Friday, 9 February 2018

Terrorist Recidivism: Rethinking The Carte Blanche Amnesty To Boko Haram Terrorists

Preamble: During the commemoration of the 2018 Armed Forces Remembrance Day on January 15, 2018, news reverberated that, the Nigerian Army unconstrained 244 so-called ‘repentant’ Boko Haram suspects who the army claimed have given up membership of the dreaded terrorist group to the Borno government. Put it bluntly, it means the Nigerian Army pardoned, granted ‘’amnesty’’ to 244 Boko Haram members? The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Rogers Nicholas, a major-general, said the Boko Haram detainees have been de-radicalized for reintegration into the society and that the acquittance of the ‘’repentant’’ Boko Haram members was Okayed by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai. The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC says, ‘’there have been mass releases of Boko Haram suspects in the past, but this is the largest following a de-radicalization programme’’. Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had at a National Security Council meeting in September 2015, directed the establishment of “Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC)” which is aimed at facilitating the deradicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration of Boko Haram insurgents into normal life. A while ago, a so-called former Boko Haram intelligence chief - Abdulkadir Abubakar (also known as Abu Muhammad), arrested by Nigerian security agents in Yobe hinted that factional leaders of Boko Haram - Abu Musab al-Barnawi (son of Muhammad Yusuf, Boko Haram’s founder), and Mamman Nur (the alleged UN Abuja Office bomber), ‘’indicated interest to dialogue with the government to end insurgency and provide a lasting solution to the crisis’’. The way it is going, won’t be surprised if we hear that the aforesaid, including Abubakar Shekau have been deradicalized and granted an amnesty.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) criticizes the Buhari administration’s proclivity to train and reintegrate ‘repentant’ Boko Haram terrorists. HURIWA submits that “the [Buhari] administration has no plan on the long, short and medium terms to commence the prosecution of all detained terror suspects of Boko Haram,” but lamented that “what we see is that the government has consistently ordered the freeing from detentions of detained suspected terrorists over the last two years.” During a workshop in Maiduguri titled: “Sensitization of Religious and Traditional Leaders, De-radicalization, and Counter-Terrorism in the Northeast”, IDPs in Maiduguri expressed concerns over plans by the Federal Government to grant amnesty to certain repentant Boko Haram insurgents. Not only HURIWA, seeing that exonerating and unleashing terrorists, criminals is now a new normal in Nigeria, yours sincerely is miffed and compelled to revisit this subject matter again after my earlier piece titled: ‘’Recidivism; Unintended Consequences of ‘Amnesty’ To Boko Haram Insurgents, Militants And Chibok Girls Swop’’. This is aimed at engendering healthy debate, encouraging academic research on terrorist recidivism in Nigeria and to make the Nigerian government to rethink this uncertain gambit.

The More You Look, The Less You See
Every day we hear that a ‘’top’’ Boko Haram ‘’Commander’’ was arrested. The news trends for a few days and nothing is heard about it again. Next time again you hear that hundreds of ‘repentant’ Boko Haram suspects have been deradicalized and freed. The army will do well to reconcile Nigerians with the criteria, rationale deployed to ascertain whether an insurgent has TRULY ‘’repented’’ or not. Is there a guarantee that they will not relapse? How pragmatic is it for a brainwashed, bloodletting terrorist with a warped religious ideology to be weaned of his/her bloodletting streak? Isn’t simplistic to assume that these blokes have ‘’repented’’? Isn’t it dangerous to unleash them to the same community where they killed people? Are there foolproof mechanisms put in place to monitor these so-called ‘’repentant’’ terrorists (possibly in real-time) to ensure they don’t pose a threat and do not relapse to their old ways? Why is the Buhari administration bent on freeing scores of Boko Haram terrorists under the pretext of an untested deradicalization programme rather than prosecuting them? Why recite poetry to folks who don’t appreciate poetry? What is the role of the judiciary when people transgress the law? Is Nigeria's antiterrorism law a paper-tiger?

Terrorist Recidivism: Case Studies

Recidivism refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris, the Sydney siege, and the broad daylight murder of a British soldier Lee Rigby by Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London and the gruesome murder of a priest, Jacques Hamel, 85, by Adel Kermichie in a church in Normandy, France, amongst others, lend credence to recurring incidents of Islamic radicalization, recidivism.

There is paucity of credible statistics of terrorist’s recidivism in Nigeria hence I am going to suffice scenarios from other parts of the world. The United States National Institute of Justice asserts that ‘’within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested’’. Saudi Arabia Interior Ministry Spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, told reporters that some 12 percent of people who had been involved in its deradicalization programs had recidivated to activities related to terrorism. Also recall that Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. A former Guantanamo detainee, one Ibrahim al-Qosi, Osama bin Laden's former cook and driver, released under the Bush administration to Sudan in July 2012 rejoined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. As at January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, United States reportedly asserts that out of the 714 detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay, 121 (16.9%) returned to terrorist or militant activities. Abu Bakr Baghdadi was freed from Abu Ghraib in a prison attack. He didn’t renounce his ideology but stepped into the shoes of al-Zarqawi and fulfilled his now crumbling dream of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in June 2014.

