Lingering fuel shortages has forced the ingenuity out of the insurgent group-Boko Haram. The sect has been forced to produce its own fuel to power its motorbikes and support other energy related activities following a strategy adopted by the Nigerian troops to block all access to fuel supply to the sect.
The strategy, according to a reliable source, paid off as it immobilized the sect, making it difficult for the insurgents to conduct its business for several days. An escapee revealed that the acute fuel shortage caused by the Nigerian troops was the main reason the sect was quiet for some time.
The escapee said hit by the acute shortage, the leadership of the sect called a strategic meeting where it called upon the science-orientate members among them to devise means of generating energy to power their facilities.
A senior military source, who disclosed this, said the sect was not, only hard hit but had to pay through their noses to obtain fuel. “They were paying huge sums of money for jerry cans of fuel. The cost was not only unbearable but was highly risky,” the officer quoted a woman who recently escaped from the group to have said.
The officer said, according to the escapee, that Boko Haram engineers came up with the idea of converting groundnut oil into biodiesel.
“Boko Haram were paying outrageous sums to get fuel and the incredible profit margin made young men defy the risk and take fuel to them,” said the source in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
“The cutting off of fuel supplies has badly crippled Boko Haram and that has been made possible by blocking all identified supply routes and the crackdown on the suppliers,” he told AFP.
Fuel vendors seeking to exploit the group’s need for fuel could sell each 25-litre jerrycan for 50,000 to 70,000 naira ($250-$350, 222-311 euros) each, said escapee Ya-Mairam Ya-Malaye. A jerrycan of fuel in Maiduguri costs only N182 ($13).
But the risk of being caught up in a military aerial bombardment on Boko Haram positions has forced the vendors to stay away, said the security source.
Babakura Kolo, a civilian vigilante assisting the military against the Islamic State group affiliate in Maiduguri, said the militants would pay any amount to get fuel.
“It was a lucrative business for the fuel vendors,” said Kolo, who was involved in the crackdown against Boko Haram suppliers in the city.
“But we have taken care of them and Boko Haram are feeling the crunch because they are out of supplies.”
Nigeria and its neighbours Cameroon, Chad and Niger began a concerted fight-back against Boko Haram in January last year, recapturing territory lost to the militants the previous year.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the rebels, whose insurgency has killed an estimated 20,000 people and forced some 2.6 million to flee since 2009, can no longer fight conventional warfare.
Instead of its trademark hit-and-run attacks using pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, the insurgents have even mounted strikes on remote villages on horseback, bicycles or on foot.
Ya-Mairam Ya-Malaye, a 57-year-old mother-of-eight who was among hundreds of women and children abducted from the town of Bama in September 2014, managed to escape Boko Haram last week.
She said the group has devised a crude way of adding salt to oil extracted from groundnuts to make biodiesel for their motorcycles to mount attacks from their Sambisa Forest enclaves in Borno.
“They confiscate the groundnuts (that) farmers in villages in and around Sambisa cultivated all-year-round from their farms and irrigation fields,” she explained from Maiduguri.
“They crush the nuts using diesel-powered grinding machines to extract the oil to which they add salt to make it light and combustible.”
Boko Haram had been getting fuel from young men who would bring the petrol to designated points near Sambisa (forest) for the fighters to pick, she added.
Ya-Malaye said she was taken to Sambisa Forest from Bama and moved between camps as troops pushed further into the former game reserve in pursuit of the militants.
The offensives and heightened border security made it difficult for the militants to receive deliveries from fuel vendors from Maiduguri and Cameroonian border towns, she added.
In spite of this achievement, it seems the insurgent group may gradually be waning in strength as the Nigerian troops comb the forests, former strong holds and other hideouts of the sect.
Though Boko Haram have continue to launch sporadic attacks on soft targets including the most recent one against the convoy of the Chief of Joint task Force, the military incursion into their territory has been devastating.
The army, backed by the Nigerian Air Force, on Monday repelled an attack near the border with Niger in the northeast heartland.
The militants struck as the troops were on their way to the border town of Damasak where they wanted to set up a permanent base, a military source said. The army took the area back from Boko Haram last year, but has struggled to hold it.
“The Nigerian troops have successfully repelled an attack by Boko Haram terrorists who attempted an incursion into (the) 113 Battalion,” army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement carried by PR Nigeria, which releases government statements.
Kareto is the army’s next base in the area. “So far our troops had two officers and 22 soldiers wounded in action,” he said without giving further details.
Boko Haram controlled a swath of land in northeast Nigeria around the size of Belgium at the start of last year, but was pushed out by Nigerian troops, aided by soldiers from neighbouring countries.
The group has since stepped up cross-border attacks and suicide bombings against markets, bus stations and places of worship.
Meanwhile, as insurgent Boko Haram strength wanes, the Nigerian army reported more caches of weapons and supplies were uncovered in raids across northeastern Nigeria.
In clearing remnants of the militant Islamist organization from their forest hideouts, troops found hidden arms, NATO-style ammunition, a mortar tube and an underground facility in which food was stored.
“Troops recover large cache of arms and ammunitions concealed by Boko Haram at Gursum,” a Nigerian army comment on Facebook said.
In the Bama area of northeastern Borno state, “the troops discovered well-concealed observation posts on trees in the villages constructed by the terrorists to give them early warning of troops movement or approach,” an army statement said Sunday.
“In addition the troops found out that the observation posts though tree tops, were constructed in such a manner with chairs and ropes to pull up foods and other needs by the sentry without necessarily coming down the trees,’’ the statement continued, adding two Boko Haram insurgents were killed during the patrols.
The Nigerian government believes it has subdued Boko Haram, which has sought an Islamic caliphate in the country, after a six-year internal conflict. Patrols sweeping the country have found stocks of weapons and deserting insurgents as territory is freed and residents return to villages once overtaken by Boko Haram. The army also said it arrested key Boko Haram leaders through the use of wanted posters.


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