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Published On: Fri, Feb 14th, 2020

The Auno massacre

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President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, flew into Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, three days after the terror group Boko Haram massacred 30 travellers overnight at Auno village, few kilometers from the Maiduguri city gate. The travellers, including children and women, could not drive into the city because soldiers guarding the gate had locked up after 5pm that Sunday. While they killed all male adults, they abducted children and women.

The massacre took place in the absence of Buhari who was in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to attend the summit of the African Union. He flew into Maiduguri directly from Ethiopia. Speaking during the sympathy visit, the President said the Federal Government, beyond ensuring that more proactive and decisive measures would be taken to put an end to the Boko Haram menace “once and for all”, called for cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the civil populace to achieve that goal.

Buhari said, “I assure you that improvement in security will be pursued vigorously. The military will work harder and (come up) with (new) tactics to deal with the insurgents. This is, however, not possible without good intelligence sharing and cooperation with local community leaders. Boko Haram cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs without the local leadership knowing because, traditionally, the local leadership is in charge of security in their own respective areas. I want to call on leadership at various levels to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and let us deny Boko Haram access to our loyal citizens.”

The Auno killings came only days after influential Nigerians across the political divide called for a change in military operational tactics in the counter insurgency campaign, including the sack of the nation’s service chiefs. In deed, after the Auno incident, the governor of Borno, Prof. Babagana Zulum, blamed the army for what happened. He said soldiers abandoned the village at 5pm, giving the insurgents “a chance to wreak havoc on Sunday. We made several attempts to get Nigerian military to establish their unit in Auno but as soon as it is 5 o’clock they close the gate, lock the people out and they go back to Maiduguri; that is what has been happening.”

The governor pleaded with the army to ask its personnel to relocate to Auno. He wanted checkpoints, including the city gate, constantly manned. But if they would not guarantee that, they should “speak up so that our government can do something about the situation.”

We deeply deplore the cowardly massacre of innocent travellers by Boko Haram at Auno. Before the attack, we had dismissed politicians who alleged a deterioration in the security situation in the nation as ones crying wolf where there was none. The Auno massacre, however, proved that the snake’s back may have been broken but it is far from dead. Worse still, the Sunday incident has emboldened the terrorists but eroded the confidence of the majority of Nigerians who have trusted the government to secure them. This trust has been further damaged by the attack on Jiddari Polo area of the Borno capital only hours after Buhari departed for Abuja.

While we agree that the military is doing its very best in the war on terror, we must accept that more needs to be done. The government should read the nation’s true mood and not dismiss it. The needful just has to be done NOW. Let us begin by investigating what actually happened at Auno and Gov. Zulum’s allegations against the army. The House’s suggestion of a state of emergency over insecurity should be given some thought for what it is worth. If the military campaign in the Northeast has become jaded and requires commanders with fresh ideas to give it a new momentum, why not, let Buhari go for them. He himself said in 2018 that “the war against Boko Haram is a must-win”. If that will not happen with the old hands he now has, let him get new ones that will think out of the box.

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