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The security situation around Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, appears to be going from bad to worse. On February 9, The Boko Haram faction Islamic State in West African (ISWA) shot or burned alive some thirty people sleeping in their cars and trucks that night outside the town of Auno, some ten miles from Maiduguri. They also kidnapped others. The victims had arrived in Auno after curfew, the gates to the town were closed, and the military had departed, presumably for their supercamp in Maiduguri, according to media.
The Nigerian army is following its own version of the “fortified hamlets” strategy, employed by the United States and its allies in the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan and generally regarded as a failure by counterterrorism experts. By consolidating their forces in highly fortified “super camps,” the Nigerian army reduces their own casualties, but in the evening, when soldiers withdraw back to these camps, ISWA appears to have close to free rein in the countryside and smaller towns. On February 12, ISWA killed five security personnel in three separate attacks near Maiduguri. That city, the capital of Borno state, has essentially been cut off from the rest of the country by ISWA and Boko Haram. The one remaining highway, to Damaturu, is subject to frequent attacks. The airport, however, remains open. The governor of Borno state is accusing the military of failing to protect civilians.
Military and security service failure is an old song. Though about 20 percent of the national budget goes for security, accountability for how the funds are spent is weak. Security service morale is widely reported to be low. Coordination among the agencies is bad. Trust of the security services among local people is low, and ISWA operatives appear to have better knowledge of the countryside than the security services. Though documentation is hard to find, security may be increasingly devolving from the central government to states and local communities. Local vigilante groups are active, in Yorubaland, for example, local governors have joined forces to organize a force to “assist” the security services.