More and more people in the three troubled North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe are ordering what passes for bulletproof clothing, buying homemade muskets and organising ragtag militias, Wall Street Journal reports.
Nigeria may soon witness vigilante groups of “new generation”. They will be different from the ‘Civilian JTF’ (Volunteer Vigilance Youths’ Group). The new groups will be better equipped, as the residents are gathering weapons to defend their territories from terrorists.
Vigilante groups went looking for suspected militants after the attack on Giwa Barracks, March 14
New York’s Council on Foreign Relations estimates that over 14,000 people lost their lives in three years due to Boko Haram insurgency. All in all, the unrest lasts since 2009.
The people are extremely tired of it. Their move to protect themselves is explained by endless suicide-bomb attacks, killing sprees and mass abductions of boys, girls and women. Another aspect is poor progress made by the Nigerian Army against Boko Haram sect.
Failure to bring over 200 GGSS Chibok schoolgirls back to their homes, even with the help of a British spy plane, US drones and satellite data, made the ordinary people believe that only they alone are responsible for their fates and for defeating Boko Haram.
So the locals are gathering their own armies. Three biggest vigilante groups deepen cooperation. The WSJ estimates that over 11,000 members are among their members.
Related: Adamawa Vigilantes Kill 70 Starving Boko Haram Members
They are no longer equipped with just machetes, table legs or sticks. Group members get barrel-loaded shotguns cobbled together from car parts and scrap wood from local gunsmiths.
Boko Haram has declared a hunt for weapon specialists, killed some of them in the village of Damboa, where some traditions of rifle-making existed for decades.
However, the treasurer of a gunsmith’s guild, 90-year-old Mustapha Kabuke, was lucky to escape death by relocating to a nearby village.
The old man has his five apprentices, who know how to assemble a musket. The group is full of orders, since vigilantes started mass procurements of guns.
Kabuke keeps his prices as low as possible, a bit more than N8,000 ($50) for a musket, “so that every person will have a gun to defend himself”.
Another person, who helps vigilantes to get better equipment, is a 74-year-old bean farmer from Maiduguri, Maina Bulama. He stitches thick leather amulets into tank tops customers wear beneath their shirts. He learned this craft from his ancestors, who like him sewed Islamic prayers into the product for divine favour.
“I can’t even tell you the number of people I’ve given these to,” Bulama said to journalist.
At the same time, the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, thinks that the more arms the population gets the bigger the problem grows.
He fears armed militias and vigilante groups could “end up becoming the Frankenstein monster that will consume us” and his administration is doing its best to avoid it.
Related: Vigilantes Kill Eight Boko Haram Members, Capture One Alive In Borno
It would be noted that Boko Haram suffered the biggest defeat in the past several months in the town of Rann in Kalabalge LGA of Borno State, when 200 Boko Haram terrorists were killed by defending residents on May 13-14, 2014, showing how self-defence may be more effective than military.