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Ekhomu: December target for Boko Haram is not realistic

bokoDr. Ona Ekhomu is the president of Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON). In this chat with GBENGA SALAU, he looked at the possibilities of the military flushing out Boko Haram on or before December 31, as commanded by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President, in fulfilling one of his electoral promises, said by December 31, Boko Haram would be crushed completely. We are already in December, and we are looking for signs to that effect. Was it that the President’s statement was not well thought out?

THERE are three issues to it: The Chibok girls, general insecurity and the deadline. Let us take the deadline first. The deadline of December ending by the President was a target setting exercise. What it means is that, if you do not have a goal you are working towards, then anything and anytime will get you there. If he did not say let us focus on completing the assignment by December 31, it could have been December 31 of any other year. But if he says December 31, 2015, then there is something to work towards. Accordingly, it means he has to provide the inputs and materials to make it happen. Therefore, the method of leadership he used here was that of target setting, to have something to work towards. If not, it means, it will be open ended.

In terms of the achievability of the target, in my mind, that is not going to happen, and it is not realistic. When he said we must crush Boko Haram by December 31, 2015, it was assumed that he knows where they are and their troops are lined up in one place and they are shooting and the military is retaliating. With that, you can overwhelm them and capture them. But in a situation where Boko Haram changes its game plan to an asymmetric style, where you have guerrilla tactics being applied, bombs are going up in Nyanya or Kuje, while you are in Maiduguri that is a different thing. The frontline for Boko Haram should be one local council they are holding right now in Borno State and Sambisa forest. Yes, they are still defending that, as we speak, but they go across. Last weekend they killed five, went to Lake Chad to killed 27.

While you are expecting them in one place, fighting them in Sambisa forest, they are everywhere setting up devices. They have changed their plan to using guerrilla tactics, even though, the military is winning the ground war, the face-to-face battle, and some of them are being captured alive. Recently, their cameraman, financier and commander were captured. In spite of that, the December 31 is not realistic. I know they will create a lull right now and then January 1, 2016, will do a rash of bombing just to let us know that they have not been vanquished.

They have done that a lot of times. They get us to have a false sense of things are okay and then explode. And we should be smart; we have seen them do that several times, over and over again. The authorities should not be deceived at all, because I have heard some government officials making statements that this is the last kick of a dying horse. And I am saying the horse is not dead; you cannot show me his dead body yet. We need to encourage our boys and the facts on ground reveals that we are winning because if you remember, about a year ago, Boko Haram was in control of 75 per cent of Borno State, but now in only one local government and that is tremendous success. During the string of offences mounted by Jonathan, their activities were effectively checkmated and they were chased out. Then, there were spirited attempts to take over Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, which would have been very unfortunate, if that had happened. We thank God the military was able to do that.

On the Chibok girls, the president said during the electioneering campaign that the issue of the Chibok girls would be resolved, as they would be reunited with their families, that was political speak. We know that those girls have been in captivity for over 600 days now, and they have undergone unspeakable horrors. So, for anyone to continue to make political capital out of them is very irresponsible. We should be in the closure state right now, but how can we close without knowing what happened to them. The first thing that we should do is to go back and come up with a proper task force to look into the Chibok girls matter, a crack task force, because it should not just end that way. We have the images of their faces and we need to put it on recognition software, then send it to security forces around the world, so that anytime, any of those girls crosses a border point, they could be identified. Right now, through the pattern of Boko Haram activities, some of them must have been sold into slavery or as wives to terrorists in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Central Africa Republic.

We need to go back again and make a proper investigation since the area is now better secured. Forensic investigators need to go back there, starting from the school in Chibok and see what kind of investigative trail can be developed. The point right now is, what really happened to them? How were they moved out at once? Where could they have kept them girls in that period, these are girls not boys, who have specific needs? The school uniforms, who made them and when? These investigators can go to check with people who know them, then follow the hard evidence.

This is because the evidence is there and having trained eyes to look at that evidence, having the intellectual savvy to interpret, what might look like just anything to untrained eyes, to an investigator, would be a clue. So it needs to be done, though something had been done already, they have sent perhaps military investigators there, but at that time, the place was not secured and they could not have done a very thorough job. But now that the place is better secured, they need to really get people who can go in there and tell us the true story of Chibok girls, not a political story or that of any of the political parties. And that is what is going to bring succour to the family. At that point, we need to tell them that these girls are lost, because I do not have any hope any of them would be recovered. Go back and look at Shekau statement in January 2012, about school children and why he started targeting school children. And you will understand the role of its action.

They have done that a lot of times. They get us to have a false sense of things are okay and then explode. And we should be smart; we have seen them do that several times, over and over again. The authorities should not be deceived at all, because I have heard some government officials making statements that this is the last kick of a dying horse. And I am saying the horse is not dead; you cannot show me his dead body yet.We need to encourage our boys and the facts on ground reveals that we are winning because if you remember, about a year ago, Boko Haram was in control of 75 per cent of Borno State, but now in only one local government and that is tremendous success.

Ona-Ekhomu

Dr. Ona Ekhomu

In the area of general insecurity, I mean oil theft, kidnapping, even armed robbery, the government has not made much impact. It is still trying to find its feet. The government seems to have a very deliberate plan that it is thinking and pondering on probably. But the problem is, the real actors, lives are being destroyed there, so there should be some points of urgency. The things that need to be done are really not much, it is just to have better crime and incident reporting system and so on, out there in the public. So that the public can be part of the vanguard because we do not have enough security agents in this country to do the job, we do not. The police with its 350, 000 personnel cannot do the job. The Army, Airforce and Navy combined cannot do the job, including the Civil defense.

All of them put together are about 500,000, so they are not enough to do this job; the job is way beyond them. So the way to go is to allow the citizens come in to help. Recently, security and software experts got together and developed software called, See something, send something, a national incident impacting software. It is an app, which could be downloaded on a phone or computer, and if you see crime happening, you record and upload it, which would go into a police central facility somewhere, from where it will be dispatched for action. When you have the capability to get information real time about crime in progress and you are able to respond, very soon, confidence in the capability of the Police will be restored. But in cases where things keep happening, and people are being victimised, people would lose faith. Meanwhile, the first job of government is to protect life and properties and when it is not doing them, it calls for concern. There is a lot of talk now and exhortation with no action.

Your statement that Boko Haram has a way of retaliating when government makes definite statements through offensive strikes, calls for less talk and more strategic engagement of the battle?

Most certainly, but you have to understand the works of leaders. Their job is to reassure the citizenry and international communities that they are in control. To that extent, when they are making some of those statements like the first kick or dying kick of a horse, those are meant to reassure us. The problem is, when you make a lot of these vacuous statements from time to time, and it is found that they are not borne out of facts on the ground; then you begin to sound like you do not have it. There should be more diplomatic ways of making some of these statements. We should also understand that even the enemies have strength of their own, we do not have all the strength, thus, we have to couch our statements in diplomatic and probability language.

So that if it does not happen, we can then say, well, it was just a probability, we were hopeful that it will happen, but it did not. But when you say they will be flushed out by December 31, and January 1 and 2, you have bombs flying around; people will say you lied to them again. The last government assured and assured, and one of the statements was that terrorism would be a thing of the past. And until the president left office, everything was still raging. We have to really be worried about headlines and phrases that we are not able to enforce, because when you draw that line and the time crosses the line, nothing happens; it means you are a liar.



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