Sunday, 23 February 2014
How Nigeria Can Overcome Terrorism/Insurgency & Instability (Pt 1)
The unrelenting insecurity, terrorism/insurgency miasma in Nigeria is disturbing. Innocent people are arbitrarily hacked to death, the issue is talked about for a few days, a Committee/Panel is assembled and the whole episode fizzles out sooner than later. Terrorism/Insurgency and insecurity has taken a big toll on innocent lives, public infrastructures and Nigeria’s economy. A recent report suggests Nigeria’s military campaign against terrorism and insurgency may have gulped over
N1 trillion. Caging Boko Haram has
hitherto proved cagey due to the unconventional (Guerrilla-war nature) of their
operation with a trend towards ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorism - maximizing the use of
surprise, terror by a loose network of
individuals or groups sympathetic to a common cause. The potency of terrorism is essentially
psychological; terrorists know they cannot win the war so they attempt to make
the price of their antagonist’s victory exorbitant.
The Boko Haram quagmire is analogous to a tse-tse fly that perched on the scrotum, utmost application of force is detrimental and so is leaving it there. The United States government understands these challenges hence they are advocating for a ‘’multi-faceted approach’’ to the Boko Haram quandary. The US believes ‘Nigeria requires strong character to overcome terrorism and that for ‘Nigeria to successfully counter extremists within its territory, it needs to deploy all of the strength of character it can muster against the nefarious activities of insurgent groups’.
This treatise is an appraisal of the underpinning causes of insecurity, terrorism/insurgency and instability in Nigeria. The essay reviews Nigeria’s approach so far at stemming the ugly tide and offers viable suggestions, options that will help to curtail this festering trend.
Causes, Factor’s Fuelling Terrorism/Insurgency and Instability in Nigeria
Contrary to widespread believe and in fairness to Boko Haram, the sect may not after all be responsible for all the acts of terrorism and atrocities credited to them. People settle scores somewhere and the Sect basks on it. An example is the sporadic clashes in Plateau State (Jos) involving Fulani herdsmen and so-called indigenes.
Beyond the guise of religion and politics, there must be some compelling force that can galvanize an individual to waste his life and that of others as a suicide bomber or a terrorist. Abysmal poverty, hopelessness/frustration, and joblessness have the potency to do this. They say a hungry man is an angry man. It will take an amazing brain-washing dexterity to convince a gainfully employed young man or somebody with a thriving career to abandon the frills of his endeavor and be a slavish stooge for terrorism.
The Boko Haram miasma is the butterfly-effect of a dysfunctional society. Urgent action must be taken to shrink unprecedented corruption, culture of impunity/arrogance of power, acute poverty, soaring unemployment and whittling radical religious fundamentalism by run-of-the-mill clerics. Our extensive porous border contributes too. Efforts must be geared towards ensuring that every Nigerian irrespective of place of birth or the family he/she is born into has a chance to actualize his or her God-given potentials. Skill acquisition programmes must also be put in place across Nigeria to absorb, engage idle and frustrated youths.
The Approach So far: Treating the Symptom, not the Causative Agent
The Boko Haram wahala did not start today; recall the infamous dreaded Maitatsine group that reigned terror in some Northern States of Nigeria in the 1980’s. The symptom of the disease was treated and the disease metamorphosed again. Our bane in this part of the world is that we are apt to postponing the evil day.
Smarting from an earlier haphazardly-packaged amnesty largesse extended to ex-Niger Delta militants, some school of taught pummeled the Federal government into tinkering with the possibility of granting BH adherents amnesty only for the Sect to derisively spurn FG’s overtures.
A culture, penchant and antecedent of a promiscuous amnesty is a subtle invitation to future anarchy. The Igbo’s have a saying that ‘’aru gbaa afo, oburu omenala’’. In English this roughly translates to ‘’when a crime/atrocity thrives for too long, it becomes a culture’’.
Terrorists and criminals are not completely faceless. No matter how reclusive they are, they have friends, families etc. They communicate via phones and have internet presence- email addresses, FaceBook, twitter accounts, issue Press Releases online etc. No matter how meticulous and savvy they are, they cannot afford not to inadvertently leave behind potential online ‘forensic fingerprint’ trails via their call logs, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses etc. Osama Bin Laden was larger than life and almost invincible for several years until he was exterminated through a cobweb of American Intelligence network.
Designation of BH and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO’s)
In June 2012, the State Department slammed a bounty on Shekau and officially designated him and two of his ilk- Abubakar Adam Ambar and Khalid al-Barnawi as terrorists. Just recently, a powerful United States think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) confirmed that the leader of BH, Shekau is, indeed, dead. The CFR asserts it is apparent that the latest video appearance of Shekau was faked. It cuts no ice whether Shekau is dead or not. Emboldened wanton killings by the Sect even after Shekau’s purported death lend credence to the fact that his death holds no solution to stemming the activities of the Sect. The State Department finally upped the ante by designating the duo of BH and Ansaru as FTO’s. The US says this gambit will enable it to freeze assets, impose travel bans on known members and affiliates of these groups as well as prohibit Americans from offering material support.
