The Borno State government has begun a new round of recruitment of local hunters to join the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency that entered its eleventh year in July.
Governor Babagana Zulum said he was seeking alternative approaches to ending the long-running conflict.
Sources in the state government and the Civilian-JTF told PREMIUM TIMES that the government plans to recruit 10,000 men with voodoo powers and hunting skills for the campaign. About 2,000 of them have already been enlisted from across northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, the sources said.
“The hunters are the “Yan-Tauri (die-hards) who have spiritual protection against gunshots and other kinds of firepower,” said one of the sources who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to journalists on the development.
“It is supposed to be a secret exercise but it cannot remain underground for long because the governor targets at least 10,000 potent hunters and the influx of such a number into the state will attract public attention.”
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter at the weekend observed the movement of strange civilians into Maiduguri, the state capital. Armed with hunting rifles, knives and amulets, they rode into the city in many vehicles, leaving residents wondering about their mission.
A state government source said the governor “is tired of the conventional means of prosecuting the Boko Haram war that seemed not to have provided the needed solution in the last 10 years.
“Even the military has been calling for civil-military cooperation to end the Boko Haram insurgency. We all have appreciated the role the Civilian-JTF is playing in assisting the military to fight Boko Haram.”
Another source explained to PREMIUM TIMES why the hunters were being drawn from the northern states.
“The majority of the hunters are sourced from states of northern Nigeria because of the obvious reasons like understanding the terrain and the culture of the people,” the source said.
“Over 2,000 of them have arrived in different batches and are enthusiastic about moving into the forests, with the military of course.”
PREMIUM TIMES learned that the hunters were screened and profiled by the military before they were enlisted.
“Once they are cleared, the government immediately provides them with allowances and brand new patrol vehicles to commence their operation with the support of the soldiers.
“More are still coming because some of them are called up from as far as Taraba, and Yola. Many of them came in from the northwestern states; some from far away Niger State. They are to join our colleagues here in Borno and Yobe.”
On Friday, Governor Zulum in Saudi Arabia enlisted about 30 Ulamas who are “devotees of the Ka’aba” (the Muslim holiest mosque) to offer daily prayers for an end to the Boko Haram insurgency and return of peace to Borno and Nigeria in general.
A PREMIUM TIMES report quoted the governor as promising to continue to “combine different approaches that include sustained support for the Nigerian Armed forces, aggressive mass recruitment and equipping of more counterinsurgency volunteers into the C-JTF, hunters, and vigilantes, as well as socioeconomic approach in enhancing access to education, job opportunities and providing other means of livelihoods through social protection initiatives.”
Earlier in January, the state government had also recruited 500 hunters to join the military in the fight.