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Nigeria

Borno Elders Make Case for Arming CJTF

Tobi Soniyi

Borno elders have requested President Muhammadu Buhari, to consider arming the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) members to help combat the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.

The request, it was gathered, is contained in a letter they submitted to the president last Monday, when the elders, led by Governor Kashim Shettima, met with the president behind closed doors.

The elders demanded to know why the 800 ex-CJTF members, recruited into the army were not deployed to the state since they are “fearless and understand the terrain better” than most soldiers deployed from other parts of the country.

The observation was seventh in the letter while there is a corresponding (fifth) demand for the president to order the immediate deployment to Borno State, the 800 soldiers drawn from ex-CJTF fighters.

A delegation comprising two former governors, traditional rulers, elders, national and state assembly members, local government chairmen representatives of unions of women, labour, journalists, religious leaders including the state chairmen of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Jama’atul Nasril Islam (JNI), led by Shettima met the president and presented the letter to him.

Shettima presented the letter to the president which he said, contained some key observations and 10 demands requiring presidential intervention.

Although the delegation refused to make its demands public, an impeccable high level source who saw it, said the letter was divided into two parts. The first part itemised 12 critical observations and the other contained10 demands arising from the observations made.

Both observations and demands were generated during an extraordinary security meeting convened by the governor which had in attendance, senior military officers including the theater commander of operation Lafiya dole and the General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, heads of the police, DSS, Civilian JTF fighters, hunters, traditional rulers, elders, national and state assembly members, chairmen of the Christian Association and Jama’atul Nasril Islam, representatives of labour, women council and chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists who ensured that journalists did not divulge any part of the meeting.

The meeting held in Maiduguri on Monday, December 31, 2019.

The seventh observation reads: “That, as observed by the leadership of the Civilian JTF without contrary view (from the military) at the meeting, majority of over 800 members of the Civilian JTF enlisted into the Nigerian Army are currently not deployed to Borno State where they can use their local knowledge of communities, in the fight against Boko Haram.”

“Buhari should consider directing that the over 800 members of the Civilian JTF enlisted into the Nigerian Army, be immediately re-deployed to Borno State, be equipped and given specialized training where necessary, for the purpose of contributing their local knowledge of the terrain in Borno State, in the fight against Boko Haram.”

The letter said more than 26,000 Civilian JTF members, who fight alongside the military including in battle fronts, depend on sticks and knives. ‎

However, the letter made demand that the president should consider working with the National Assembly for the equipping a selected number of brave Civilian JTF, rather than all, with prohibitive arms and only for a specific period of time and under strict regulation by the military.

“President Buhari should consider working with the National Assembly towards the speedy amendment of the Terrorism Act or coming under “a doctrine of necessity” to approve the specialized and regulated use of non-prohibitive arms for selected volunteers of the Civilian JTF, for the specific reason of fighting the Boko Haram in specific locations. Such use of arms should be for a specific period of time under strict monitoring by the Military” the letter reads in its fourth demand.

‎In another observation, the letter informed the president that “the Borno State police command, which has the duty to preserve constitutional authorities in liberated and rebuilt communities, is faced with challenges of low man-power and dependence on AK 47 rifles to counter Boko Haram fighters who attack communities with AA rifles”.

Consequently, the letter in its second demand, said “Mr President should consider and approve, as a matter of special case, the specialized use of AA rifles for the Borno State Police Command for capacity enhancement as against the current dependence on AK 47 rifles”.

The letter informed the president that some members of the Civilian JTF ‎that have been deeply involved in intelligence gathering, easy identification and arrest of suspected Boko Haram members in Civilian populations, are worried the operation safe corridor of the military where repentant Boko Haram insurgents are being released to population, could be breeding spies for insurgents because their release coincides with accelerated attacks by insurgents.

“The ongoing de-radicalisation and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents under the operation safe corridor of the defense headquarters “is a course for concern for members of the Civilian JTF and some stakeholders in the state, who suspect that Boko Haram members do not repent, hence the de-radicalisation programme may be breeding spies and agents of recruitment for the Boko Haram.”

As a result, the letter said the president should consider and approve the suspension of the ongoing de-radicalization and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents until such a time they do not pose serious threat to our fighting force”.

The source said the military’s operation safe corridor was not well thought out, saying the letter gave the president a sensitive picture of the security situation in the state and the need for action.

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