The Northeastern part of Borno state which is the birthplace of Boko Haram has constantly battled insurgency. The emergence of Boko-Haram in 2009 brought about the constant fear of attacks. The jihadist group began with rebellion against the Nigerian government in the fight for the establishment of an Islamic state in the region. The Islamist militants, whose impact has now spread across the Lake Chad region into neighboring countries, has killed more people than those killed in Iraq and Syria combined.
The emergence of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in June 2013 has led to a change in the narrative. The force was formed to fight against the Boko Haram alongside the military. They started with about 500 young Muslims with an increase in numbers yearly. Some of them were affected by the Boko Haram insurgency with the death of their loved ones while others were tired of the frequent killings. The CJTF has been encouraged by the military and both parties have worked for hand in hand to provide protection details for their missions. They inform security forces about probable Boko Haram activities and the members routinely guard the streets armed with matchets, bows, arrows, and stick on the lookout for suspects. Most members are now being paid by the Borno state government. Their activities in fact have led to the arrest of dozens of suspects.
There have however been mixed reactions in response to the emergence of the CJTF group. Late Deputy Governor, Zanna Mustapha, stated in 2013 that it is only the law enforcement agencies that have the power to arrest or detain suspected criminals like Boko Haram members or robbers. He also accused the group of taking law into their hands.
Festus Okoye also spoke in agreement with Mustapha stating that it was wrong to arm and encourage youths to take up weapons, block roads, make arrests and perform other activities with no legal back up. Analysts have also expressed fear of the CJTF’s activities saying the group may one day become unruly just like Boko Haram.
In the light of this, the UN Department of Safety and Security Team (UNDSS) has stated that the best way to professionalize and guarantee a well responsible CJTF is to ‘formally train them and integrate them into the security system.’ This was well heeded as the Borno State government in 2014 launched the Borno Youth Empowerment Scheme (BOYES) to train vigilantes in discipline, morality, and religious precepts. The scheme was to train 5,000 CJTF members. The program was to be implemented in the 27 local government areas of the state to mobilize participation. It was reported that about 1,802 CJTF members have been trained to formally join Borno State security forces.
The CJTF have continued to receive support from the government. Babagana Umara Zulum, Borno State Governor, disclosed that a new CJTF mobile team has been formed. Given the record of their consistent success and fights against the bandit coupled with their knowledge of the terrain and terrorists in the state, there was need for them to be given the role. 400 members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) have been officially absorbed into the army to assist in the 11 year-old war against Boko Haram terrorists. They are said to be the first batch to be recruited by the army.
Governor Zulum further approved the donation of 100 motorcycles for the army’s remote operations in the state as motorcycles were mostly used by the insurgents to escape through remote corners. He stated that the success of the military did not only lie with them but the CJTF who assisted in the fight against insurgency.
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