What to do with the Civilian Joint Task Force when insurgency abates?
The Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a militia officially authorized by the Borno State government in 2013 to help tackle Boko Haram, is apprehensive about its future in the event Boko Haram is no longer a threat. For years the extremist sect, Boko Haram, has wreaked havoc in the North East and the Lake Chad region, displacing 2.7million people and killing over 20,000; but while their potency is gradually being diluted by the Nigerian military, serious questions now arise about the employment future of the young men and women who now constitute the Civilian Joint Task Force.
Recently, the Military enhanced its offensive against Boko Haram, and successfully forced them to relinquish their positions and retreat deeper into the Sambisa forest. The Civilian JTF and a dozen other vigilante groups, played a pivotal role in turning the tide. They defended their communities and detained several terrorists whom they handed over to the military. They also joined in some of the raids on terrorist hideouts, successfully driving them out and rescuing their captives, most of whom are females. They engage in clandestine operations, most often disguised in plainclothes to mingle with suspected terrorists and gather intelligence which is passed on to the military.
Although they are mostly armed with machetes, hunter’s rifles and homemade weapons, they have no doubt caused an upset in the camps of Boko Haram and helped the military to reduce their threat to citizens. Faced with a possible end to the reign of terror, members of the Civilian JTF are beginning to wonder what the government would do with them when the war against terror is over.
In 2013, when the Borno State Government officially authorized the Civilian JTF, they were promised uniforms and a monthly stipend of about $100, with nearly 2000 of them receiving military training.
That has since stopped as they have been left to fend for themselves even though they continue to put their lives on the line in the service of the country. Some progress has been made however. In June, 350 Civilian JTF members joined the Nigerian Army after they passed through the recruitment process. Last year the state security service accepted about 30 Civilian JTF members into their ranks. But this is hardly enough to cater to the nearly 26, 000 registered members of the Civilian JTF.
According to Community leader, Bulama Mali Gubio; “They now know how to handle arms and ammunition. They are trained in the art of warfare. If after the insurgency you abandon them, then you are planting another seed of discord. They have sacrificed their lives. That’s why we’ve been arguing with the government to make sure that something is quickly put in place before the end of the insurgency.” Many of them now seek different forms of compensation from the government. Some want to be given lands and assistance to get married. Some want to return to school, while others simply want jobs to sustain themselves.
Whatever proposal the government decides to run with, something must be done to ensure that the end of one form of terrorism does not give rise to another, informed by a sense of betrayal and abandonment.