OP RESTORE ORDER SITREP- Week Ending 14 December 2013

Situation Friendly Forces:

8 December: The BORNO State Governor Alhaji Kashim SHETTIMA presented the Shehu of BAMA, Alhaji Kyari Ibrahim EL-KANEMI N100m for victims of insurgent attacks in BAMA

9 December:

  • 7 Division has devised a new strategy to defend the border towns and villages of BAMA, KONDUGA, DAMBOA, CHIBOK, UBA/ ASKIRA and GWOZA from insurgent attacks. This involves patrolling the MAIDUGURI-DAMATURU, BIU-MAIDUGURI and MAIDUGURI-GWOZA Roads and securing the villages during their market days as most insurgent attacks seemed to take place on market days.
  • President Goodluck JONATHAN told French Radio Station RFI he welcomed the creation of an African Rapid Reaction Force stating that they would be useful in countering the Boko Haram insurgency. He did not clarify exactly what he meant by that
  • President Goodluck JONATHAN has announced the release of N1bn to upgrade detention facilities in the North East such as GIWA Barracks, BORNO etc
  • The National Security Adviser (NSA) Col Sambo DASUKI (rtd) has outlined a new tactic in the COIN offensive using Strategic Communications to identify and message key audiences

11 December: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has established a working group to investigate arbitrary and un-gazetted detention centres across the country

14 December:

  • Elements of 7 Division engaged a group of insurgents in a 2 hour fire fight along the MAIDUGUIR-BAMA-GWOZA Road, BORNO State killing 8 insurgents, destroying 3 vehicles and capturing 3 AK 47s. No reported friendly casualties.
  • 6 people have been arrested in relation to the attack on the traders on Monday 9th December

Situation Enemy Forces:

8 December: Insurgents ambushed vehicles along the GWOZA-FIRGI-NGUROSOYA Highway, killing 5 civilians

9 December: 9 females and 27 males were also allegedly abducted from 2 lorries and a pickup truck carrying traders from DAMBOA heading to MAIDUGURI along the MAIDUGURI-DAMBOA-BIU Road in the vicinity of LIMANTI/ BULABULIN NGAURA. The attack at 9.00am was launched by insurgents from the SAMBISA FOREST who burnt the 3 vehicles after the attack

11 December:

  • Suspected insurgents killed 9 people along the MAIDUGURI-DAMBOA-BIU Road, attacking a bus and car in the vicinity of BULABULIN NGAURA, DAMBOA LGA.
  • The Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh states that replacement aircraft and equipment had been sent to MAIDUGURI following the insurgent attack

12 December:

  • Insurgents attacked NGAURAMARI Village, BAMA LGA, BORNO State, 3 were killed by forces in the village. A follow up airstrike on insurgents trying to cross a river near FIRGI Farms, GWOZA LGA killed at least 22 others
  • Boko Haram’s Abubaker SHEKAU claims responsibility for the attacks on MAIDUGURI on 2 December in a video released to AFP. The 40 minute video consists of SHEAKU speaking (in Hausa, Arabic and Kanuri) for 19 minutes, images of burning buildings and aircraft from the attack as well as weapons captured by the insurgents. SHEKAU claims only 7 insurgents were killed 3 in suicide bombings, 3 shot and one ‘by our bullet attacks’ (friendly fire?). Issuing threats to the US, French, Israelis and the deceased British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Specifically taunting the US he stated “You stupid Americans, there is nothing you can do. You are saying that you will team up with Nigerian troops to finish us. You are liars that could not achieve that when we were holding sticks. And now we are marching into military formations…..Our operation is beyond what you know and think, it is beyond Nigeria and Maiduguri, rather it is for the whole world and we will get to you by the power of Allah.”

14 December:

  • Boko Haram has threatened to attack the University of MAIDUGURI and warned that they will be operating along the MAIDUGURI-DAMATURU-BAUCHI Road and DAMBA-BIU-GOMBE Road in a letter allegedly sent by them
  • 4 people have been reported killed in an attack by insurgents on ARBOKO Village in the GWOZA Hills, BORNO State that started at 2.30am , 100 houses burnt down as a result,


Table 1 Casualties

  Killed Wounded Missing/ Detained








Total NSF



















Table 4 Insurgent incidents

Insurgent Incidents  IED Vehicle IED Suicide IED Small Arms Small arms+IED Other wpns Theft Kidnapping











The morning after: as the country recovers from the audacious attack upon Maiduguri and the inevitable propaganda video emerges, this completes Boko Harams two presumed objectives from this attack i.e. destroying strategic battle winning assets and producing propaganda products aimed at the local and international market.

