For the past 2 years or more, the Nigeria state has found itself up in arms against a resurgent Boko Haram terrorist organization. There have been innumerable bombings, killings and gun battles. Nigeria has almost the whole of Borno and Yobe States to these terrorists and has just about stopped them from gaining more territory across the North. To date, an estimated 3,000 people have lost their lives and there is no sign that this is ending soon as people are killed daily, particularly in the two states where the terrorist group almost reigns supreme.
Last Saturday, while Nigerian soldiers who had been deployed to engage Islamist rebels in Mali were on their way to join the French, Malian and other African forces there, they came under attack near Okene in Kogi State. By the time the dust had settled, 2 soldiers had died and 8 others were injured.
Naturally, suspicion fell upon Boko Haram. However, a different organization has come out to claim responsibility for the attack. Enter Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa), known for short as Ansaru. This little-known splinter group off Boko Haram has emerged in the past two months to claim responsibility for the kidnapping of a Frenchman working on a windmill farm in Katsina (in protest of what they termed as “the ban on Muslim veils by the French government) and the attack on the troop of Nigerian soldiers (“to prevent them from taking part in the dismantling of the Islamic empire of Mali”).
While the Nigerian government is yet to defeat Boko Haram, a smaller and potentially more dangerous armed group has emerged. With these two attacks, Ansaru has shown itself to be more specific in their choice of targets and responds more to international matters rather than just domestic issues. It has not laid down the demand for the implementation of Sharia law in the entire North as Boko Haram has been insisting, so what their endgame is cannot even be speculated.
It is for this reason I believe that President Goodluck Jonathan has taken the right decision to have Nigeria join the coalition of forces battling the Islamist rebels in Mali, which is actually another coalition including al-Qaeda’s North African wing, AQIM; and home-grown terrorist groups, Ansar al-Dine and Movement for Jihad and Unity (MUJWA). These groups, fresh from the Libyan crisis where many of them had fought on the side of the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who had also trained the mostly Tuareg rebels in his camps, have decided to adopt Mali as a nesting place. Their desire to create the Islamic Republic of Azawad has the potential to destabilize the entire West African sub-region.
If they should succeed, they would easily overrun the Niger Republic and we are going to see an increase in the inflow of arms and ammunition into Nigeria since our northern borders are porous, and with it, an increase in attacks and insecurity.
Nigeria cannot afford to treat these new and emerging security threats with kid gloves. It must descend on it with all its full force before it blows up to become another Boko Haram in our country.