The United Nations says that about 27,000 civilians have died as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency that has spanned 10 years. The UN Humanitarian Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon who gave the figures at a remembrance ceremony also disclosed that over 130,000 have been displaced.
Backstory: On July 30, 2009, Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of the insurgent group Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), widely known as Boko Haram, was murdered while still in police custody.
A quick recap: Following the death of Mohammed Yusuf, the Boko Haram grew into a more violent group under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau. The military wing of the group began operations in 2009. The group has morphed into a more complex setup with a breakaway faction, known as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), officially becoming an affiliate of ISIS in 2016
- August 2011, Boko Haram bombed the UN building in Abuja killing at least 21 persons.
- Former President Goodluck Jonathan proscribed the Boko Haram group in June 2013 following many high profile attacks by the group including the Baga Massacre of April 2013 that led to the deaths over 200 people. Sidenote: The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the major political parties which formed the ruling All Progressive’s Congress (APC) resisted the move describing it as unconstitutional.
- 276 female students were abducted by Boko Haram from the Government Secondary School in Chibok in April 2014.
- President Buhari’s administration entered negotiations with the Boko Haram terrorists. One of the deals led to the release of 82 abducted Chibok girls in 2017. The girls were released in exchange for the freedom of some captured Boko Haram militants. Likewise a secretive negotiation led to the freedom of all captured Dapchi girls except Leah Sharibu in March 2018.
- Boko Haram splinter group enters into alliance with the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2016
- A $1 billion special fund was approved by the National Economic Council in December 2017 for the purpose of fighting the insurgency. However, the utilization fund of the fund has become a controversial affair following recent revelations by the National Security Adviser.
- Boko Haram has intensified its operations going on the offensive against military bases and installations. In November 2018, it overran a military base in Metele, Borno State. 100 soldiers were reportedly killed in the attacks.
Bottomline: About six months into his tenure, President Buhari claimed that the military had ‘technically defeated’ Boko Haram. Subsequent developments have shown that this statement was detached from reality. Kallon’s remarks best captures the moment: “The crisis that started 10 years ago and has devastated entire communities in North-east Nigeria is still far from over.”