Nigeria Increases Military Spending for Boko Haram Fight
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved the release of $1 billion for the procurement of military equipment in the fight against Boko Haram, highlighting the long road ahead for Nigeria in defeating the insurgents.
The move, which would withdraw the extra $1 billion from the country’s Excess Crude Account (ECA), came without the approval of the National Assembly and contradicts the President’s many statements in recent years claiming that the Nigerian military has already effectively defeated Boko Haram. Most recently, during his 2018 New Year broadcast to Nigerians in December, Buhari explicitly said, “We have since beaten Boko Haram”.
Since 2015, the jihadist group has lost significant territory and no longer controls any major cities in Nigeria. However, four months after Mr Buhari’s statement, the group still appears to be far from being fully defeated. In fact, as recent developments have shown, including the recent kidnapping of 110 school girls from the north-eastern town of Dapchi, Boko Haram still poses a major threat. Still highly active in the Bama and Gwoza districts and with reported informants in many major cities, the group maintains a steady presence in the country’s north-eastern regions.
The recent approval of funds also demonstrates how far Nigeria has to go before Boko Haram is truly defeated. While the Nigerian government looks to intensify military operations, this escalation could bring complicating side effects.
The actions of the military itself have long been a cause of radicalization for many Nigerians. Before 2015, the military’s main counterinsurgency strategy involved punishing anyone suspected of having ties to Boko Haram. This resulted in the regular arresting, displacement, and killing of innocent villagers.
According to Amnesty International, Nigerian military forces arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000 people between 2009 and 2015. Although the Nigerian military has reduced village raids and human rights abuses since 2015, many still fear its radicalization of the country’s youth.
Equally concerning is the presence of several para-military groups fighting against Boko Haram in north-eastern. These militias, including the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), have long been in confrontation with the jihadist group, especially in the initial years of Boko Haram’s insurgency when the militias were sometimes the only groups fighting the insurgents. Despite their crucial role in the anti-Boko Haram fight, most militias do not receive payment from or remain under jurisdiction of the Nigerian government.
Many militia groups have been accused of criminal activity such as theft and the continual employment of child soldier, even in areas where Boko Haram has receded. As the Nigerian government lacks necessary funds to pay their wages and formalize their operations, these group could turn on the state military and further destabilize the region.
There is a long way to go before Nigeria’s military can truly say it has defeated Boko Haram, and even if it does succeed, continued peace is by no means guaranteed.