We’re waiting for govt permission to lead war against Boko Haram – Borno vigilante group commandant

Adamsi Tar is the Borno State Commandant, Vigilante Group of Nigeria.

In this interview, he laments his group’s inability to get government’s support to confront the Boko Haram insurgents.

Excerpts:

What is your name?

My name is Adamsi Tar. I am the Borno State Commandant Vigilante Group of Nigeria. I have been a hunter for over 20 years. There is no bush in this area that I don’t know.

What is the nature of your operations as vigilantes?

As vigilantes we are mainly hunters who specialise in hunting animals in the bush. We operate in thick forests. We don’t hunt in nearby bushes; we gather ourselves in large numbers and embark on hunting tour to forests; we can stay in the bush for three months without coming to the town. We eat the animals we kill as food. We can travel as far as 150 kilometres in the forest for hunting activities.

Who are the members of your organisation and how do you recruit members?

In Maiduguri and Jere local government areas alone we have over 1,000 registered hunters who converge on this office every day. We bring them here to brief them on how to go about their operations and also to address issues brought before us. Our members are purely hunters who either inherited the profession or learnt it and make it their means of livelihood. Before we accept you, we do a fact check on you based on the information given to us, after the background check, we give them identity cards and make them swear to the holy Qur’an that they will not sabotage our efforts. We also put our members through fortifications of different kinds to provide protection against spirits and evil forces. Though we know protection comes from God, we also need to be conscious because we know the challenges we encounter in those bushes, so we don’t want to take anything for granted.

It is believed that Boko Haram terrorists live in forests within Borno State; have you ever had an encounter with them?

Thank you for this question. You see, these terrorists are human beings like us, they have breath like us, they have features similar to ours, so, I will tell you boldly that we are not afraid of them. There is nothing they have that we do not have except of course their thirst for human lives and the criminality they are known for. Before the issue of engaging vigilantes and Civilian Joint Task Force, we were already working in tandem with the state Ministry of Works. These criminal elements of Boko Haram were vandalising electric armoured cables, stealing them and making life unbearable; that was between 2010 and 2014 during the peak of the insurgency. We apprehended so many of them, but the commissioner abandoned us and severed ties with us.

Coming back to your question, first I have to tell you that we have members across the 27 local government areas of the state; we have been combing the bushes in hunt of these insurgents, there was a time we spent over 90 days in Chibok when the Chibok girls were kidnapped. We were contacted and taken to the town; on getting there we were told a pastor and three women were kidnapped, we went in search of the kidnappers and fortunately we met them, after exchanging fire with the terrorists for hours we eventually rescued the pastor. Though seven of our men were killed in that operation, we succeeded in rescuing the kidnapped victims. We are ready to take the fight to the insurgents in their enclaves. Are they not human beings? Is it not one life they have? If all these are true, then we can finish them within a short time if given the chance.

So why have you not been able to engage them?

You see, you cannot just engage them without arms and ammunition. We don’t have vehicles to aid our movement into the bush. There is the issue permission too from the state government; so many bottlenecks that are hindering us. Since the coming of this present administration, we have sent emissaries to the governor to register our preparedness to lead the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists but up to this moment we have not heard anything from the governor. We have written letters to the governor, we have followed up with his commissioners and even the Shehu, we paid him a visit on this matter and all they keep telling us is that the governor will grant us audience soon. We have also written to the elder brother of the governor, soliciting his assistance to get us to meet with the governor and register our desire to engage these bastards, all we want from the governor is for him to give us vehicles and if possible pump-action or double-barrelled guns and leave the rest to us. I assure you we can rout those insurgents within two months. Who are they? We don’t fear them. They are not more than ants to us, we are well fortified, nothing can pierce our bodies so long as we do not touch anything evil.

Why has it been difficult for the military and vigilantes to defeat Boko Haram all these years?

I don’t know for the military but for the vigilantes, I can tell you without fear of any repercussions that all those people parading themselves as vigilantes are political thugs who are feeding fat on government largesse. Yes, the governor has genuine intentions to end this insurgency but the handlers of those Civilian JTF are playing politics with the whole thing. Let me tell you, those boys cannot go into the bush to engage the Boko Haram, they only use the vehicles given to them to patrol within the town, they don’t go into bushes where the Boko Haram insurgents are hiding.