In 2013, the Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency BNPT said 25 out of 300 terrorists released from prison had “gone back to their old terror habits”. Indonesia’s recidivism rate is put at least 15 per cent based on the 47 cases. Five were killed in shoot-outs with police in 2009 and 2010. At least six went to fight in Syria under the ISIS banner. Several started or joined new jihadi groups that have been targeting Indonesian police officers, including Santoso, currently Indonesia’s most wanted fugitive. Two ideologues – Aman Abdurrahman and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir – are even more influential in jihadi circles with their jailhouse publications and fatwa’s, and especially after they joined the ISIS bandwagon. They continued to believe that jihad is a very critical element in Islamic teaching and they therefore have to keep performing it.  For them, jihad is the legitimate use of violence against the enemy of Islam’’. According to two prominent researchers: “it has been practically impossible to ascertain what is implied by or expected from [deradicalization] programs that claim to be able to de-radicalize terrorists”.

Here in Nigeria, sometime in 2017, Boko Haram released the video of five “commanders” that were reportedly released by Nigerian authorities on Saturday, May 6 in exchange for 82 Chibok schools girls. The man claimed   he was Abu Dardaa, saying he was arrested by Nigerian security forces in Gombe State, taken into custody alongside many of his “brethren” but set free for the exchange of the Chibok girls. Similar recidivism and Stockholm syndrome, some women indoctrinated by Boko Haram, including Aisha Yerima, 25, rescued by the Nigerian military from Boko Haram captivity returned to Boko Haram's Sambisa forest hideout to be with the insurgents who abducted and married them. Though a different context but still on recidivism, recall that notorious criminal and alleged mastermind of the January 1st, 2018 rampage in Rivers state that took the lives of 20 people, late Mr. Igwedibia Johnson, aka Don Waney was a beneficiary of amnesty largesse by late President Umaru Yar’Adua's 2009 amnesty programme and another amnesty in 2016 by the current Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike. Dude recidivated despite the multiple amnesty deals.
Deradicalization, How Pragmatic Is This Concept?

Deradicalization, a budding academic field refers to preventive counterterrorism measures that aim to have those with extreme and violent religious or political ideologies adopt more reasonable and nonviolent views. Sociologist GĂ©rald Bronner says the notion of "deradicalization" is flawed, saying "It means that you can take an idea or a belief out of the brain, and I think that’s just impossible" and instead suggests "not a kind of mental manipulation but the opposite — mind liberation, a strengthening of their intellectual immune systems". The target of deradicalization programmes in most Western countries, are largely youths who hold extremist views, and not bloodletting insurgents as is the case in Nigeria. In the UK, a key part of the government's counter-terrorism strategy and deradicalization scheme is known as ‘’Prevent’’. The scheme is aimed at stopping more people getting drawn towards violent extremism. Nearly 4,000 people, including children aged nine were referred to the deradicalization scheme in 2015. Following a nine-month examination, the Open Society Justice Initiative says the Prevent’’ policy is 'badly flawed' and recommended a major government rethink. France’s first and only deradicalization centre was shut down in 2017 after a Senate committee deemed the initiative “a complete fiasco”. The centre reportedly attracted ‘’plenty of state funding but no solutions’’. A May 30, 2015 report written by Clive Kessler and published on ‘’The Australian’’, submits inter-alia that, ‘’deradicalization of militant Muslims is not a viable option’’.

To Contain Terrorism, Follow The Money
One of the keys to defeating terrorism is stifling terrorists of finance. Folks, groups that sponsor terrorism MUST be reined in. In nearly ten years of Boko Haram insurgency, no one has been convicted for bankrolling the Sect yet it is an open secret that Boko Haram is well structured and funded. I was perplexed when President Muhammadu Buhari opined during the meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital on Saturday September 27, 2018, that "there was a need to curb the flow of terrorism financing". Is anyone stopping Buhari and the Nigerian government from following the trail of money and support that buoys up Boko Haram? President Buhari urges the world to curb Terrorism financing yet a report by BBC's Alastair Leithhead and Stephanie Hegarty published 19 May 2017 titled, ''The fate of the Chibok girls’’ asserts that the Buhari administration paid a ransom of two million Euros to secure the release of the girls. What do you think the money will be used for? Buy sex dolls?


It is dicey to sacrifice justice at the altar of Nigeria’s wishy-washy, nascent, untested, deradicalization programme. Those who do the crime must do the time. High time the Nigerian judiciary woke up to its responsibility. A Punch Newspaper editorial titled – ‘’Boko Haram: Deradicalization, a misplaced strategy’’ submits inter-alia that, ‘’subduing Salafism through de-radicalization is often a misplaced strategy’’. The editorial goes further to assert that, committed ideologues never give up their beliefs…appeasement (deradicalization) does not work with terrorists’’. ‘’If insurgents, terrorists are not prosecuted and convicted, terrorists, would-be terrorists and other criminals out there will believe that no matter the degree of their atrocities, they will wriggle out of punishment’’. I think it is dangerous, a grave error to just allow a band of bloodletting fundamentalists to waltz away with no conviction.

Written by:
© Don Okereke, a Security/Analyst/Consultant, Writer, Ex-Military

February, 2018

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