By Chidi Omeje
For the Nigerian troops engaged in the protracted war against Boko Haram terrorism in the North East, the greatest challenge in the task is not the brutality and savagery of the terrorists or their confirmed links with global terror network. It is not even their touted fighting skill or purported ‘invincibility’; the real obstacle standing between the troops and the total and final obliteration of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists is the nefarious activities of local network of informants in most part of the epicenter of the crisis.
As a matter of fact, the amount of damage done to the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations of the Nigerian Military in the North East by local Boko Haram collaborators who snitch on troops movements and positions, is unquantifiable. The sickening irony of victims taking sides with their tormentors to wage battle against their helpers, as typified by the recurring incidence of sabotage against troops, is as confounding as it is provocative. For how is it conceivable that the same people whom the troops are out in the harm’s way to protect are the ones constituting utmost risk to them?
It is certainly an uphill task deconstructing the thought-process of a snitch but what is obvious is that he has a loathsome dual personality. Snitches are deceptive, sly and illusive; the motive and reasons for their actions vacillates from the strange to the ridiculous. However, it is noteworthy that in some cases, past injustices, highhandedness and untold socioeconomic deprivations wrought by bad governance and horrible politics are often the underlying factors that predispose the mindset of snitching – may be as a way of getting back at the system. In effect, it takes a lot for a normal, rational thinking person to blatantly carry out subversive actions that clearly hinder the war efforts of his own Nation and imperil his own life for whatever incentive or compulsion.
Related to the despicable act of sabotage by snitching is the equally reprehensive act of sabotage by gaslighting – the manipulative tactics in which someone secretly undermines another person (or group or a cause) and then turns around to gloat and blame them. Disgruntled politicians, conflict merchants and fifth columnists are culprits here and they often ply their unpatriotic trade using the instrumentality of the media. This is the story of unpatriotic Nigerians who have formed a network of blabbermouths and detractors to work against the efforts and sacrifice of the gallant Nigerian Military engaged in war of attrition with the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists in the north east.
As the linchpin in the war on terror and the one on ground, the Nigerian Army has borne the most brunt of the destructive and obstructive activities of snitches. Day after day in its media update, Nigerians are alerted by the Army on how its troops’ movements and positions are snitched on by locals resulting in most times serious setbacks in operations and fatalities on the part of troops. As a matter of fact, Nigerian Army has lost scores of troops and equipment owing to the handiwork of these informants, and they are not relenting.
For instance, on April 19, 2021, credible human intelligence (HUMINT) revealed that ISWAP terrorists have massively deployed its informants in newly resettled communities in Borno and Yobe States to aid attacks on towns and Military Bases. The informants, according to sources, are disguised as IDPs to spy on the troops for future coordination of attacks. Sources also revealed that the activities of informants had played out well in Damasak, Dikwa, Marte and Mafa. Within the past few months, these towns had recorded mass resettlement of displaced families by the Borno State government, most of who do not undergo proper checks and profiling.
Another source familiar with the activities of the informants told of how some months ago, the insurgents deployed some well-trained women, mostly to the town of Monguno as agents to keep vigil on activities of troops. These women would be in the IDPs camp, but would also be conducting SWOT analysis on the troops and report back to the terrorist for coordination and attack on the town.
The report continued that in Damasak, informants were deployed among newly returned displaced families from Niger Republic who are living in the IDPs camp of GSS, Damasak while others were located within the town and were given recharge cards to monitor and communicate all activities of troops to the adversaries. It was also revealed that more than 60% of people resident in the town of Gajiram are sympathizers and informants of terrorists and are aiding ambush and other attacks against troops by terrorists.
In Gaidam, Yobe State, it was learnt that terrorist sympathizers and informants are buying houses and living big within the communities but local residents who are aware of their activities are scared of exposing them. Those informants, it was revealed, were responsible for most attacks along the Gaidam-Tarmuwa-Babangida road, and their attacks are mainly targeted at troops’ logistics supply through Gaidam to other parts of the Lake Chad axis.
From the above accounts which are actually recent developments, it is apparent that the network of informants in the North East is growing in complexity and sophistication, and that it has become a booming business enterprise for the unscrupulous locals and their recruiters. With the escalation of this odious enterprise, it is no brainer understanding why the terrorists remain formidable and why their attacks on troops have become frequent. The urgent need to crack and dismantle this devious network of informants cannot be overstated and the responsibility is not that of the Military alone. This is where the intervention of political leaders in the zone is critically and urgently needed.
Governors of Borno and Yobe States and of course, the Senators and House of Reps members from those areas must pay more than a passing interest to this very dangerous development. Taking media spaces to pillory the efforts of the Military as a way of remaining relevant or popular is no longer tenable. What is needed now is a concerted effort by the political leaders to reign in on the wayward locals who are betraying our troops to desist from such very unpatriotic and evil enterprise. Time to dismantle the network of snitches is now!
*Chidi Omeje is the Editor-in-Chief of Nigeria Security Digest