EXCLUSIVE: BH/ISWAP TAX SYSTEM: WHEN LOCALS ARE TORN BETWEEN LOYALTY TO GOVERNMENT AND INSURGENTS
The complexity of the war ravaging the North East region of Nigeria cannot be over emphasized, even as everyone is a victim. Residents are drifting into insurgency without their consent and against their wishes. Innocent children are being conscripted into the war as child soldiers and suicide bombers on a regular basis. Helpless women are becoming morale boosters to the dreaded insurgents who end up killing their husbands and children. Businessmen, driven by frustration and quest to survive are now in partnership with Boko Haram, risking clampdown from Government own troops.
In spite of the claim that Boko Haram has been decimated in the theatre by the military, it is still obvious that the insurgents are physically and psychologically holding sway in the region especially in the Northern Borno. The present arrangement of military protecting farmers while working on farm cannot be absolutely dependable, hence, some farmers and businessmen have been emotionally compelled to enter into an agreement with some elements of BH, to allow them access to the area, while they will pay tax to them in cash and otherwise.
Some certain charcoal dealers at Auno/Beneshek in Konduga LGA were in partnership with BH to access the bush and produce charcoal, which is in high demand in Maiduguri. The dealers in return were tasked by the insurgents to come with recharge cards, fuel (Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), motorcycle parts, etc.
Image of rice farmers murdered on their farmlands by Boko Haram insurgents in Nov, 2021.
At the end of the production, the dealers could not reach the BH elements in order to deliver the consignment. Unfortunately, they were intercepted by security agents who unraveled their mission and got them arrested. They are possibly going to be treated as BH accomplices or couriers. Similar pathetic stories abound in the theatre.
Fish farmers in the Lake Chad area of Baga in Kukawa LGA are farming at the mercy of Boko Haram, who are collecting tax from them before they could allow them to farm.
Recall that, the recent Zabamari massacre which claimed lives of over forty (40) rice farmers was not unconnected to the bad business between the insurgents and the farmers. It filtered into the public glare that the farmers have been paying tax to the insurgents until they started suspecting the farmers of fraternizing with the military hence, the gruesome murder.
The earlier the war ends the better for all and sundry. Obviously, the majority of the affected citizens are no longer comfortable with the handouts from the govt and other charity organizations. Hence, the aggressive nature of going back to their abandoned businesses even at the detriment of their lives. The insurgents are busy recruiting these desperate and vulnerable residents by exploiting them through various tasking and re-tasking. If this situation continues we may all end up a victim of circumstance.
This development underscores the need to keep the insurgents on their toes by government forces, ensuring they are not mobile which will guarantee the safety of the charcoal dealers and other businessmen especially the farmers. Which will enable them to defend their livelihood while the war lasted. There is a need to revisit the amnesty programme/safe corridor to accommodate these categories of conscripted accomplices.