#Bokoistan: Boko Haram 20,000 Sq Km Territory Larger Than 3 Nigerian States – Report

  • Over 20,000 sq km of land under occupation
  • More than 2m people in 10 LGAs affected

This report was done and first published by Daily Trust Newspaper.

By Abdullahi Idris
Boko Haram insurgents have so far seized control of over 20,000 square kilometers of territory in three North Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, involving over 2 million people in 10 LGAa, Daily Trust reports.
The area is larger than Imo, Abia and Ekiti states put together, as big as Bayelsa and bigger than Gombe State.
The land mass under the control of the insurgents is about the size of Wales in the United Kingdom or the state of Maryland in the United States, and bigger than Northern Ireland.
It spanned across ten local government areas and home to more than two million people.
The LGAs affected are Bama, Dikwa, Ngala, Kala-Balge and Gwoza in Borno; Madagali, Michika, Mubi North in Adamawa; as well as Gujba and Gulani in Yobe. The combined land mass of the occupied areas is 21,545.86 square kilometers.
In comparison, the combined land mass of Imo, Abia and Ekiti states is 18,203 square kilometres. Gombe State sits on 18,768 square kilometres of land, while Bayelsa covers 21,110 square kilometres.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has since declared the annexed territory part of an Islamic caliphate with capital in Gwoza.
But Shekau is thought to be holed up in his Sambisa Forest sanctuary, from where he administers his own brand of Islamic law across the areas his fighters hold sway.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the occupied territory and are now sheltering in displaced people’s camps in safer areas in the three states.
Tens of thousands more have crossed the borders into neighboring Niger Republic and Cameroon.
However, a great deal of people, who remained behind, including women and children, are now trapped. Many among them are being killed in a systematic manner.
First, the insurgents seek out and kill community leaders and government officials. Next, they go after religious leaders and youth who don’t share their world view.
“Life in Boko Haram land is brutish. They kill, harass and brutalise people for unjustifiable reason. They take away young women and girls; and they treat businesses left behind by fleeing residents as war booty,” said a man who fled Bama when the militants struck in September.
President Goodluck Jonathan revealed during his recent trip to New York for the UN General Assembly session that over 13,000 people have so far been killed since the Boko Haram violence erupted in 2009.
Military authorities wouldn’t comment on the number of troops so far killed trying to put down the uprising.
The conflict has taken its toll on all spheres of life in the region. Billions of naira in businesses have been ruined in the North East, especially in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Students have not been to school in many parts of the three states where insurgency is strong. In Borno state the government announced lately that schools will reopen this month after seven months of forced closure.
The insurgents began to annex territory on the onset of the rainy season, and today the farmlands lay waste as residents fled for dear life from the affected areas.
Commenting on the state of the military campaign against insurgency, two retired military officers told Daily Trust that both the government and the military high command must show greater commitment than they are doing at the moment.
“The President must be sincere in his approach to the war. The country is losing territory; soldiers are being killed and losing equipment to insurgents. That does not speak well of the government and the country,” said a retired colonel who preferred not to be named.
A retired brigadier-general, who also wouldn’t want to be named, said the military should rethink its strategy in a way that it will seize the initiative from the insurgents in order to reverse the current trend and win the war.
“The insurgents use unconventional ways in their fight against the military. They use anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades for ground operations. No conventional army in the world does that,” he said.
“This tactic is generally used by guerilla fighters and it is frustrating and can cause the war to drag on for many years. In the circumstance the army should adopt other strategies. They know what to do; they should bring in the big guns – the artillery pieces, the mortars, call in the Air Force. They should also modernise,” he added.