Boko Haram’s Now Seven Years of Terror

Northern Nigeria II
Photo Credit: Franceska Megaloudi

By Zainab Mai-Bornu

Ever since coming to prominence in 2002, the Jama’atu Ahl us-Sunnah Li’da’awati Wal Jihad (The Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Struggle) saga, popularly referred to as Boko Haram (loosely, “Western Education is Forbidden”, has made a mockery of all Nigeria’s state institutions, and its military above all.

Claiming to be the Firqat un-Naji’ah (the “Saved” sect), Boko Haram seeks to create a “pure” Islamic state, in which it implements a brand of Sharia law under which Muslims, Christians and atheists who oppose their doctrine must face death.

Nigeria’s relatively poor governance has provided a febrile atmosphere for the group. With widespread corruption, poverty, security force abuses and impunity, there has been little to stop Boko Haram’s troops from repeatedly attacking strategic targets, destroying lives and property and slaughtering almost everyone in their path.

Since a state of emergency was imposed in three states in North Eastern Nigeria (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa) in 2012, the Nigerian state charged with the responsibility of securing and protecting lives and property seems incapable of the great task of providing a safe and protected environment for its citizens.
   Still out there somewhere. EPA/Hannibal Hanschke

Chaos reigns

The same confusion and impotence that hobbled the search for the Chibok girls has marked the whole of Nigeria’s response to Boko Haram’s unpredictable and murderous advance.

Since being dislodged from Maiduguri and relocating to the Sambisa forest in southern Borno State after a joint offensive of the Nigerian military and the civilian vigilante militia (CJTF), Boko Haram has hardly backed down.

The Nigerian military on patrol in Michika, North East Nigeria. EPA/STR


The January 3, 2015 assault on the border town of Baga on Lake Chad and the camp of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was possibly the deadliest massacre the group has ever perpetrated. It also exposed the cripplingly low morale and professionalism that hobbles the Nigerian military.

With the approval of the African Union, a multinational response spearheaded by Cameroon, Chad and Niger, with Nigeria in tow, has led to Boko Haram fighters fleeing from several locations in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. But the move is still plagued by operational inconsistencies from the Nigerian side as a result of six previous years of inaction.

All in all, the progress of the anti-Boko Haram coalition has been marred by cross-border attacks and competing claims and denials about new kidnappings – so much so that it is very difficult to know where the battle against Boko Haram stands.

Meanwhile, the chaos of the whole Boko Haram affair has done nothing to ease the mood of Nigerian society. People are skeptical, doubtful, disappointed and angry with the poor show of political will and outright incompetence with which the authorities have met the seven-year insurgency.

The road map to counter the Boko Haram insurgency may be finally working by some measures, but the integrity of the nation is at stake.

The bodies lying in Boko Haram’s wake are the measure of that failure.

Zainab Mai-Bornu is a PhD Student in the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies at the University of Bath. This article was adapted from The Conversation. Read the original article here.