Boko Haram terrorists have been fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria’s northeast. The fighters began attacks in 2010 barely one year after the killing of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf. The leader of the new fighters was Yusuf’s second in command, Sheikh Abubakar Ibn Alshakawi also known as Abubakar Shekau. The fighters grew in strength and fighting spirit, making them the most dangerous and dreaded terrorist organization ever in the country’s history, a situation that drew the attention of other leading terrorist organizations in the world.
Shekau’s fighters were fearless and armed with religious beliefs equal to other terrorist organizations who were more literate than the foot soldiers on the ranks of Boko Haram under Shekau’s Command. He (Shekau) got fame and support from the topmost dreaded terrorist organizations and individuals who believed in his cause and thereby making him more dangerous. His style of leadership, however, brought a major division that resulted in factionalizing the sect with a top and equally dreaded commander, Mamman Nur taking almost all of the fighting men to control the Alagarno forest area of Borno State.
Mamman Nur was later killed by two brothers and commanders in his rank. But they also lost grip of the fighting men who returned home to Shekau. But it was not long before the group split again when Shekau failed to execute Al Barnawi, who slipped away and ran to submit to ISIS. Al Barnawi’s union with ISIS soon gave birth to the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP.
According to the U.N, over 30,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram and well over 3 million people have been displaced in Nigeria since 2009 when the fighting deteriorated into an armed conflict with Nigerian government troops. But recently, there was a change in the game with over 1000 Boko Haram members surrendering to Nigerian Troops. The influx into the city of Maiduguri from the Sambisa forest has continued to raise a lot of questions especially that those who are receiving them observed that the ex-fighters have been coming, leaving their weapons behind.
The situation rather informed the questions on why these fighters are surrendering in droves. Security experts however, said answers could come in two ways. They said the ex-terrorist may have been coming in peace or coming to take the state from within as witnessed in the withdrawal of American troops and the taking over by Taliban in Afghanistan.
DAILY POST also sought from a few persons who are familiar with the insurgency.
It could be recalled that a Boko Haram Terrorists Commander, Adamu Rugurugu, who had slaughtered hundreds in Gwoza town and instilled fear among the people, told Nigerian soldiers at the time of his surrender that it was not hunger in the bushes that forced them out but the Nigeria’s military olive branch offered them and the sincerity of the government in the amnesty it offers.
Adamu Rugurugu who spoke in Hausa said, “Hunger as being insinuated was not the reason for the surrendering of fighters but the results of extensive counter-insurgency messaging by the soldiers. The Borno State governor who has been a victim of an attack by the terrorists on several occasions when he traveled to the liberated local government areas did not lose hope that under his leadership the state will enjoy peace and see the return of fighters under the civil authorities. ”
Also speaking on the surrendering of Boko Haram fighters to troops, Malam Saleh Al-Sunusi, an Islamic scholar with information about the terrorist organization operating in the Northeast region especially those in the lake chad areas of Operations on Saturday told DAILY POST that the reasons for the droves surrendering of Boko Haram members, who are inclined to late Sheikh Abubakar Shekau was informed by the continuous disagreement among the commanders.
“You may be aware that there were some changes in the ranking of ISWAP recently. The marriage between Shekau’s Boko Haram and Al-Barnawi’s ISWAP was meant to be a unity that would strengthen the ranks and purpose of their common goals. But since coming together, issues and matters arising from within did not allow the kind of convenience expected in the union. There are still issues of struggles for who leads the fighters amongst the many commanders, thus resulting in internal wrangling.
“The information we got from the groups is that where a Shekau commander is leading, the ISWAP commander whose position was kind of reshuffled to allow a Shekau man to take his place resulted in operational failure as a result of sabotage. Sometimes they still shoot themselves over positions. Since coming together, the group had several meetings only to understand themselves but still ego, pride and other negative influences could not allow them to come to terms. For me, I believe it is the prayers of the people that keep confusing them, “he said.
On the side of the military, the Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu on several occasions had said, “The vigilance of troops of Operation Hadin Kai and the swift response in the ongoing operations in the northeast informed the result being witnessed in terrorists surrendering. Troops are also encouraged not to allow any form of distraction from the marauding terrorists, whose ranks have suffered acute manpower depletion as a result of ongoing kinetic and non-kinetic operations conducted by troops”.
