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Africa

Nigeria 'needs to coordinate' with neighbors to fight Boko Haram

In northeastern Nigeria witnesses say they saw Boko Haram militants firebombing huts and heard screams of children burning to death. This was during the weekend attack in the village of Dalori that left at least 85 dead.

The weekend attack in which militants torched huts came after attacks in neighboring Cameroon. Analysts think that unless countries affected by the insurgency coordinate their individual counter measures against the militants, there is a long way to end the insurgency. DW spoke to Ryan Cummings, a security consultant with Signal Risk.

DW: Are the attrocities for which Boko Haram is being blamed getting worse?

Ryan Cummings: I think we've recently seen quite a spike in Boko Haram activities within northeastern Nigeria but also in surrounding countries. In addition to the attacks in Dalori which is located about 10 km (6 miles) outside Borno state's capital Maiduguri, there was also a Boko Haram attack recently in Cameroon, in the extreme north province, in the Lac region of Chad, and also a few other bombings specifically in Gombe in Adamawa state. All of these attacks seemingly targeted civilian interests within the region. So the recent attack in Dalori in itself marked a shift away from Boko Haram’s usual modus operandi; a lot of the sect's violence within the past 2-3 years has specifically targeted soft civilian population centers in armed raids, in addition to suicide bombings targeting bustling market places and even public transportation hubs.

Children gather around a burnt out car following an attack by Boko Haram in Dalori village

The Boko Haram attack in Dalori left the village in ruin

Journalists who visited the scene after the attack say they spoke to survivors who complained that it took too long for help to arrive, even though there is a military presence in Maiduguri just a few kilometers away. Why do you think the response was so slow?

Well, it is very difficult to say at this time and obviously information we are receiving is based on eye witness accounts. I think the first issue could be in terms of how the attack in Dalori was communicated to Maiduguri which hosts the Sixth Division, which is a specialized force mandated to respond to Boko Haram terrorism. So obviously there may have been a lagging time for information of the attack reaching the city of Maiduguri. In this regard, any direct confrontation by the Nigerian military itself could have inflicted significant casualties on civilians based in the town.

People gather around a dead animal and burnt out houses following an attack by Boko Haram in Dalori village

Witnesses say Boko Haram firebombed Dalori, killing people and animals

Apparently when the troops did eventually arrive, they were unable to overcome the attackers because they (the attackers) were better armed than the army. This problem is not new. Why hasn't the Buhari regime fixed it?

That is indeed the case. We've had lots of accounts, specifically by military personnel themselves. Soldiers who have refused to go into the field of battle due to concerns regarding a lack of weaponry that was not on a par with the Boko Haram militants. And one has to question why the situation has not been remedied, considering that the Nigerian government is in the process of repopulating urban centers and [claims] that, although Boko Haram has technically been defeated, according to their assessment, that the group continues to pose a threat to civilian populations that are in rural northeast Nigeria. But I think it does fit to the wider deficiencies that have beleaguered the Nigerian government, both not only under Goodluck Jonathan but also Muhammadu Buhari, in addressing the Boko Haram issue. There’s a major possibility that there are large sums of money that are being redirected to avenues which they are not supposed to go to.

Local residents of Yola, Nigeria can be seen on patrol, defending their village from Boko Haram

Villagers often patrol their villages, protecting family and home against Boko Haram

Most of the recent attacks have taken place in the border region between Cameroon and Chad. Is the multinational joint task force having any effect in the fight against Boko Haram?

I think at the moment there's no multilateral cooperation against Boko Haram. I think the multinational joint task force says it has not launched as they were supposed to, they've not carried out the mandate that was entrusted to them and the deployment was delayed due to the factors that I mentioned. So what's happening at the moment is that each country - Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger - [has] undertaken unilateral counter measures against Boko Haram. But unfortunately, because these measures have not been coordinated in any manner, they have also been directed with different support and extensiveness from each of these countries so that they are not having the desired effect. So, when the Nigerian government is launching intensive counter terrorism operations in northeast Nigeria it's not being backed up by simultaneous operations by Cameroon and Niger for example, which is allowing Boko Haram operational space to move into other neighboring countries. Until there's a realization by Nigerians and neighbors that Boko Haram is not a Nigerian problem alone anymore but it has expanded to regional proportions that is going to need a coordinated response, one finds it very difficult to see how any of these measures being employed unilaterally against this sect is going to pay dividends at the end of the day.

Ryan Cummings is a security consultant with Signal Risk.

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