As the inevitable counter strikes emerge, Boko Haram once again falls into the reliable pattern of launching harassing attacks against civilians in remote areas along the highways or in the hills.

One would thus hope that this embarrassing set back would be sufficient to prompt a clear eyed review of the security arrangements in the North East. For what it’s worth, this commentator would recommend.

  • A comprehensive 6 years Counter Insurgency Strategy, based on the Clear, Hold, Build, Sustain model. This strategy must look at the conflict holistically and honestly and calculate how to defeat the enemy and keep them from regenerating.
  • As part of the above multilateral agreements with the governments of Cameroun, Chad and Niger, for a common Multinational Lake Chad command with its HQ in Bama centred around several Nigerian Battlegroups with attached Nigerien, Chadian and Camerounian units that build it up to Division (or hopefully Corps strength), that will coordinate operations on all sides of the border. Every offensive on one side of the border must be matched with either an offensive or blocking action on the other side
  • Recruit and train more troops/ police will be needed to secure the highways, the borders, the far flung communities, launmch strike ops and so on.
  • The enemy must be defeated in situ. This means sending soldiers into Sambisa Forests, Gwoza Hills etc and keeping them there. Forcing the enemy to spend his time and energy dislodging these troops or running away to a new area
  • Use the goodwill from the US and UK to get retiring US equipment such as light and utility helicopters, mine resistant recce vehicles, 1st generation Night vision and surveillance devices etc as well as training in counter IED, long range patrol, and air assault tactics, techniques and procedures.

Boko Haram still retains the initiative in this phase of the campaign having launched several successful deliberate attacks against high profile defended positions whilst using small harassing attacks to terrorise communities and travellers. They have not yet increased the level of attacks to the point where they are able to deny freedom of movement but it is fairly obvious that attrition alone is not enough to destroy the enemy.  A game changing offensive is needed.

Strategic Communications: in light of the NSA’s presentation on strategic communications this seems as good a time as ever to discuss strategic communications or Media Operations (or Psychological Operations /Propaganda/ Indoctrination).

Whichever moniker one chooses the process is essentially the same; identify what you want people to know, which people you want to know it, make sure they know it and believe it.

The NSA’s Strategic Communication Plan has the following themes:

  • The Unity and indivisibility of Nigeria as a nation
  • Democracy and the fundamental freedom of worship and belief
  • Public safety and good governance
  • Zero tolerance for violent extremism

The Communication Strategy was listed as

  • Good governance and Fast track democratization to eliminate conditions conducive to terrorism:
  • Emphasising national unity through patriotic initiatives
  • Civic education
  • Self Reliance:
  • Respect for our differences

The programme has identified 2 key audience groups

Small Audience: consisting of elected representatives, journalist, commentators, civil society and union leader, traditional institutions, teacher, business leaders, actors, musicians, youth and women leaders and religious leaders

Large Audience: consisting of people within and without the country, with BBC Hausa Service, VOA Hausa Service, RFI etc used as a means of communication.

In addition the Government will be building the capacity of student associations, Islamic Schools etc.

This effort is a step in the right direction as the authorities have been heavily behind the curve in terms of public relations and reporting in this conflict, permitting Boko Haram and bored journalists to set the narrative.

The UK military states that the aim of Media Ops ‘…is to provide factual information to a number of audiences via the media to support the aims of the UK Information Strategy’.

This aim is supported by 9 principles which while not perfect are a useful guide by which are

  1.   Force protection/ Operational security
  2.   Focus on the desired effect
  3.   Effects based Media Operations
  4.   Truth
  5.   Credibility
  6.   Timeliness
  7.   Preparation
  8.   Openness
  9.   Countering Disinformation

Let us review what is known about the new strategic communication programme using these principles:

1.       Force Protection/ Op Sec: force protection applies more to the selected organs of communications such as journalists, Muslim Student Groups, Imams etc. These groups will become targets for Boko Haram and a plan for their protection must be built into the scheme. Op Sec is of course paramount, in that the details of future ops must never be divulged and information that could be useful to the enemy kept secret.

