Nigeria must recruit 100,000 additional soldiers to end the long-running insurgency by the Islamist Boko Haram group, the governor of a state at the epicentre of the violence said.
The militant group has inflicted “horrific and simultaneous attacks” in Borno state since March 2019, Governor Babagana Zulum said in a statement on Wednesday. “The military doesn’t have the manpower, they don’t have the equipment.”
President Muhammadu Buhari won an in election in 2015 with pledges that included ending the insurgency that’s estimated to have killed more than 30,000 people in 10 years. Initial efforts by his administration drove the militants away from towns and villages they occupied.
In recent months, some of those gains have been reversed as the fighters benefit from a steady flow of arms from Libya across the Sahara Desert and an alliance with Islamic State. Government troops, meanwhile, complain of poor equipment and low morale.
The Nigerian army is currently 200,000-strong, with troops deployed in at least 29 of the country’s 36 states to contain various levels of unrest.
Since the start of the year, Boko Haram has released videos of executions of more than two dozen people, including soldiers, aid workers and Christian captives. In January, 17 soldiers were killed on the highway between the towns of Bama and Gwoza, in two separate attacks that add to the tally of increased militant activities.
If Zulum’s recommendation is implemented, half of the new recruits should come from Borno state, the birthplace of the insurgency that started in 2009, the governor said.
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The governor’s expectations are unlikely to be met “because the Nigerian Army and security services are already stretched thin,” Mathias Hindar, an analyst at London-based geopolitical risk consultancy Falanx Assynt, said in emailed comments on Thursday.
“Moreover, Nigeria spends up to 50% of its public revenue on debt repayments, which means that there are few resources left for large-scale recruitment or improving military equipment,” Hindar said.
Apart from fighting Islamist insurgents in the northeast, the armed forces must also contend with other security threats throughout the country. These include armed banditry in the northwest, deadly clashes between farmers and herders in central Nigeria and armed groups disrupting the flow of oil in the coastal Niger River delta. Bloomberg
Pix: Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state