Since 26 November 2019 when some international news services broached the report of an intercept revealing Turkey’s arms shipments to Boko Haram, anxious Nigerians have waited in anticipation of an eventual denouement of the 10-year riddle: who is arming Boko Haram? The nearest to an authoritative response was from the Nigerian Army’s Acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, who volunteered that the temporary border closure and other strategic measures would plug the illicit inflow of weapons into the country. But he was reticent on Turkey’s support for Boko Haram. The veracity of the claims “in the video footage” that Turkey is supporting Boko Haram terrorists with weapons cannot be ascertained immediately. It is, however, a serious national security question, which, he said, was “receiving the required attention at the national strategic level.”
The CBN News Channel was first with the news that Turkey was a major supplier of weapons to Boko Haram. The AFP, the French News Agency revealed that the information came through an audio recording that is circulating in the YouTube channel quoting a senior executive of the Turkish Airlines, Mehmet Karatas, who was overheard telling Mustafa Varank, a former adviser to Recep Tayyip Erdogan when Erdogan was still the Prime Minister, his regrets about the arms airlifts to Nigeria. “I do not know whether these weapons will kill Muslims or Christians. I feel sinful,” Mr. Karatas was overheard telling the Prime Minister’s adviser.
An intercepted phone call seemed to have confirmed the arms deal to an Egyptian popular TV host on Ten.Tv, Nasha’t al-Deyhi, who emphatically stated: “Today’s leak confirms without a doubt that (Turkish President Recep) Erdogan, his state, his government, and his party, are transferring weapons from Turkey to – this is a shock, to where you may ask?—to Nigeria, and to whom? – to the Boko Haram organisation. Mr. Erdogan has long been accused of supporting jihadist terror groups.”
In September 2017, the Comptroller-General of the Customs, Hameed Ali, was to meet with the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria over arms shipments, some of which were intercepted at the ports. In May of that year, the Nigerian Customs Service seized 440 illegal pump action rifles at the Lagos port. This came five months after the NCS also intercepted a truck carrying 661 such rifles. On the whole, the Nigerian authorities have recorded at least 2,671 illegal weapons shipped from Turkey into Nigeria. The meeting of the Nigerian Customs boss and the Turkish ambassador must have gone well as nothing was heard thereafter. But Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the war deserve to know precisely what is going on in these issues. It is about two months ago when the former President of Benin Republic, Mr. Nicephore Soglo, volunteered that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Boko Haram. He offered his opinion at the constitutional term limits summit in Niamey, Niger Republic where he also suggested that Africans must stand united to solve their own problems and that it is an illusion to depend on others to do it for us. “Boko Haram is funded by our friends from Saudi Arabia, and our friends from Qatar. Are we friends or not? Let’s tell ourselves the truth. We have to stand together. I’m optimistic we are going to win if we stand together,” Soglo said.
The Boko Haram war is grinding towards its 11th year, with no end in sight. It is turning out to be one of the most frustrating national problems Nigeria ever confronted. Nigerians want to be victorious, but that seems dimmer every day, especially when we do not even know who our enemies are. It is impossible to tackle an unknown enemy, much less defeat him. We urge the Federal Government to conclude its investigations and advise Nigerians on the involvement of Turkey, a nation most Nigerians had thought was a friendly country. The allegations of President Soglo also deserve investigation. It is not possible for a small band of fanatics to engage the entire force of Nigeria in a war for more than 10 years unless they are backed by powerful forces. The average Nigerian is disappointed that the military, the government, the intelligence services have been unable to let Nigerians know the exact identity of those funding and provisioning Boko Haram; after 10 years, that it is nothing short of professional malpractice. The country is like pouring water into a sieve, investing billions of dollars in helicopters, a new production line for MRAPS, guns, fighter jets, and all manners of expensive equipment, yet we do not know who is behind the enemy we are fighting.
It is approaching five years since the Buhari administration inherited this war. It had promised to end it in a few months and Nigerians believed. Now it is beginning to look like a war without end.