The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal said while visiting the scene of last Saturday’s Boko Haram attack in Dalori, about three miles from Maiduguri, that poor intelligence gathering by locals was to blame for the attacks.
He went on to say that locals should report strangers in their midst to the authorities.
Blaming victims for Boko Haram attacks is intelligence failure on the part of Lawal. If people are not providing vital information to the authorities, Lawal should be questioning why. The Nigerian army were warned hours before the attack on Chibok in which over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped two years ago and failed to act.
Many locals do not trust the security services and are reluctant to come forward with information for fear of either being arrested and labelled as insurgents, or because their details could be passed on to the insurgents, leaving them open to reprisals. The authorities need to do more work to earn the trust of the communities in which they serve, rather than just blaming the locals for not coming forward with intelligence.
Additionally, the human rights violations committed by Nigerian troops in the war against the insurgents, as documented by organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, including extra-judicial executions, deaths from starvation of many in custody, torture, extreme overcrowding and denial of medical assistance, and more than 20,000 people held without trial, many of whom could be innocent, will not win hearts and minds and encourage the cooperation of locals.
Lawal is right about “poor intelligence”, but that inadequacy is on the part of the authorities.