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HomeAfter 12 Years, Endless War in Nigeria’s  Northeast Lumbers On

After 12 Years, Endless War in Nigeria’s  Northeast Lumbers On

Part 1 of 2-part series. The Problem of Corruption

By TruthNigeria Staff

[Abuja]  The capture of a terrorist kingpin in Nigeria as reported Oct 19, 2023 is ordinarily good news, but a close look at the big picture of Nigeria’s war with terror is troubling.

 A TruthNigeria investigation shows that the Nigerian military has had some successes under 8 years of ex-president Muhammadu Buhari but has been spread dangerously thin over a vast range of internal  war zones. It also lacks the manpower or equipment it needs to tackle the new threat of swollen bandit gangs, and it is saddled with Nigeria’s national disease: corruption.  The federal government regularly claims that they are winning the war against insurgency, when in fact, the claims of military brass are belied by the facts on the ground, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The official hype: Cameroonian newspaper from April 26, 2022 trumpets the success of the Multinational force staffed by Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad against ISIS insurgents in Lake Chad. Courtesy of the Voice newspaper.

Nigeria has both the largest population and largest economy in Africa, so it figures that the Nigerian branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), backed by up to 5,000 engaged fighters,  is among the most potent threats to the West, according to the Director of National Intelligence.   Among the 8 million foreign nationals recently arrived across the porous southern U.S. border are jihadist cells from ISIS in West Africa, according to  policy experts such as Stephen Enada, president of the International Committee on Nigeria.  “What happens in Nigeria doesn’t stay in Nigeria,” according to Enada.

 And not only from the 8 branches of ISIS in Africa: there are myriad other insurgencies in the Sahel and in Sub-Saharan countries such as Nigeria. The Nigerian military contends with three well-known insurgencies: Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP), the older but less powerful Boko Haram [Western learning forbidden] and the Al Qaeda-linked group called Ansaru.

Following the brutal killing of Boko Haram Commander Alhaji Ali Gana in Borno State Nigeria Oct 2 by another Islamist sect, Islam in West African Province, (ISWAP) defense analysts in and outside Nigeria  have concluded that the war against Islamist groups in the Northeast may not be winnable given the present strategy. To allay doubts, Defence Minister Muhammed Badaru told the Nigerian Army Headquarters on Oct 24  that a greater supply of arms and ammunition could be expected in coming weeks.

The slain Boko Haram leader was the responsible for Gwoza and Bama counties in Borno State and was seen as the possible successor to the infamous Boko Haram leader,  Abubakar Shekau who was also killed by ISWAP in 2021 .

Boko Haram and  ISWAP have been engaged in a struggle for control of the three states adjacent to Lake Chad:  Adamawa, Yobe, and  Borno in  Northeast Nigeria since 2015 when Abu Musab Al Barnawi was expelled from Boko Haram by the Abubakar Shekau faction . However, in 2021, Al Barnawi faction launched an attack on Abubakar Shekau faction resulting in the death of Shekau.

Since then, ISWAP has successfully dominated the Northeast enclave of ISIS insurgency.

According to data obtained by international crisis group, ISWAP has an estimated 3,500 -5000 members whereas Boko Haram has about 1,500-2000 members. As its name suggests, ISWAP is affiliated with the defunct Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Shekau, head of Boko Haram, pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2016 but was passed over in favor of the head of ISWAP.

Why Nigeria’s Military Hasn’t Eliminated Insurgencies


Corruption may be the single most damning handicap preventing the military from defeating Boko Haram and ISWAP in spite of the numerical strength of the Nigerian military, which deploys 230,000 soldiers in total

According to a London based Counter Insurgency expert, David Otto, the Nigerian military has the highest budgetary allocation from the Federal Government yet, the way the military spends the funds is shrouded in secrecy.

David Otto, London-based Conflict expert: “certain military officers Enrich themselves.” Courtesy of David Otto.

Rampant corruption within the Nigerian military is one factor hindering the successful fight against Islamist groups in the north-east of Nigeria, according to Otto.

“It is in the interest of certain military officers for the war to continue because the longer the war goes on, the better for them as they enrich themselves,” Otto told TruthNigeria.

“The Nigerian military has one of the highest budgets in the country, and the budget is not subjected to scrutiny so much so that there is misappropriation of funds meant for the procurement of military hardware.

A security Analyst in Northeast Nigeria who does not wished to be named went a step further than Otto.

“When it comes to improving its equipment, it is suspected that a lot of money meant to buy arms for the fight against Boko Haram and ISWAP all ended up in of top military commanders,” said one analyst.

“I will give you some details, in 2018, when former President Muhammadu Buhari withdrew $2 billion for procurement of arms, about $381 million were given out to service chiefs for procurement of arms. The Army says it purchased more than 20 Amoured Personnel Vehicles with its share of the funds.

“In 2020, Nigeria took possession of 5 Amoured Personnel Carriers called KLTV 181, In 2018, 3 Marauders Amoured Personnel Carriers were also purchased , while it took possession of 6 ZTL and VT-4 APCs.

“It also bought 8 Amoured Carriers called Phantom Carriers.

About 16 of these APCs were captured in one single day in 2020 by Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria.

To the best of my knowledge, no military officer nor the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Yusuf Tukur Buratai was ever queried,” the analyst said.

Lt. Gen. Yusuf Tukur Buratai. Nigerian Army.

“How did the insurgents  got to know about the vehicles? It is simple, many officers are on the payroll of Boko Haram and ISWAP,” the analyst said to TruthNigeria.

Military Tactics Not Working

Apart from corruption, the  strategy adopted by the Army overall is not effective, according to Security expert Otto. He explained that over the years, after retaking territories from the insurgents, the Army would simply abandon the territory without any base and after a while, the insurgents would return and occupy it. The Army strategy of concentrating its resources in one single camp further leaves ungovernable spaces open, allowing Islamist groups to occupy them,” Otto added.

“In addition to that, the military and Federal Government should understand that defeating Boko Haram and ISWAP cannot be achieved through kinetics alone.

 He explains that there is the need to introduce ways and means of countering the ideology of islamization spread by ISWAP and Boko Haram.

Part 2: How Insurgency is Spreading from Lake Chad to the Middle Belt.

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