The other time we were summoned to the state university by Governor Zulum and were told we would be given bags of rice, semovita and food condiments; but as we speak, we have not received a single grain in respect of that pronouncement. This is how they have politicised and hijacked the efforts of His Excellency. They have succeeded in blocking us from having audience with the governor to give him our commitment to fighting the insurgents. We are not requesting for money or any personal favour, we only want His Excellency to provide us with logistics and see what we will do to those terrorists; we will catch them like flies, one after the other and bring them to him in the full glare of everybody, let him just try us. If we fail, we ask him to do anything he wishes to do to us as punishment but I can assure you that we will never fail him and the state.

The governor has said Nigeria needs mercenaries to win the Boko Haram war. What do you think about this?

How can you bring in someone from a different place to come and put your house in order for you when he doesn’t know the terrain? That person will definitely fail because the terrorists we are talking about here are locals that know the place so well and can dispatch any stranger at anytime. Sometime back, the state government engaged the services of a mercenary from Bauchi State, he came to the state and requested for the services of some of our hunters which we obliged him but due to a breakdown in agreement the boys backed out and we later learnt he went missing. Different reasons have been given for his disappearance; some say he was kidnapped by the terrorists, others say he has been executed by the same terrorists. But over and above all, his mission was not successful and this was largely due to his lack of knowledge of the terrain.

So, if mercenaries are hired, how will they be able to carry out their mandate without adequate knowledge of the area? It will still be an effort in futility as they may end up not achieving the desired result.  Instead of engaging mercenaries, I encourage the government to provide us with logistics, give us an area of responsibility and give us a dateline and see if we will deliver or not. I am not bragging, but we will smoke out all those Boko Haram fighters from the enclaves with our local guns. This is our state, this is our country, nobody can claim to love our state more than us and no one can guarantee the security of our state more than us; all we are asking for is are logistics, we don’t even want any kobo from the government; let the governor just give us the benefit of the doubt and see how we will smoke the insurgents out within two months.

What is your thought about the recent massacre of over 43 rice farmers in the state?

That incident is one incident that caught everyone by surprise because we were all at the polling unit trying to vote when that incident happened. I cannot say anything different from what is already in the public space. Kwashebe is a village that has been deserted for a long time which the terrorists have been using as an abode. So, that they were able to slay such number of people without any disturbance goes to show how those terrorists have capitalised on our collective fears as a people because how can Boko Haram gather such a large number of people and kill them without any resistance from the victims? See, we need to educate our people to learn to overcome their fears and take the security of their lives into their hands. If those slain people had attempted to fight those insurgents, the situation wouldn’t have been that bad. I am sure there would have been casualty on the side of the Boko Haram too. But the people have developed this fever pitch fear at the mention of the name Boko Haram and it is working to the terrorists’ advantage. You will see two, three Boko Haram insurgents come to a place, kill people and loot property and leave without any obstacle. Why? Because they have succeeded in putting fear in the mind of our people. So, if we are given the chance to face these terrorists, we will show the people that they are no more than ordinary criminals because we will expose their lapses.

Governor Babagana Zulum says government should enlist the civilian JTF as soldiers to fight Boko Haram. Are you in support of this?

We don’t need to join the military to fight the Boko Haram. Let the government give us arms and ammunition and see wonders. Joining the Army or police is not the issue at the moment. Let them mobilise us and provide us with adequate equipment, then give us a timeline of six months and wait for the outcome of our operation. How can we be so careless to allow these terrorists collect guns from us? That is embarrassing.

The governor recently revealed the hideouts of the Boko Haram insurgents in Sambisa forest. Why can’t the military and vigilantes go there?

I told you we the vigilantes are local men with local guns. The military has aircraft; they have sophisticated weaponry that can be used to fight the terrorists. We don’t have any of such weapons. If we say we are going to face them at their hideouts how do we transport ourselves to that place? Before we get there they might have got information and run before we get there, so that is the challenge. But if we can be well equipped, we will finish them, no matter their numbers. – Punch.

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