On Saturday 28th November 2020, over 40 Zabarmari farmers were beheaded by Boko Haram insurgents. The incident appears to be one of the most gruesome execution perpetrated by the unrelenting terrorists. Touch down Maiduguri, Borno state capital; life seems peaceful and bubbly; unaware of the grave dangers that lie in nearby towns within the state. Terrorists’ attacks in the state and the Lake Chad Basin area, in general, have continually left piles of dead bodies and forced millions into displacements. The massacre of Zabarmari farmers is similar to what many are facing in the Northwest region where bandits hold sway. Bandits are reportedly levying farmers before they can harvest their crops.
Terrorism has worsened survival in Nigeria’s Northeast region—the steady displacements and reduced access to basic amenities, and now new risks associated with farming. With 10.6 million people in need of emergency humanitarian support, targeted attacks on farmers will exacerbate these dire conditions. The Federal government has condemned the attack on farmers and reiterated that the armed forces have been given all the support needed to protect Nigeria’s population. However, these attacks continue almost unabated. Should more citizens die in these senseless killings?
According to some reports, villagers in Zabarmari foresaw the danger after they arrested a terrorist and handed him over to security operatives. The assumption was that there would be retaliatory attacks by the insurgents. The report further holds that security operatives failed to act on the information the villagers provided. Meanwhile, Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu had said that farmers who were killed by Boko Haram on Saturday did not have military clearance to be on the rice farms.
These events indicate the disconnect between the community and the security operatives in the area. First, local intelligence has been suggested by many scholars as a valuable strategy in counterterrorism operations. Hence, advocacy has been on improving civil-military relations. It is, for this reason, security operatives must take the initiative to enhance the relationship between them and society. If local intelligence provided by residents are neglected to the point that it results in avoidable deaths, it will impact on their willingness to collaborate with the troops going forward.
Also, it is not enough to deploy the military to the region. Efforts should be more proactive. Military actions will only combat the trends of attacks and stop the reoccurrence. The military cannot police the whole area. Police, Nigeria Civil Defense and other para-military forces as well as civilian joint task force must be adequately trained and strengthened with the capacity to support the military in this fight. Overhauling, Nigeria’s security architecture is long overdue. For over ten years, insurgents have successfully battled the Nigerian state, and thousands have paid with their lives. Government needs to live up to its responsibility and commit to a reform of the defence and security sectors.