There are strong indications that more Nigerians in the North are resorting to self help by taking up arms against the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Members of vigilante groups in the region are said to be procuring small arms.
The groups are different from the Volunteer Vigilance Youths’ Group, popularly known as the ‘Civilian JTF,’ which is modelled after the multi-service Joint Task Force formed to tackle the insurgency.
The vigilante groups, made up residents of villages that suffer frequent attacks by Boko Haram, are said to be gathering weapons with which to prevent their territories from further attacks by the sect.
A report by a United States-based newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, on Thursday said the people, especially in the North-East mostly affected by the insurgency, were moved towards self protection due to a “limited headway” the Nigerian military had made against the sect.
The journal quoted the New York Council on Foreign Relations as saying, “Many people in northern Nigeria, frustrated by a five-year insurgency and what they call a lack of military protection, are ordering what passes for bulletproof clothing, buying homemade muskets and organising ragtag militias.”
The WSJ report further said, “Their (Nigerian military’s) failure to help rescue the girls has reinforced a belief among ordinary people that only they alone can defeat Boko Haram.
“So, residents are assembling their own armies. Three closely linked vigilante groups have taken root over the past year. They count more than 11,000 members between them.
“At first, they were equipped with sticks, machetes and table legs. Now, they are scaling up, procuring locally made barrel-loaded shotguns cobbled together from car parts and scrap wood.”
The journal reported that a 74-year-old bean farmer in Maiduguri, Maina Bulama, stitched thick leather amulets into tank tops his customers wore beneath their shirts.
“I can’t even tell you the number of people I’ve given these to,” Bulama was quoted as saying.
A vigilante group made up of residents of Kalabalge, a town in the north of Borno State, had on May 14, 2014 mounted a fierce resistance to a siege by members of Boko Haram, killing 41 of the insurgents.