News / Africa

Civilians Join Fight Against Nigeria's Boko Haram

Nigerian soldiers ride on an armored personnel carrier in an area of Nigeria where an Islamic insurgency is raging, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 8, 2013.
Nigerian soldiers ride on an armored personnel carrier in an area of Nigeria where an Islamic insurgency is raging, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 8, 2013.
Anne Look
In Nigeria's northeastern Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram, hundreds of young men have formed units of a civilian vigilante group that now is actively working to hunt down militants alongside the military. In doing so, the vigilantes have themselves become targets.

At least 55 members of a civilian vigilante group in Borno State have been slaughtered by presumed Boko Haram militants in a series of reprisal attacks over the last month.

The most recent attack took place Friday outside the town of Monguno. Suspected Boko Haram militants dressed in army uniforms ambushed and killed at least 24 of the civilian vigilantes, who were heading out on a mission.  

The vigilante group is called the Civilian JTF. It is a machete- and stick-wielding freelance version of the military JTF - or Joint Task Force - that has struggled to put down the radical Islamist insurgency that has been raging in northern Nigeria since 2009.

Baba Garba Chajo helped form the Civilian JTF this June. He said their job is help the military, and that includes "hunting down and arresting" militants.

"In the past we were at the receiving end of the Boko Haram, but now we are the ones sending them on the run. We no longer fear Boko Haram because we have conquered our fears. And we have all sworn by the holy Quran to justly pursue our duties without recourse to worldly gains," said Chajo.

That's not to say there haven't been problems. He said they had to "get soldiers to shoot dead" several members of the vigilante group who were looting and attacking people in one village, something that he said is "worse than Boko Haram."  

The 35-year-old is a mechanic by trade, but he now spends his day and evenings driving the streets of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, searching for Boko Haram. He pays for the gas himself and said he is ready for "sacrifice."  

"We are not scared of death, because you only die once," he said. "If we just fold our arms and stand by and watch in fear, the Boko Haram would eventually come out to kill us anyways. So why do we have to entertain fear?"

Many locals are fed up with the insurgency and applaud the efforts of the Civilian JTF.  But analysts say the vigilantes mark a worrying devolution of the crisis.

The military encourages the Civilian JTF and provides them with protection details for their missions, but it has stopped short of giving them guns. The thinking is that locals know the communities and are better able to spot and track down militants.  

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said the Civilian JTF has been key to the ongoing three-month-long offensive that he said is helping to turn the tide against Boko Haram, despite continued militant attacks against civilians.

"We are being supported by vigilante groups so the whole thing is becoming too tight for terrorists. They are not happy. They don't even have liberty to move freely as they used to do," said Musa.

Others aren't so sure, though. The military has restricted access to the frontline and cell phone communications have been cut in much of the northeast. It's hard to independently measure progress on the ground.

In addition, there are concerns that backing the youth vigilante group will just open another Pandora's box.

Shehu Sani, head of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, said the military is "abdicating its responsibility" to these untrained and outgunned youth groups. "It is also clear that these vigilante groups are engaged in gross human rights violations by raiding, attacking and arresting people on suspicion of being members of the Boko Haram group. These people, they will someday grow to be another monster that the Nigerian state has to confront."

Sani said backing these youth militias only escalates the conflict, which already has killed more than 3,000 people, and has sown fear across northeast Nigeria.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: igbi
September 02, 2013 6:31 PM
I advice you to stop quoting shehu sani, he is a well known boko haram sympathizer. All he does is defend boko haram and accuse any body who is fighting against boko haram.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid