The government should find answers to the following questions so that we can have a clearer idea of where we are, what we are facing and where we are going with the Boko Haram problem:
1.What is the approximate strength of the Boko Haram fighting force today?
2.What was the approximate strength of the Boko Haram fighting force this time last year, this time in 2012 and this time in 2011? An understanding of the strength of the fighting force and how it has grown or depleted will help us to understand how Boko Haram is growing or declining and give our armed forces a better idea of what we are up against.
3.How many Nigerians are in the active Boko Haram fighting force, and how many foreigners? An understanding of the nationalities of the fighting forces also lets us know what their recruitment strategies have been, where they have been recruiting from and how we can stem the tide of their recruitment.
4.What is average age of the Boko Haram fighters? Knowing this will also give clues as to their recruitment and what we can do to ensure they cannot successfully get new recruits.
5.Who funds Boko haram? Do they get their funding via the bank, cash, robberies etc. Whose funds do they use? Donations from individuals or nations? The money must be coming from somewhere and it is important we find that source and block it. If it is an individual then freeze their accounts and get them arrested, if they are other countries then use the United Nations and other international organizations.
6.Where is Boko Haram? The government should be able to say where Boko Haram fighters are mainly situated and give the average strength in numbers of members in various areas. The government should able to tell how many men, women and children are approximately in each Boko Haram area and analyse if they are there against their will or not. Knowledge of the geographical spread in numbers of Boko Haram members and fighters helps to plan a strategic retaking of territories and also to plan attacks against their camps in the forests.
7.How many people (men, women, male teenagers, female teenagers, boys and girls) have Boko Haram killed? How many were killed in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, an analysis of the killings will help us know where we are and how the insurgency is progressing. The government can only get this data by communicating with the villagers, coordinating information centres in each local government in the affected states etc.
8.From the answer to number 7 above, how many of those killed were killed during bomb attacks, how many by drive by shootings, how many by hit and run attacks on villages and communities, how many during attacks to take and hold villages and communities. Analysing the killings lets us know how they have been attacking over the years and what we should expect going forward, it also helps us in advising villages and communities on how to prevent attacks and how to react to impending attacks. It also helps the military to know how to prepare and protect communities.
9.How many people have been kidnapped (separate the data according to age group, sex and geography)? This helps us to know how many people we are looking for in total. We MUST ensure that we do not stop until we can account for every Nigerian abducted by Boko Haram. The Chibok girls are just a fraction of the total number of people kidnapped by Boko Haram.
10.How many Nigerian soldiers and policemen have been kidnapped or killed by Boko Haram. An analysis of when, how and where they were killed will help to understand Boko Haram’s strengths and the weaknesses of the armed forces. It will help us to know what to do going forward in other to have the upper hand against the insurgents.
11.How many fighter jets and helicopters of the Nigerian Armed forces have been shot down by Boko Haram, an analysis of the numbers and locations of the action that brought down the aircraft will help us to analyse what kind of weapons Boko Haram is in possession of, their anti-aircraft capabilities and the areas in which they have these weapons readily available for use.
12.What does Boko Haram want? Knowing what they want can help us to start separating the die-hard ones from the ones that can still be redeemed. The government must then create an avenue for the ones who are ready to drop weapons to come forward. They will be useful for intelligence gathering purposes and also for breaking the moral in the militants’ camp.
13.What are the economic issues that allowed Boko Haram to grow so big so fast? We must work with the state governments and the local governments to create economic opportunities in the boko haram regions. Agriculture should be a major focus. But government must also ensure the presence of government agencies in the region with immediate effect, the bank of agriculture must open branches in all the big local governments, the various government agricultural research agencies must also be in the region, police and military presence must be greatly increased in numbers that will intimidate Boko Haram militants. We MUST not neglect these regions because of Boko Haram, this is the time government must become very visible in these regions.
14.What have we given to families of dead officers and men of the armed forces and police force? The government must build a sense of pride by keeping in touch with families of members of the force, this will also help the public appreciate the armed forces better when the armed forces appreciates those who make the supreme sacrifice for them. The President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces should personally call the next of kin of every member of the police or armed forces killed fighting this battle to sympathize with them and show appreciation for their sacrifice.
15.What do Nigerians think? It is important that the government communicates with Nigerians on the Boko Haram problem. The president should address the nation at least once a month on the issue. The Minister of Defence should address the nation weekly and whenever any major event or attack takes place also. The people need to build confidence in their government; one of the easiest ways to build confidence is by constant communication. If the questions above are being answered and reviewed regularly it will form the body of most of the information the government will give to the people, of course the government should omit mission critical information that could provide clues for the militants or put lives in danger.
I believe if the government starts to ask these questions and get answers to them we will be making huge progress in our quest to defeat Boko Haram. If you have additional questions you can please add them in the comments section as we continue this discussion on solutions to the Boko Haram menace.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.