Nigeria's ongoing battle with Jihadists in the North East has amounted to colossal losses in terms of human lives(military and civilians) and material ruins for over a decade. Despite the Nigerian state maintaining that the Boko Haram terrorists have been substantially defeated, the group's onslaughts are still as fatal as it has mostly been. Today in Damboa, Borno state, an ambush by the Islamist group led to the death of 10 Nigerian soldiers while about 9 others were seriously injured. Retrospectively, the 10-year-old war has witnessed fatal attacks on military outfits and convoys in a bid to undermine the efforts of the Nigerian troops in effectively waging war against the Jihadists.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, since 2011 over 37,500 people have been killed with about 2.5 million forcefully displaced. With no end in sight, the precarious nature of the region is troubling. Over the periods of stinging attacks on military bases and fatal ambushes, there have been advocacies to involve resident in the counterterrorism warfare in terms of gathering actionable local intelligence. This means that residents in the war zones will act as the eyes and ears of the Nigerian troops, making available intelligence that will improve the effectiveness of the war against terror. Nigerian troops cannot be everywhere all the time due to the technological gap and limited personnel. Residents in the region will complement these inadequacies by providing on the ground support in the form of information gathering that will prevent fatalities like the one witnessed in Damboa today.
While local intelligence may appear all rosy, the bulk of the work still lies on the Nigerian troops to set an enabling environment for local intelligence to be generated. For instance, there have been reports of brutality by some military personnel in the region. Such incidents are red flags for residents as it will discourage them from rendering any form of help that will aid in the war on terror. Equally, one effort is to generate local intelligence, another is to committedly verify such information and take the necessary steps to see that it is effectively utilised.
Classified communications channels between the Nigerian troops and locals should be established to ensure the rapid transmission of information. Such information should also be verified to ensure its authenticity and the informants kept anonymous to prevent revenge attacks. It is also important for the Nigerian state to takes its defence serious. Committed investments in modern military gadgets will help in effective surveillance of the region. With the full utility of gadgets such as drones and authentic sources of local intelligence, Jihadist ambushes in the region are largely avoidable.