By Idoko Ainoko
What has been the consistent campaigns of Boko Haram insurgents is the desire to establish an Islamic State, opposed to the ideals of western education. It has been at the core of the vigorous attempts to impose their own version of Islamism on Nigeria. Boko Haram has been seeking to forbid Muslims from participating in any political or social endeavor laced in Westernization.
Therefore, at the point terrorists seized swathes of territories in Nigeria’s northeast, the insurgents declared them their “Caliphate,” and administered them with some strange Islamic doctrines opposed to anything sane to Islam. Insurgents deposed or killed the incumbent religious leaders and replaced them with those appointed by them.
At the peak of terrorists’ atrocious and violent raids of communities and villages in Nigeria, they indiscriminately murdered both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Boko Haram jihadists abducted children and women, whom they raped and contracted into forced marriage. They killed Christians, politicians, security agents and even Islamic clerics who opposed their ideology were executed. Such acts defiled all known creeds of Islam.
In justifying their devious and absurd acts through circulated videos, the fanatical factional leader, Abubakar Shekau normally quoted copiously from the Qu’ran. But all Islamic leaders and clerics in Nigeria have declared their ideology and murderous instincts as un-Islamic.
Perhaps, it was this sustained condemnation that sprouted the internal revolt within Boko Haram, as in the open bickering Abu Musan al Barnawi harshly scolded Abubakar Shekau and expressed deep aversion to his style of Jihadism, which spares no one and is too bloodthirsty. Musab al Barnawi, the son of the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf and Shekau’s former publicist loudly decried and denounced the style of Jihad mounted by Shekau as anti-Islam, questioning his tactics.
However, in spite of the wide condemnation of the ideology of the Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram and its atrocious outings, Shekau has kept aligning it with a religious flavor. But in recent times, the religious content of Boko Haram appears to be waning. The emphasis on establishing an Islamic Caliphate or theocratic state has dwindled considerably.
Something striking happened in December 2016, when Nigerian troops invaded the formerly dreaded Sambisa forest. Raging troops dismantled Sambisa forest and penetrated it’s Camp Zero, where Abubakar Shekau had been dwelling in protective custody of his lieutenants. Shekau had escaped before the invasion of Sambisa, but Nigerian soldiers recovered some items in Camp Zero, Shekau’s residential shrine.
The recovered items included a Abubakar Shekau’s personal copy of the Qur’an and flag, their insignia. Shekau abandoned these religious instruments which gave him inspiration to torment Nigerians. Symbolically, it meant the religious content in Boko Haram terrorism fled with him, much as it marked the defeat of the religious sect of Boko Haram insurgents by the Nigerian military. And probably, Shekau has been unable to lay his hands on another religious book to contrive fresh demonic doctrines to terrorize the people.
So, the capturing of Sambisa forest, the fleeing of Shekau and the subsequent surrender of scores of Boko Haram’s top commanders to Nigerian Army had essentially announced the defeat of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria. The clearance operations conducted in the Northeast by Nigerian troops was basically to cleanse communities of remnants of fleeing terrorists.
Some terrorists fled to neighbouring countries, where they got nourishment and regrouped. They have continued to stray into Nigerian territory to launch intermittent attacks on soft targets, mostly around the Lake Chad Basin of Borno state. These acts have heralded the morphing of the group from a religious sect to a gang, greased by the economic interests of the sponsors.
It is therefore not completely strange the sudden resurgence of suicide bomb attacks and abductions, particularly in Borno state. It is a good guess that the terrorism emphasis and heat on Borno is also economical, hence large swathes of land in the Lake Chad Basin, with crude oil deposits has spiraled into the state.
Experiences have indicated that politics of the control of oil resources is shadowed in some of the countries where terrorism has continued to fester. Afghanistan and Syria are classical examples. It is curious that Nigeria’s neighbours, Chad, Niger and Cameroun together with Nigeria collectively formed the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to battle terrorism in the region. The outfit was designed to function in unanimity in battling acts of terrorism in these countries.