2.       Focus on the desired effect: the desired effect is to defeat the enemies’ messaging by selling a positive idea of Nigeria. In order to set a narrative one must understand the enemy and their message and method of messaging. Boko Haram contrary to popular conception does not mean ‘Western Education is a Sin’.

Boko is an Hausa word that means fake or fraud. The British colonial government that defeated the Hausa kingdoms were considered to be fraudulent usurpers i.e. boko. To support their administration they brought Western education which was also considered fake or fraudulent compared to traditional Islamic learning, and those who went to western schools thus became boko, i.e. fake Muslims. Thus a government of this western model with secular courts, a constitution etc is fake, (in fact a popular insult was dan kilaki, ‘son of a clerk’, roughly equivalent to son of a bitch or son of a whore, which shows the level of regard for the western educated!).

It is important to understand this distinction as it ties in to the rhetoric of Boko Haram wishing to replace the Nigerian government with an Islamic Government based on Sharia Law. Their argument is that these boko or fake governments have failed as evinced by corruption and lack of development and that these can only be delivered by an Islamic government. This is not a minority view and would find much sympathy all over the Federation however Boko Harams utter brutality and ruthlessness has completely destroyed any popular support they might have enjoyed.

The question is how to distil and disseminate the counter narrative to different audiences in an understandable and credible method. A desired narrative or objective could be for people to Accept the legitimacy of constitutional government and Deny support to the enemy.

3.       Effects based Media Operations: having identified the underlying narrative one must identify the effects one want to have on the target audiences. Rather than defining large and small audiences I would define audience groups as:

Target audience Suggested Message Desired Effects
Friendly inhabitants in   the Area of Operations The FGN is here to protect   you and provide your needs. Keep cooperating InformEncourage
 Neutral inhabitants in the Area of   Operations The FGN is here to protect   you and provide your needs. We are willing to listen and react InformEncourage


Hostile inhabitants in the   Area of Operations The FGN is not your enemy,   do not oppose the government, in order for there to be peace and for   development to come. If you aid the enemy you will be punished. InformConvince
The Enemy The FGN has overwhelming   strength and ability, defeat is inevitable, the people are against you, there   is nowhere to hide, if you give up you will be treated fairly. InformConvince





Citizens beyond the Area   of Operations The FGN is fighting a   difficult war but is winning, support the troops, InformConvince
Local media in the Area of   Operations The FGN is proactive and   responsive. The COIN forces are professional, successful and complying with   the law and sensitive to local needs and customs InformConvince
National media/ Social   Media The FGN is proactive and   responsive. The COIN forces are professional, successful and complying with   the law in a difficult environment InformConvince
Non African language media   (French, English, Arabic) The FGN is in  control of the situation with professional,   innovative methods and requires the cooperation of other states and   organisations InformConvince
Foreign African language   media (Hausa, Swahili, Arabic, Persian) The FGN is in  control of the situation with professional,   innovative methods and will respond aggressively to any external interference InformConvince
Socio cultural/ religious   groups The FGN does not seek to   interfere with local cultural or religious practices and actively seeks to   reinforce them as long as the will of the FGN and SG is not opposed InformConvince


Friendly Forces in the   Area of Operations We are winning, the cause   is just, maintain the law, you are doing a good job, the nation supports you EncourageInform

4.       Truth: it is important to tell the truth. Truth however is a relative quantity and very much dependant on perspective hence it is quite legitimately considered the first casualty of war. E.g. Insurgents use a school as a weapons cache the military bombs it. The insurgent’s narrative will be that the military bombed a school (this is true). The military’s narrative will be that they bombed a legitimate target that happened to be in a school (also true). So truth needs to be rationalised and contextualised in order for it to have the desired effect. Outright lies and falsehoods must be avoided at all costs as they undermine credibility. It is easier to be truthful and use the information even if unpalatable to reinforce the narrative.

