Nigeria – Boko Haram attack in Maiduguri ahead of VP’s visit

 

On Wednesday, June 7, Boko Haram militants attacked the city of Maiduguri, Borno State, in what Reuters reports was the “most serious assault” on the regional capital in a year and a half.

Thousands of residents have been forced to flee due to the attack, according to reports.

The military, meanwhile, has said that it has the situation under control and has asked citizens not to panic.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the city on Thursday, June 8, to launch the distribution of food and relief material.

 

As can be seen in the graph, attacks by the group have become less frequent and less deadly over the past two years as the military campaign against them has been intensified under President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr Buhari has repeatedly stated that the Islamist extremists, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015, have technically been defeated as a fighting force.

The data tends to bear him out, but it will be some time yet before peace and stability are assured in the country’s northeast.

Since Boko Haram’s campaign of terror got seriously underway in 2011, Borno State has accounted for over half of all conflicts recorded in the country (excluding protests/riots).

This has had a devastating impact on everyday life in the state and brought its population to the brink of famine.

In addition to halting farming activity, the group’s presence has stopped emergency food aid going to areas which relief agencies consider inaccessible because of the risk of attack.

According to the United Nations, around 700,000 people may live in these ‘no-go’ areas.

Excluding these people, the World Food Programme (WFP) is aiming to supply food to 1.4 million citizens in the northeast region – 400,000 fewer than it had hoped to reach due to funding constraints.

In Maiduguri, meanwhile, food prices continue to climb. Staple food prices in April were up 50% y-o-y, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net).

The war against Boko Haram in Nigeria is being won. However, the group has in the past shown itself to be very adaptable and it may be some time yet before peace and stability can be established in the region.

The cross-border nature of the group adds to the difficulty in bringing it to heel.

Mr Buhari can take some of the credit for stepping up the offensive against the group – especially when compared to the performance of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan.

His effectiveness in addressing the humanitarian crisis left in the extremists’ wake is less creditable.

In October, the Senate reported that the Presidential Initiative on the North East (Pine), which Mr Buhari established in 2015, had done little to improve conditions on the ground for internally displaced persons and has been marred by corruption.

The president suspended David Babachir Lawal, the head of the Pine and reportedly a close aide, over the allegations in April. But there has been little news on initiatives to rehabilitate the region since.

Mr Osinbajo’s visit on Thursday may be the start of a concerted effort to address the needs of the people in the region. The BBC reports that the government hopes to distribute 30,000 tonnes of locally-grown maize, sorghum and soybeans to aide relief efforts.

We view this as a sign that the government is now prioritising the issue rather than downplaying its severity, as Mr Buhari did in December.

 

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