President Muhammadu Buhari on December 24, 2016 officially declared the capture of the hitherto, almost impenetrable, Camp Zero—the headquarters of Boko Harm Terrorist located at the heartland of Sambisa Forest. This—the capture of the camp—has been the objective of the Nigerian Military since late 2013.
Boko Haram has converted Sambisa Forest into its operational headquarters where it coordinates its activities, train its fighters, and indoctrinate suicide bombers, among other things, for, in any case, at least three years now following its ouster in the city of Maiduguri in 2013 by the Civilian JTF. Between 2004 and 2009, the sect had its headquarters in a place it called Markaz, located at Railway Crossing, behind State Lowcost, Maiduguri, Borno state. It was there, though they had settled in a few places earlier, that they became most prominent and grew into a violent armed group.
There is however no doubt that Boko Haram’s affiliation with the forest is as old as its existence. Sambisa had always been a hiding place for the group; it however, only became prominent in 2013 when it was pushed out of Maiduguri.
The complexity that Sambisa’s size, vegetation and landscape is, is better left to me imagined. But what was unique to it, which Boko Haram exploited to its advantage, are the facilities it has—the tunnels, trenches and fortresses. As far back as the 1970s, it was built and developed with a military or generally, security outfit in mind. Though what General TY Buratai said about making it military training facility is heartening, he ought to have sincerely said, ‘the place will now be used for the purpose it was meant’. But the major issues with the capture of the impenetrable hitherto ‘impenetrable fortress’ are not what it becomes; but mainly what to be made of the feat—the success that it really is.
This is why, besides the commendation we must all sincerely give the President and his security outfits, we must get over the euphoria and raise some salient concerns in an effort to ensure a once-and-for-all ‘writing off’ of the terrorists.
Many genuinely, but more as a result of ignorance of the nature of the conflict, expect that the capture of the forest would come with the capture of Shekau. This is difficult for obvious reasons. Boko Haram knew that eventually, the military will take the fight to the forest and when it finally came, it lasted for a month. With all his daftness, with this knowledge, Shekau may find an unknown or less-known camp in the Lake Chad region to HIDE.
More so, terrorist organisations cannot be seen same way as, for instance the Nigerian state, where the president stays in the Presidential Villa all his tenure—especially where coups are not commonplace.
The other case is Chibok girls. In view of how strategic keeping hostage of the Chibok girls is, Boko Haram will not equally easily take chances. At the last resort, it is not out of place to think, the insurgents see them as the only option to ask for a stand-down of the military onslaught they are subjected to when they cannot stand more. Therefore, they would be moved out to a safer location.
These concerns as made by some are not therefore a result of any mischief. It should ordinarily charge the military, as we believe they already are, to intensify the crackdown and continue to pursue the insurgents until they are brought down or officially surrender—they must not be left to shift or establish other camps elsewhere. So far, congratulations are in order.
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11 October 2021