However, while Nigeria has actively backed the MNJTF to actualize its mandate, the other partner-countries are not keen about its functionality. Records indicate that these other countries have largely ignored funding of the security outfit meant to combat terrorism.
It is very safe to conclude that MNJTF exists only in name and Boko Haram terrorists who flee Nigeria find safe abodes in some of these neighbouring countries, where they recuperate and gather fresh momentum to attack Nigeria. MNJTF has remained a toothless bulldog in tracking fleeing terrorists in these countries; hence the current insecurity around Borno spurred by terrorism is now greased by economic interests.
An American conflict resolution expert, Mr. Richards Murphy recently provided strong insights that linked France’s silent force in the resurgence of Boko Haram in Nigeria. He argued that France through its proxies and former colonies could probably be funding Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria to shut out Nigeria from drilling the crude oil resources in the Lake Chad Basin.
Murphy says, “It is not surprising that Boko Haram fighters that earlier fled into these neighboring Francophone countries have slinked back to renew attacks in Nigeria shortly after the French summit that was supposed to have fashioned a solution to their madness. If the authorities in Nigeria get their homework right they should have observed by now that something has changed. The true intent of Boko Haram is emerging and doing so fast. A pointer to this is the July attack on the team of researchers that went prospecting for petroleum in the Lake Chad Basin area.”
Earlier reports indicate the illegal exploration of crude oil on the Nigerian side of the Lake Chad Basin. Chad Republic is reported to have engaged in this unwholesome act using the 3D oil drilling method, which it exports through the permanent Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading, (FPSO) vessel, with a capacity to store 2million barrel of crude oil.
And quite obnoxiously, France provides support by allowing the crude oil purportedly stolen from Nigeria to be oil shipped with tankers for refining at the international refineries in the Port of Le Havre in France. And the scheme, it does appear, is to frustrate Nigeria’s moves to drill oil in the Lake Chad region, while Chad continues to feast on the resources, with France as a vicarious beneficiary. It explains the failure of the fire of Boko Haram terrorism to extinguish in Borno, comparatively with the peace and calm which have returned to Yobe and Adamawa states hitherto similarly terrorized and Nigeria generally.
Commenting on the recent Boko Haram ambush on oil researchers in the state, Murphy hints that “… the attack was major, not one of those skirmishes where Boko Haram fighters want to inflict damages, instill terror and flee back into their hideouts. The intention was apparent annihilation on a scale that will ensure no scientist would be willing to return to the area for any prospecting.”
“Secondly, the intensity of the attack was possible with a combination of sophisticated weaponry and accurate intelligence that made the ambush deadly. Both considerations suggest state backing for the terrorists and only one country has demonstrated interests that correspond to such capacity in the past. It has the resources to match. Furthermore, not much is heard anymore of Boko Haram’s desire for strict implementation of Sharia, which implies that the crux of the matter is about cornering resources and not the creation of a theocratic state”, he warned.
Therefore, time has come for Nigeria to act decisively. The Nigerian military has silenced the religious Boko Haram sect. The emergent sect terrorizing parts of Borno at the moment is the economic wing of Boko Haram, heavily funded by interests bent on stealing Nigeria’s crude oil in the Lake Chad Basin.
Nigeria needs to seriously examine this angle. It is good news that the relocation of Nigerian Service Chiefs to Borno state is not only to halt terrorists attacks on soft targets, but to unearth reasons why terrorism has resurfaced in that part of the country. No half measure should be applied on this mission, until the truth is exposed.
With these emerging insights, the United Nations (UN) is urged to show greater interests by investigating the veiled forces promoting terrorism in Nigeria, at this stage, before it enlarges to plunge Nigeria into the experience in Afghanistan or Syria and the likes. The French President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron is also pleaded to re-examine the interests of France in the Lake Chad Basin to possibly make amendments, where it exacerbates terrorism.
Ainoko writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.