5.       Credibility: is key. If the information being disseminated is not believable, whether true or not it is a waste of time. Thus the methods of delivery must support credibility. Examples of things that could aid credibility include.

Casualty figures: A policy on casualty figures should be established. Accurate numbers of friendly dead should be issued. At the bare minimum those killed should be named on NTA News and private news channels encouraged to do the same, with brief obituaries. This reinforces the narrative and Informs and Convinces the population as well as Encouraging the troops

New Media Channels: Press conferences should be the last means of getting news out and used mainly to answer journalists questions. Information should be pushed out through journalists by email, press releases, websites, blogs (official and independent), photos, videos, social media sites, SMS and other mobile phone apps.

Media products: high quality media products are needed to support the above. High resolution photographs and videos, maps, fact sheets, graphics etc. The reality is that there is a complete dearth of imagery coming from the warzone. The only entity that has access to entire area of operations are the security forces, it is thus extremely strange that they do not produce photographs and videos from the war zone.  Videos of 30 minute speeches by Colonels or Generals might be useful to a tiny coterie of policy makers and intelligence agents trying to glean any changes in policy but are utterly pointless in terms of strategic communications. The public would be more interested in seeing video of equipment, troops in action and hear people’s stories, be they ordinary soldiers or citizens on the street. Not only does this humanise the conflict but permits the FGN to saturate the media with positive images. AMISOM and the French forces in Mali have an excellent media operation that produces quality products.

Talk shows: representatives should be readily available to appear on talk show panels on radio or TV, produce op ed articles or write letters into newspapers. As well as attending conferences and seminars. Although it might appear overkill, it helps also give an impression of efficiency and determination which again reinforces the positive narrative. Other than that appearing on such forums allows representatives to expand on themes and present counter arguments in a more in depth and public way than dry press conferences. I am yet to go to a single conference where there is not a Chinese rep, who always has something to say.

6.       Timeliness: despatches must be timed to hit the chosen news cycle, considering the multiple time zones across Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East that one would want to influence, it is also important that whatever the situation, be it the Maiduguri Attacks, attacks along the Highway etc, there is an immediate response permitting a friendly narrative to dominate the news cycle

7.       Preparation: a multi lingual, multi time zone media environment requires a 24 hour operation with a certain element of coordination the media is operating to deadlines that mean they will at times go with whatever story is at hand, an intelligent Media Ops programme will exploit this by ensuring that the best products and information are available to journalists by their deadline, so that a journalist who has to produce something will use that which is presented to them. It is also useful to have specific talking points for different audience groups so that even if a spokesperson is presented with a situation they have not been briefed on, they can deflect or defer the difficult questions but keep reiterating the underlying talking points.

8.       Openness: it is imperative to present an image of approachableness and use clear, easy to understand language and terms. It is important that spokespeople be either native speakers or extremely fluent in their given areas and have enough familiarity with the military terms and the general situation to opine intelligently.

9.       Countering Disinformation: the enemy will disseminate their own narrative, it is important to not only counter it but overwhelm it, thus if the enemy uses leaflets. SMS or other means, the Media Ops team must also disseminate products by these means and not be reluctant to specifically counter enemy propaganda. This s where truth and credibility become even more important

The media environment is a fundamental part of the battlespace in modern conflicts and can be even defined as Key Terrain in a COIN context where the war is as much for the will and support of the people as it is for territory. Media Ops must be included in the planning cycles of all operations from Division down to Company level with information disseminated in a credible and timely manner.

The 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam was an overwhelming comprehensive defeat for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, in fact the VC ceased to exist as an independent fighting force. Yet the Tet Offensive was the point at which the US began to accept defeat simply because the narrative of victory over an elusive foe using dubious body counts was shattered by that very foe penetrating allegedly safe and secure areas such as the US Embassy and fighting it out. That the NVA/ VC were defeated and demoralised was beside the point, the official narrative was discredited and seen as untruthful, the VC/ NVA were seen as limitless and undefeatable and the US public and politicians lost faith in the military. This is a salutary lesson in the importance of credible professional media ops in a COIN environment.

About peccavi

A Nigerian with interests in defence, security, geopolitics, the military particularly small unit tactics, COIN, stabilisation and asymmetric warfare
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