It is interesting that the Nigerian government that was once vociferous against designating these organizations as FTO’s seem to have recanted its initial opposition. What are the wider implications of this latest gambit by the US; are we going to brace up for drone attacks in the hotbeds of BH insurgency as is done in Afghanistan? Are we going to be witnessing Commando-style abduction of suspected terrorists in Nigeria by the Americans the way they abducted Abu Anas al-Libi in Libya?
State of Emergency Not A Lasting Solution
Deploying detachments of gung-ho soldiers in the name of a ‘State of emergency’ in the hot-beds of Boko Haram onslaught though a welcomed measure but not a lasting solution. The 7th Division of the Nigerian Army became operational on 22 August, 2013. With this development, the Army is said to have wrestled full control of the fight against terrorism/insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria. Six months after the State of Emergency, the BH blitz is yet to abate rather the blokes appear more daring, kamikaze. What happens if and when BH decides to export their stock-in-trade to other less hostile states in the north or other parts of the country, you also declare a state of emergency in those areas? We suggest a critical reappraisal of the current strategy. An ongoing declaration of a state of emergency will be self-defeating in the absence of a definite, coherent strategy that can extinguish the wellspring terrorism/insurgency.
Nigeria’s military high command seems to be re-thinking its strategy as the Chief of Army Staff, Major Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, was said to have held a meeting with top army commanders across Nigeria on the need to review strategies used in the ongoing war against insurgency in Nigeria. Is this a subtle allusion that all is not well with the current approach?
Fears Over Human Right Abuses
There are widespread worries over serious human right abuses and extra-judicial killings sequel to Nigeria’s ongoing fight against terrorism/insurgency. Both BH and the security agencies seem to be complicit in human right abuses. A recent Amnesty International report alleges deaths of hundreds of people in detention facilities run by the JTF. The United Nations Human Right office warns that BH could be liable for crimes against humanity. Another disturbing scenario is the formation of the so-called ‘’Civilian JTF”. Host communities, civilians have a role to play in providing nuggets of information to security agencies but having these poorly trained and ill-equipped blokes at the forefront of the fight against terrorists/insurgents is an anomaly, risky and has far-reaching consequences. The declaration of a ‘State of emergency’ is not a license for our Security Agents to run amok. We immensely appreciate; commend the sacrifices, unconventional and precarious nature of the onerous task that Nigeria’s Security Agencies are encumbered with in the fight against terrorism/insurgency. We respectfully implore them to stick to international best practices/rules of engagement, be less pugnacious, very discerning and surgical, more proactive and also strive to win hearts and minds. While clarifying the United States Counter terrorism policy sometime in May 2013, President Obama said, ‘’before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured-the highest standards we can set’’.
Concern Over ‘’incessant Committees’’
The penchant for setting up chit chat paper-tiger committees in Nigeria is unbecoming. A few examples will suffice: on April 17, 2013 President Jonathan set up a 26-member ‘’Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North’’ headed by Mr. Kabiru Turaki. The Committee was given a 60-day time frame to submit its report. Simultaneously, another Committee on Small arms and light weapons was also constituted. The Turaki’s committee swung into action with exuberance boasting that the BH imbroglio will soon be a thing of the past. Shortly before the commencement of the last Ramadan fasting, Mr. Turaki announced with pageantry that his Committee had reached an ‘understanding’ for a ceasefire with Boko Haram. This turned out to be a farce as Abubakar Shekau issued a Video Release denying a ceasefire deal with the Turaki Committee. The Sect leader reportedly said in Hausa language, ‘’we will not enter into any agreement with non-believers or the Nigerian government’’.
After all the razzmatazz and several months of dissipating tax-payers money, the Committee managed to submit wishy-washy report calling for inter alia, ‘’the setting up of an advisory committee on continuous dialogues that will have powers to advice the President on all matters related to dialogue and resolution or crises’’. A committee was also assembled to look into the indiscriminate killing of 8 people on Friday 20/09/2013 in an uncompleted building at Bamanga Tukur Street, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, by Nigeria’s Security Operatives. One is not sure anything has been heard of this committee. The issue of the 60 bodies that were reportedly sighted floating on Ezu River in Amensea, Anambra State is yet to be unraveled. Please let us must do away with this culture of jamboree Panels, Committees and sub-committees. There are specific agencies of government constitutionally empowered to handle such issues rather than unnecessary duplication of roles with its attendant fiscal profligacy.