By Haruna Murtala
The remarkable, albeit modest successes recorded by the Nigerian military, especially the troops who have battled (for years) to liberate the North East from Boko Haram insurgency, will be eroded if no concrete action is taken against civilians who have deliberately turned themselves into informants for terrorists.
In recent times, spontaneous attacks have been launched at military bases and communities targeting soldiers, together with harmless residents and villagers in Borno and Yobe States. But the attacks are not solely orchestrated by fighters of either the Boko Haram or Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) sect.
The deadly attacks and ambush raids against military troops, investigation have shown, are facilitated by the aid of informants who ‘recklessly’ furnish terrorists with information about troops’ movements, their location and areas of patrol. Some of these informants have gone the extra mile to welcome and even harbour insurgents in their communities, settlements and towns.
But it is however gratifying to know that the Nigerian military under General Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is not leaving anything to chance. Its troops have continued to pound these “agents of evil” and their ilk—the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists. Just three days ago, specifically last Sunday, the Nigerian Army said troops of 27 Task Force Brigade on the platform of Operation Lafiya Dole arrested a suspected Boko Haram informant. The criminal, identified as Modu Ari, was nabbed in Kamuya, a community in Yobe State.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, Director, Army Public Relations, in a statement, disclosed that the activities of the suspect and his accomplices were responsible for the recent attacks on troops and their military base, in Kamuya. He said the suspect confessed during an interrogation, to have revealed troops’ movements and position to his Boko Haram collaborators.
According to him, an investigation is ongoing to unravel the network of local informants whose nefarious activities have endangered troops on clearance operations around the fringes of Timbuktu Triangle. He said the unfortunate sabotage of the troop’s movement by the arrested informant and his accomplices made it possible for the terrorists to attack the rear element of troops on patrol.
Also, troops of 212 Battalion deployed at Auno village in Kaga local government area of Borno State, in conjunction with elements of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), in January 2020, arrested one Mallam Ahmed Yakuba. Mallam Yakuba, according to a statement by the Nigerian Army Operations Media Coordinator, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, is a high-profile ISWAP informant at a location south of Auno.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect was born in Niger Republic, grew up in Sudan and has been in Nigeria for the past 15 years. However, during interrogation, the suspect confessed to being a spy for ISWAP criminals, monitoring troops’ location in Auno and other areas along the Maiduguri – Damaturu road.
In February this year, too, security sources also raised serious concerns over the indiscriminate planting of landmines and activities of Boko Haram informants in some local government areas (LGAs) in the North-east, a report by PRNigeria, had disclosed.
According to PRNigeria, an independent but authoritative military covert media outlet, it was discovered that in some communities, the informants not only leak vital information to the terrorists, but harbour them in their houses and settlements, while also assisting the terrorists plant landmines against Nigerian troops.
The sources said the nefarious activities of informants, which are rife in at least thirteen local governments, are sabotaging military operations in some parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. It was further gathered that Boko Haram insurgents had by then established camps and engaged in fishing, farming and other economic activities in some communities.
A source, by then, had told PRNigeria that: “The sabotaging activities of informants are so rampant in Guzamala, Abadam, Marte, Kukawa, Mobbar, Monguno and Gwoza Local Government Areas of Borno State. Pockets of terrorists also established hideouts in Geidam, Tarmuwa and Yunusari local governments in Yobe State while Mubi, Madagali and Gombi Local Government in Adamawa State also harbour active sympathizers of Boko Haram terrorists.”
“In these areas, local sympathizers are neck deep in their fraternity with the Boko Haram insurgents, and their clandestine collaborative activities that responsible for many of the ambush, suicide bombings and explosion from landmines against Nigerian troops in the recent past. The sympathizers provide information about military movements and operations to the insurgents, leading to ambush attacks on troops. It is not clear what the insurgents incentivize the locals with to be able to sabotage troops who are on mission to liberate them from the stranglehold of the insurgents.”
But Boko Haram terrorists are not the only daredevil criminals who informants relish working with, bandits are also there. Recently, Mallam Garba Shehu, at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, decried the activities of Nigerians sabotaging the war against terrorism, banditry and other forms of criminalities.
Garba Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, while speaking to newsmen, recalled how a tea vendor in the North West zone tipped off bandits to escape bombardment of their hideout.
He said the bandits had hired a tea vendor, near Katsina airport, who constantly tips off the criminals each time a military aircraft takes off and heads to Zamfara for an operation.
“There is this man that sold tea near the Katsina airport. The sponsors of bandits hired him, built a house for him, bought him a golf car and gave him money to do bigger tea business. Each time a military aircraft took off from Katsina for Zamfara, he would call the bandits on the phone. So, before the soldiers got there, the target would have disappeared. So there are bad people in our communities, who reveal the secrets of our military,” he said.
Nigerians knew even before Mr. Garba Shehu’s remark that informants of terrorists and bandits are impediments to the counter-insurgency and anti-banditry operations. But if communities in the North East and other parts of the north, ravaged by insurgency, kidnapping and banditry desire peace, now is the time for them to begin to cooperate with military troops. They must not only stop harbouring terrorists and bandits, they must provide information for troops to apprehend the criminals.
Meanwhile, it will be apt if the military begins to take drastic action against Boko Haram and bandits’ informants, to serve as deterrence. Informants deserve no less treatment like their allies—bandits and terrorists. They should be made to face the music, just like their strange bedfellows.
Hopefully, the Nigerian Armed Forces has shown determination to go after the informants, whether military personnel or civilians. The AFN is ready to act fast by permanently clipping the wings of these informants.
In the interim, traditional and community leaders should also reign in on their people to desist from the unpatriotic act of collaborating with terrorists and bandits. It is already compounding the efforts of the troops.
Commendably, the Zamfara state governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle recently suspended the district head of Badarawa in Shinkafi Emirate Council, who is the Sarkin Kudun Badarawa, Alhaji Surajo Namakkah Ibrahim, for conferring the traditional title of Durumbu on a military officer who was arrested for selling live ammunition to bandits in Shinkafi local government area.
This is the way to go. The task of getting to the root of the crisis in the country is for all.
Haruna Murtala wrote in from Kaduna