‘We have pre-empted the militants. Otherwise, the situation would have been bad. I’m calling on all the people of Bauchi to be calm and rest assured that the situation has been brought under control.’
These were the words of the former Governor of Bauchi State, Isah Yuguda after Boko Haram insurgents bombed a police station in the state.
Mohammad Yusuf (now late), the spiritual leader of Boko Haram sect formed the group in 2002 to advocate against Western education and establish what they described as an “Islamic State” in Northern Nigeria where oppressions from “unreligious powers” would be repressed.
A notable event in the series of crises by the group, was when its members were travelling en masse to the funeral of a fellow member in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. According to reports, they were stopped by police traffic officers enforcing the usage of helmets on motorcyclists. This, however, resulted in a brawl and subsequently, it snowballed into full-blown unrest.
In July 2009, the group strikingly confronted authorities in Maiduguri as its members reportedly opened fire on police officers and injured several officers.
Subsequently, Yusuf released several video clips where he sermoned and threatened the state authority with violence. The videos were disseminated and earned a widespread audience.
Between 2002 and 2009, the group wreaked havoc in the country, engaging in fierce conflict with police forces and non-compliant locals. However, the 2009 crackdown on Boko Haram members by police in Borno flared the inferno further.
THE ATTACK ON BAUCHI POLICE STATION
On July 26, 2009, members of the group armed with grenades and small firearms, launched an attack on a police station in Bauchi State, resulting in the death of 39 Boko Haram members, two police officers and one soldier.
This would later be escalated to other northern states — Kano and Yobe inclusive.
Yuguda after assuring the residents of Bauchi State of unhindered peace, declared a night-time curfew, mandating that the police maintained a visible profile. In a few days, the Bauchi State government cracked down on the group and arrested more than 700 Boko Haram fighters.
Five days later, the battle of Maiduguri ended when Nigerian security forces captured and killed Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf — an incident human rights groups interpreted as an extrajudicial killing. Yusuf’s execution was videotaped by soldiers and later broadcasted on television.
The death of Yusuf marked a turning point for Boko Haram. It was forced underground and many of its leaders reportedly fled to other parts of Nigeria, including Bauchi as well as neighbouring countries.
In Maiduguri, the police surrounded the group’s mosque, but members of the sect managed to break out and for three days they had the run of the town. They roamed the city reigning mayhem indiscriminately.
The police eventually regained control of Maiduguri, and then embarked on a bloody purge of the group’s members and anyone they suspected to be abetting or sympathising with the insurgent group. As of July 2021, the United Nations UN had it that over 350,000 people were killed in the conflict between the group and the security agents and in some instances, unarmed civilians.