As the combined military intelligence-led operations pounce on Boko Haram jihadist groups on the ground, and the Air Force strikes their hideouts from above the sky, there is an urgent need for the Nigerian and regional Navy task force to deploy ‘Operation Follow The Waters’, with the Falcon Eye Technology to detect, intercept and sink Boko Haram ISIS remaining escape waterway routes and maritime survival tactics along Baga axis and the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin. 

The Insurgency war that began in July 2009 ravaging the three states of Borno-Adamawa and Yobe (BAY States) in Northern Nigeria will be in its 11th year by 2021. The Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Police, the regional Multi-national Joint Task Forces (MNJTF ) of Cameroon, Niger Republic, Chad and Benin; Local Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF); and local hunters have been fighting terrorist and criminals mainly linked to the factions of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau JAS and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) of Amir Abubakar Ba Lawan.


Overall, and since 2015, Boko Haram terrorist and organized criminals operating in Northern Nigeria and the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin have continued to suffer massive ground and aerial coordinated targeted strikes on their stronghold by national and regional military and Air Force security agencies. These intelligence-led operations have prevented and foiled many attacks leading to a significant reduction in the number of terrorists related violent incidents on soft and hard targets within Northern Nigeria and regional states as recorded by the Global Terrorism Index 2020.

Boko Haram Exploits the Unmanned Waters in The Lake Chad and Baga:

While the Nigerian/regional Army and Air Force capabilities coordinate to pursue Boko Haram groups on land and strike them from above the sky, the jihadists have taken advantage of a two years gap in several unmanned waterways along the Baga Axis and the Lake Chad Basin to manoeuvre and escape from the state and regional forces. Local impeccable sources have alerted this visible absence of an active and effective naval component in the North East theatre of war since 2018 – pointing out a significant presence, control and benefit from associated fishing activities – given Boko Haram terrorist units a means of survival; a tactical escape route and operational logistics waterways channel for the transportation of jihadist fighters and other clandestine activities – smugglings of arms and ammunitions; food items; petroleum items; illegal taxation of local fishermen and processing of fish.


The Nigerian Navy continues to support the MNJTF and ‘OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE’ from Maiduguri- Borno state capital but its structural capacity has not been restored since it withdrew its frontline personnel from its Mile 3 base - about 3 km from Baga town – Kukawa Local Government Area (LGA) following a massive attack by the Islamic State West Africa exactly two years ago – December 26th 2018. The Naval outpost eventually retreated to Maiduguri from its Fish Dam location after resisting several other attacks by Boko Haram to overrun its base.

Boko Haram ISWAP units operating in the Lake Chad basin and Baga Axis continue to benefit from porous waters to smuggle arms and ammunitions at the operational and tactical disadvantage of the Nigerian military and regional MNJTF member states. The jihadist are known to control a regular fishing industry trade in the Lake Chad region – taxing local and regional merchants and fishermen from Cameroon, Niger Republic, Chad and Nigeria for access and protection fee - a key source of terrorist operational funding.

The world Food Programme estimated a revenue of about $48 million in this region came from fishing and red pepper trade before the insurgency – with the insurgency, this figure could be more with jihadist applying zero fishing regulations in the areas they control. This illegal trading has given rise to a new network of criminals liaising with Boko Haram jihadist for a common financial interest.

At the same time, several waterways along the Baga and Lake chad axis provide Boko Haram ISWAP units with a guerilla style launching ground and retreat escape routes using locally manufactured canoes and flying boats.  

Deploy Nigerian and Regional Navy Capabilities:  

As Nigeria and Lake Chad Basin states approach the 11th year of the insurgency in a couple of days, the Nigerian military and regional MNJTF states should consider deploying a robust, coordinated and well-equipped Navy Specialist Task force to deal with the current identified Maritime loopholes. . This Navy Task Force could benefit from the modern day tried and tested Falcon Eye Technology with the battlefield capacity to monitor, alert, foil and intercept criminals and terrorist activities in complex fishing and narrow waters of Lake Chad and Baga Axis.

The tested Falcon Eye Technology (FE) by the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) has the capacity to enable the Nigerian and regional Navy unit to re-deploy to the Baga Axis and the Lake Chad basin with a planned operational end to end real time program to detect, track, alert and facilitate the interception and foiling of a wide range of terrorist and illegal activities.

The FE has a powerful sensor, a smart analytic software , if effectively deployed, it can cover the entire Lake Chad basin states down to the Baga Axis - up to 200 Nautical miles. FE uses the Maritime Operation Intelligence System (MOIS) to identify illegal activities within the coverage area. Sensors (Radars, AIS, Electro optics) are used to capture maritime activities and using set rules to determine a normal operational procedure or otherwise. The MOIS is able to identify abnormal activities such as vessel to vessel proximity, illegal change of route, activation and deactivation of vessel AIS signal etc. This ensures that the eventual alerting brings out the targets of real interest that truly act abnormally and that present suspicious behaviour. This is achieved by matching patterns of terrorist and illegal maritime activities, such as illegal fishing, weapons smuggling and transportation of fighters from one location to another.

The Lake Chad basin terrain and jihadist activities will require the deployment of the Navy with the capacity to communicate and coordinate instant maritime and land operations from the Theatre of Command HQ and situation control room. The Navy should also benefit from over the Horizon Radars to survey jihadist activities from miles away; Fast Interception Boats for response and manoeuvre ;Mobile Surveillance Vehicles; Offshore Patrol Vessels; Maritime Patrol Aircraft Regional Command & Control Centre; Tactical Knowledge & Training Centre for continuous assessment of the changing dynamics in the maritime environment.

This centre has the potential to provide the Naval authorities and Operational forces with the means to operate the Surveillance System formation, monitor, and control all maritime operations ranging from intelligence gathering and assessment through the actual operations of the forces.


Since the beginning of the insurgency 2009, Lake Chad basin national and regional states have placed more resources on ground tactical and operational needs of the territorial army, special forces and to some extent, the Nigerian Air Force ISR units. The Nigerian and regional Navy forces have not consistently prioritized Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) deployment capabilities against Boko Haram terrorist and criminal activities in the complex waters on the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin states – this is now practically and technically possible with the all-in-one FE technology. The deployment of a well-equipped and trained Navy task force in 2021 in the Lake Chad Basin and Baga Axis will close the huge gap exploited by Boko Haram ISWAP units to escape, but also survive from daily intelligence led operations launched by ground and aerial national and regional security forces. 

Todays constantly evolving asymmetric warfare, particularly the war on terror in the North East of Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin states against ISIS affiliated Boko Haram factions , requires both national and regional states and frontline strategic security agencies to constantly study the enemies changing operational behavior and apply effective intelligence led tactical countermeasures – In this case, the operational behavior of terrorist means the army (ground), the Air Force (Air) and the Navy (waters) must coordinate to drown all Boko Haram’s violent activities in the region.

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About The Author

David Otto is an International Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert and the leading Director of Counter Terrorism at the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies (GCASSS). He is also the Director for Counter Terrorism Programme Design for the UK based - Stepped In Step Out Ltd - He is a Certified Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a program trainer with the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB).



Twitter @ottotgs


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