Exactly a year after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a “state of emergency” in north-eastern Nigeria, it seems to have had little effect in curbing the Islamist insurgency.
Attacks by the Boko Haram group that provoked the move included an assault on a military barracks, detonating a bomb at a bus station in the northern city of Kano and the kidnap of a French family, including four children, which grabbed the world’s attention.
The declaration would bring “extraordinary measures” to bear against the insurgents in order to “restore normalcy” to the region, the president said.
“The troops have orders to carry out all necessary actions within the ambit of their rules of engagement to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists,” President Jonathan said.
Now, after 12 months of state of emergency powers being in force, in the past few weeks Boko Haram has attacked several military bases, bombed a busy bus terminal in the capital, Abuja – twice – and launched an audacious kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok which has set the world on edge.
“When they declared it I thought it had to be tried,” says Habeeb Pindiga, editor of Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper, “but honestly it has not succeeded.”
In the year leading up to the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe state, there were 741 civilian death reported, according to data collected by the University of Sussex in the UK.
In the 12 months since the figure of civilian causalities has more than tripled to 2,265.
Mr Pindiga says the military has not dealt with big problems it faces.
Because of the military’s human rights record people do not trust them, plus they lack modern equipment, training and motivation.
A UK military officer who has worked closely with the Nigerians says they are stuck in a Catch-22 situation.
“The trouble with the Nigerian government is that they want a big red button, which you can press and it will fix everything,” says James Hall, a retired colonel and former UK military attache to Nigeria.
“I was asked by a senior commander if we could sell them the machine that can tell if a car driving down the road contains a terrorist,” he added.
“I tried to tell them that such a machine doesn’t exist, but then they just thought we were hiding it from them.”
The UK is very wary in giving training assistance, and sales of better equipment are also problematic, he says.
“We have reduced dramatically the types of training and equipment we’re willing to provide.”
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both criticised the Nigerian military for their tactics.
Amnesty reported that some 600 people were killed by the military after an attack on Maiduguri’s Giwa barracks in March.
The sale of lethal weapons to Nigeria is prohibited by UK law because of such concerns.
“Without the training, they won’t be able to get the equipment, and we aren’t giving them the training either,” Mr Hall said.