“I am optimistic that there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” said Alhassan Ayuba, a market trader in Maiduguri, the northeastern city at the heart of the Boko Haram crisis.
In recent years the Nigerian military has adopted a defensive strategy in the northeast, retreating to garrison towns that it has christened “super camps,” digging trenches around them and waiting to repel Boko Haram attacks rather than going on the offensive against the militants in their hide-outs.
The change of leadership presents an opportunity to scrap the super camp strategy, said Ahmed Jaha, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives from Borno state, and one of those pushing for change.
The super camp strategy was “a deliberate attempt by the Nigerian Army to shield themselves from Boko Haram attack, thereby exposing harmless, unarmed civilians,” Mr. Jaha said.
He represents a constituency that includes Chibok, where in 2014, hundreds of schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitories, causing global outrage. More than 100 of the Chibok girls are still missing, and many of their parents have since died, Mr. Jaha said, putting their deaths down to the stress and trauma they had been through.
“To deal with insurgents, you have to be taking the battle to their doorsteps. You cannot remain in a camp and claim that you are fighting insurgents,” he said. “The idea of super camps is not going to finish this war.”
Another of the military’s toughest public critics was the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum.
“The Nigeria Army has failed us,” he told local reporters in December after 35 people were abducted on a short stretch of road that led to Maiduguri, the state capital. He said that soldiers and the police were “harassing and collecting money from innocent travelers” instead of doing their jobs, adding: “I cannot foresee the capacity of the army ending this insurgency any time soon.”