Beyond Numbers: the Real Cost of Boko Haram Insurgency
The current Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria sends shivers down spines of citizens and non-citizens alike. The Nigerian economy and state is being crippled by the raging insurgency. As we decry the insurgency, there’s a strong need to start counting its cost by placing the carnage in perspective; painting a picture and attempting projections on the impact of the insurgency on the Nigerian state and its neighbors. This Special edition of West Africa Insight on Boko Haram seeks to focus on the real issues in the insurgency and the counter-insurgency strategy to date; while also stimulating debates on the real cost of Boko Haram insurgency beyond the mere allusion to numbers of casualties and damages on physical facilities.
Since the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency, beyond the high number of deaths recorded, the socio-economic and political fabric of sections of Nigerian society and its neighbors are severely shattered. The economy of the Northern Nigeria which services the country and largest sections of the Sahel belt is being crippled. The impact of the insurgency both from the state and insurgents is undermining the will of the people. Tourism, agriculture, health, education, family life – among other things – are being torn apart .
Before this insurgency, the North-East Nigeria had a 35 percent literacy rate as opposed to 77percent obtainable in other parts of the country. 77 percent of women in the North -East of Nigeria have no formal education, compared to 17percent in other parts of the country. North East Nigeria records the highest number among the estimated 10.5 million out-of- school children contained in a UNESCO report. Attacks on schools, pupils and their teachers have negatively impacted on education in the zone, Actionaid Nigeria reports that as at February 2013, over 200 schools have been destroyed in Yobe State and over 800 classrooms destroyed in Borno State while over 15,000 children have stopped going to school in Borno State1. The numerous attacks on schools in 2014 are expected to have greatly increased by the figure released by Actionaid Nigeria. The killing of over 59 students at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, in Yobe State and the recent abduction of over 200 school girls writing their Senior School Certificate Exams (SSCE) at Government Secondary School Chibok by the insurgents have further dampened the morale of parents to send their children/wards to school while heightening fears of pupils to access formal education. This portends serious threat to the education in the zone while further widening the educational gap between geo-political zones in the country.
According to a United Nations refugee agency, 350,000 inhabitants of northeast Nigeria are now refugees in Cameroun, Chad and Niger while 470,000 Nigerians have been displaced internally. In another account, the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on April 2014 admitted facing challenges in resettling 250,000 persons displaced in the northeast Nigeria by the Boko Haram attacks. The high number of persons displaced in the ongoing insurgency is not only scary but also if not taken care of is likely to precipitate resource conflicts in the future as the probability for competition over land and other natural resources rise.
One of the areas not accorded enough attention in the raging insurgency is its adverse effect on agriculture and food security. Farming is being frustrated in the northeast, inhabitants of many parts of towns and villages such as Maiduguri, Konduga, Mafa, Dikwa, Damboa, Kala-Balge – just to mention a few are no longer farming due to incessant attacks by the insurgents. Those who successfully farm in Ajigin, Talala, Konduga and Zabarmari communities had their harvests stolen and farms burnt by the insurgents. Projects such as the government rice/wheat scheme under the Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA)in which the government invested
millions of naira is not left out. Over 19000 farmers were sacked from their rice and wheat fields by the insurgents. Farmers could not harvest their crops leading to food wastage and loss of investments. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that about 65% of farmers in the North had moved to the South arising from Boko Haram attacks. Large quantity of food consumed in Lagos and other South-west states come from the North as the zone that supplies important food needs of the Sahel. The once buoyant fish industry in Borno State used to service Cameroon. The World Food Program (WFP) has acknowledged the challenge of insurgency on its supplies as it is not able to procure its supplies from Nigeria for supplying food needs of the fragile famine prone Sahel belt.
Before the insurgency, Northeast Nigeria had poor healthcare services with very high maternal mortality ratio and morbidity rates. Borno state, for instance, has a maternal mortality ratio of 1549 per 100,000 lives. The situation is now compounded by the insurgency. Arising from attacks on the hospitals and their staff, healthcare personnel who provide services at the primary health care level, notably: immunization, maternal and child health, family planning, public health education, environmental health etc. have relocated from the communities leading to the collapse of the health care system and compulsory medical tourism as patients have to travel to Cameroon to access health care. At the moment, Polio vaccinations and campaigns have stopped in virtually all the Boko Haram prone areas. This is so despite the fact that states like Borno accounted for 14 of the 53 polio cases recorded in Nigeria (2013 Global Polio Eradication Initiative). On the implication of frustrating polio vaccine in Yobe and Borno states, Pryanka Khanna, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokeswoman in Nigeria told IRIN, “For the eradication of polio in Nigeria and the world, Borno and Yobe states cannot be left out. Also of great consequence is that, from December 2013, residents of Baga community have had an outbreak of cerebral fever without any form of medical attention, leading to the death of many in the community.
Nigerian state, in the last three years has spent huge amount of monies that would have been put to infrastructural development in combating insurgency. In 2013, the state spent about N1.055 trillion on security representing an increase of N135 billion on what was spent in 2012. The 2014 budget on defence is about 1Trillion naira. As the state continues to use large sums of her revenue in fighting insurgency, development and growth is being frustrated as the major achievement of the political leadership is guaranteeing peace and security.
The insurgents’ attacks on churches, police stations, military barracks, banks, beer parlors, media houses, motor parks, schools, market places, United Nations building etc. has made the state lose track of numbers of deaths. Some of the highlighted cases of the attacks show that the 2009 attack on military and mosques in Maiduguri resulted to the death of over 700 persons. While in December, 25th 2011, 20 persons were killed at the Catholic Church bombing in Madela, Niger state. The January 2012 attacks in Kano led to the death of at least 185 persons. In September, 2013, 40 soldiers died from the Kasiya Forests in Borno State attack. In April 2013, about 200 persons were killed in Baga community in Borno State.
The year 2014 saw the escalation of insurgency. In January 2014 alone, over 115 people were killed in Borno and Adamawa States; followed by 67 persons at Konduga, Borno State February 2014. Also in February 2014, 146 were killed at Izghe, Gwoza Local Government Area, Borno State. On April 14, 2014 78 deaths were recorded at Nyanya Motor Park attack. The highest casualty was recorded at the May 6th, 2014 Gamborou Ngala community, Borno state where 300 deaths were recorded. It is fundamental to note that there have been numerous deaths recorded from different attacks with some of them, not even reported. The editorial has not covered the full scale of deaths recorded but highlighted some of them in order to provide empirical evidence of the cost of insurgency to Nigerian state. Houses and businesses are being razed down by both the insurgents and the government forces, we are not aware of anybody doing the evaluation of these losses to draw up a ‘Marshall Plan’ to lift the area out of the abyss of poverty which is one of the causal factors of the insurgency.
The cost of the insurgency so far has been reduced to the numbers of lives lost, with no attempt to put names. A critical analysis of the cost of the insurgency has become imperative for the development of any sustainable and equitable Marshall Plan for rehabilitating North East Nigeria.