“The recent unprecedented and massive surrendering of Boko Haram Terrorists in Bama Operational area on 2 and 4 August, 2021 respectively, has resulted in confusion and severe apprehension in the camps of the Islamic State of West Africa Province especially among its top-ranking commanders over the depleting strength of its members, which has drastically dwindled their overall fighting efficiency,” General Onyema said.
According to General Onyema, the current trend of apprehension in their camps was further aggravated by the recent alarming turnout of members of the terrorist group, who came out in droves with their families to lay down their arms and surrender to troops at Mafa Local Government Area on 14 August 2021.
“It is against this backdrop that the terrorist group opted for the use of propaganda via AMAQ Terrorists Media Wing to portray the group as if it is still a potent force in the North East. Similarly, on 15 August 2021, the Theatre took custody of additional Boko Haram fighters, comprising of 4 adult males, 11 adult females, and 18 children from Landanli, Azah, Ngaridua, and Kondilla villages, who surrendered to own troops of 151 Task Force Battalion, Banki Junction in Bama.
“ISWAP is yet to come to terms with the reality of its current predicament, which has posed a serious negative impact on its prowess. It is also worthy of note that the terrorists are overwhelmed with palpable fear and are making desperate efforts to halt the ongoing surrendering of their fighters from the Tumbus and Sambisa axis. The Nigerian Military is more resolute in intensifying both kinetic and non-kinetic efforts in the fight against insurgency, banditry, and sundry crimes in the country,” he said.
Boko Haram Commander, Amir Abu Darda who is in charge of the making of IEDs for the group has surrendered and carried along with him, 20 IED experts, with weapons and other incendiaries. Many of the terrorists according to findings are said to be coming out from the Sambisa Forest and the Lake Chad axis following a no holds barred and relentless unleashing of land bombardments by the Nigerian Army with artillery and infantry firepower while the Nigerian Air Force is dropping sorties with precision and leveling their hideouts in caves and enclaves.
While this is ongoing, the military is simultaneously intensifying its non-kinetic operations and telling communities that had been traumatized for years that with their support through valuable information and cooperation, the criminal elements will be quickly smoked out.
General Onyema further said, “Our kinetic and non-kinetic lines of operations are paying off. That is why about 300 BHT surrendered. Moreover, those that have surrendered are treated within the ambit of international best practices. We believe that the feedback of how those who surrendered are treated is getting back. The role of intelligence is massive but as you know, intelligence successes are not visibly seen when inserted but the outcomes are currently manifesting.
“This unfolding mixed technique and humane handling of surrendered members are tangible steps towards ultimate success. The media also has been given the key to shaping and boosting troops’ resolve to continue their aggressive posture,” he said.
Another Islamic Cleric, Muhammad Mustafa said sustained prayer for peace is the reason insurgent are surrendering to the military in Borno State.
Mustafa on Friday urged Muslims to use the significant period of “Tasu’ah” and “Ashura” being observed on 9th and 10 of Islamic Calendar (Muharram) which is equivalent to Wednesday and Thursday for voluntary fasting in order to pray for divine intervention and lasting peace in Borno and the nation in general.
According to him, “The act of surrendering by the insurgents took many by surprise and should be consolidated with prayers and optimism instead of shock and pessimism as being expressed by some residents,” he said.
Mustafa, who is the Imam of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) Mosque, urged citizens to have faith in God that an end is now in sight after 12 years.
“Let us use this moment to pray that this is a divine intervention that will bring the desired lasting peace to Borno. Let’s pray that all those involved are sincere and committed to peace. Let’s pray for God to come between us and anyone, or group that is benefiting from the crisis and want to constitute a stumbling block to the actualization of lasting peace in Borno,” he said.
Swaibou Issa, a researcher on Boko Haram at the University of Maroua, says Cameroon, Nigeria, and Chad should encourage fighters who are still reluctant to surrender and help to reconstruct their communities. He said rival fighting groups are carrying out charitable acts around the Lake Chad Basin aimed at luring in Boko Haram militants and having fighters join other terrorist groups.
Issa says within the past two months, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, or the ISWAP, a splinter of Boko Haram, is increasingly gaining power and influence. According to him, ISWAP has been highly active along the Cameroon, Nigeria, and Chad borders. He said while he recognizes international aid groups distributing food to populations in need, ISWAP also shares food to gain sympathy and recruit civilians.