to come from neighbouring Chad Republic and speak only Arabic, the “holy language” to show that they are distinguished brand. They oppose not only Western education, but Western culture and modern science as well. Their late leader, Yusuf had in a 2009 BBC interview took a position against the popular belief that the world is a sphere, claiming that it was contrary to Islam and should be rejected by all. He also stood against Darwinism and the theory that rain comes from water evaporated by the sun.
War against the Nigerian nation…
The group though had fought against government and its agencies on many occasions but came into the nation’s consciousness, when it took up arms against the police in July 2009 in some states in the Northeast and held those states hostage for about five days. Many policemen were laid to waste until the Nigeria Army was called on to arrest the situation. In these battles, some of the leaders of the group were captured and were allegedly killed by security agencies. The base of the sect was also demolished by government security agencies and the few that were lucky enough escaped or were captured and have been facing prosecution since then.
After the 2009 episode, they changed strategy into guerilla warfare. Since then, under a new ruthless leader, Imam Abu Muhammad Abubakar bin Muhammad, popularly known as (Shekau) they have carried out horrendous attacks on the nation and made demands on government, which include the full implementation of Sharia law in the country “as enshrined in the holy Quran” as well as immediate release of all the members of the group who were detained and in the custody of security agencies and the prosecution of those they alleged were involved in the death of their leaders during the 2009 attack.
From 2009 till date, most of their major rein of terror had been on Maiduguri. But after the onslaught on the town during and after the 2011 election and the attack on a drinking joint in the town where over 100 persons were killed, many Nigerians called for more stringent intervention in the town. The military Joint Task Force, which was relatively new, then was introduced. The attack at the Maiduguri drinking joint was at about the same time with other major attacks across the country by the group and one of such grievous attacks was on Damaturu, which had been living under the impression that the sect has no strength or base in Yobe State.
The Damaturu attack…
On November 6, 2011 Boko Haram carried out another big attack similar to that of July 2009; this time not in Maiduguri which they attacked on the same day, with little success but in Damaturu where the government and the police were unprepared and were living in the fools’ paradise that Boko Haram was a Borno phenomenon as the statement of the state commissioner of police few days earlier showed.
When the people of the state least expected, the group struck to make a statement. Earlier attempt to make the statement in Maiduguri, their traditional home was repelled and could be said to be unsuccessful. But three hours later, they made a loud statement in Damaturu and Potiskum, both in Yobe State. Though the attack on Potiskum was minimal and inconsequential, but it was war like in Damaturu, and the experience will go in the annals of the nation’s history as another black day. The group was said to have launched an attack on the state with about 300 men.
The record of their attack has it that they blocked major roads leading into Damaturu and launched the first attack with a rocket launcher on the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) head-office on Damaturu-Maiduguri Road and engaged the police officers in shoot-outs. From there, they moved into other places: the police headquarters both old and permanent sites, Immigration office, the Federal Secretariat (where they attacked the office of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, NALDA, Works and medical clinic), the First Bank and churches and schools within the Christians dominated New Jerusalem.
The attacks took place between 5.30pm and midnight, and at the end of it, about 150 persons were allegedly killed including 70 policemen – the worst toll to uniformed men in peacetime in the country. During the period of the attack, offices were vandalised and bombed, 11 churches reportedly torched.
Emergency rule in 15 local government areas…
Also in 2011 were the attacks at Madalla Catholic Church in Niger State and United Nations building in Abuja which compelled President Goodluck Jonathan on the eve of the New Year 2012 to slam a “new brand” emergency rule on 15 local government areas of the country scattered across four states of Borno, Yobe, Niger and Plateau, with the duo of Borno and Yobe having five local governments each. Though the rule could not be said to have achieved much in at least the two states of Borno and Yobe, but on the expiration of the proposed six months, there were pressure on the president to withdraw it, which he did.
The Boko Haram killing field…
After the withdrawal of the emergency rule in the local government areas, the two states have not known peace and it has been killings day in day out. The killings have spread to all parts of the state and in Yobe particularly the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam has been compelled to slam curfew at different times on the state with little success. In Borno, the sect has become an institution and believed to be in control of over 10 of the 27 local government areas. The sect has cut off most parts of the two states from the rest of the country.
Everyone in the two states is at the mercy of the Boko Haram overlords who slaughter at will and continue to rein terror on all. Some of the notable crimes in Borno include the killing of 18 hunters in Damboa early this year, the killing of civil war hero, late General Mamman Shuwa in November, 2012; the killing of two WAEC officials and their police escort last month; suicide attack on Borno Police Command headquarters in June, 2012; cold-blooded killing of four teachers in Maiduguri in March, 2013; the killings of Indians and Chinese workers in Maiduguri and other parts of Borno State.
In Yobe State, three Korean doctors were killed in Potiskum in February, 2013; NYSC telecommunication orientation camp was set on fire and mast destroyed in Fika in November, 2012; two primary schools, two Islamiyyah schools and six churches burnt in June, 2012; four policemen were killed at Babangida Police Station in Tarmuwa Local Government Area in April, 2013; 64 death recorded including sect members and security men in a confrontation in Gujba in April, 2013; 25 death recorded and N9 million stolen in Gashua attack in April, 2013.
There have also been killings on a daily basis and kidnapping too by the sect to raise money for their dastardly act. One of the top kidnaps of recent was that of the former minister of petroleum, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, who was rumoured to have been released after a large amount of money was paid.
Sources said President Jonathan wanted the military to smoke out the sect members from their camps in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa after the attack on Bama about three weeks ago where about 45 security personnel were killed but “he had to be cautious by first proclaiming a state of emergency in the states.”
The source continued: “The president was compelled to act fast because confidence was high in the camps of the insurgents who have been reported to have hoisted their flags in some part of Borno and have large armory after the attack on the army barrack in Monguno. The governor of the two states though was wary of the declaration of state of emergency but was fully in support of improved military efforts because they have lost control of their states to the sect. They were said to have approached the president about a month ago pleading for extra military reinforcement, which never came on time. It was learnt from security sources that the president had to include Adamawa, which was relatively peaceful because of its closeness to the border and due largely to the presence of one of the camps of the sect in Mubi, a town in Adamawa.”
As at press time, the feeling in the state was that the operation to flush out the dissidents would be short and everybody would be allowed to experience peace again. “It is the prayers of everyone in the country that this works out fast for the unity of the country,” remarked an indigene of Maiduguri on Wednesday.