It is no longer news that the Nigerian State is at war with terror. The conundrum of violence the Nigerian state has been forced to stew in by the apocalyptic activities of the Boko Haram (Western education is sin) sect, which has turned Nigeria into a boiling point, is responsible for the fears currently confronting its citizens; the fear of evil lurking within. From the several mindless bombings of specially chosen government targets, places of worship, media houses, institutions of learning, kidnappings, sacking of towns and villages in the country’s North-East, and brazen threats to further spread their calumnious campaigns of anarchy to other parts of the country, the Bokites have succeeded – to a large extent – in creating a state of insecurity in Nigeria: forget claims to the contrary by the country’s security agencies.
This piece became expedient in the wake of the increasing wave of attacks on “soft” and hard targets by the BH insurgents, despite all the efforts so far made by the authorities to check the activities of these merchants of death; these incarnates of Satan, who have turned Nigeria into a living hell. In the wake of the escalating dimension of the ongoing faceoff between the authorities and BH, the time has come for the Nigerian government to commence the adoption of a more radical approach in the current war on terror.
The first point to note is that the continued ability of the Bokites to strike randomly at carefully selected targets with impunity suggests that this group has not been weakened by the several reported raids on some of their operational bases across the northern half of the country by the security forces, and that they have continued to receive funding from their supporters despite the purported “stern” measures the government has initiated to starve them of funds. The availability of funds for this group constitutes the chief challenge to government’s attempts to snuff out all the threats posed by it, and remains one of the major threats to our national security.
To properly check this challenge, government must immediately demand that the Central Bank and other regulatory agencies step up the scrutinizing of questionable monetary transactions in the financial sector. The truth is that so many phony transactions are carried out in the financial sector on a regular basis, without anybody demanding to know where the monies involved in these dealings are actually coming from or going to. In the banking sector, for instance, dummy accounts are frequently opened by fraudulent, criminal elements – most times with the connivance of bank staff, who are mostly commissioned agents – to transfer illegally acquired funds into and out of this country. From thieving politicians, advanced fee fraud kingpins, drug barons, oil thieves, to other criminal elements operating from within and outside the shores of this country, it’s been a free flow traffic of financial illegalities.
Furthermore, all foreign and local donations by individuals, groups, organizations and other bodies, to local charities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), socio-cultural organizations, religious groups and other sub-groups in Nigeria, must henceforth be closely monitored to ensure they don’t end up in the wrong hands. Terrorist groups, the world over, are known to get most of their funding from individuals and groups sympathetic to their cause. Some of these funds get to these groups through counterfeit organizations, set up to mask the true identities of members. Once the monies get into the coffers of these replica organizations, they are immediately transferred to other fake accounts to serve their true purposes. So, government must immediately, as a matter of urgency, set up a special body to monitor the activities of the several non-profit groups operating in Nigeria, especially their sources of funding. Money constitutes the backbone of terrorist activities. Starve them of money and they will naturally wither away. So, the onus rests on the authorities to establish a proper regulatory framework to check the easy flow of funds into the coffers of violent groups.
Again, government must develop the political will and sagacity to decisively bring to book anybody – rich or poor – suspected of having links with violent groups either as sponsor or sympathizer. The penchant for our leaders and security chiefs to frequently say they know those responsible for violent attacks against fellow Nigerians, without taking practical steps as demanded by the law to bring those suspects to book, is very unbecoming; a development that makes a huge mockery of its overblown war on terrorism. Seriously speaking, there’s anybody that’s bigger than this country, its laws and people if those running the machinery of the state decide to emphatically use the powers available to them as custodians of public trust. Nobody, no matter how highly placed, should be allowed to toy with the lives of Nigerians and go unpunished. Those in authority must begin to call spades, spades in this country, no matter whose ox is gored. Political expediencies must take a backseat, especially where issues of national security are involved.
On the other hand, the country’s land borders should be better patrolled than is been currently done. The porous nature of Nigeria’s land and sea borders is one of the major challenges militating against the successful prosecution of the war on terrorism and other cross-border crimes. It is no longer news that anybody can enter and live in Nigeria without qualms. All you need to do is to bribe the security operatives and immigration officials at the borders, or better still look for any of the various unmarked footpaths connecting us to our neighbors, and you are in Nigeria. This lack of vigilance at the country’s borders has made it possible for arms and ammunitions to be easily trafficked into the country, and also for people with desperate instincts to cross over to join extremist groups in launching suicide attacks against hapless Nigerians. So, security at our borders must be brought to the front burner in our efforts at countering terrorism and formulating a workable national security policy in this country. It constitutes a very crucial plank in all efforts at checking violent crimes across Nigeria.
Most importantly, care must be taken to eschew political considerations in the outsourcing of security projects to security companies. The processes for the bidding and awarding of security contracts should be open and competitive. A situation whereby consultants are handpicked on the grounds of who they know in high places must be completely discouraged. The most qualified and competent individuals and companies should be given security jobs that will complement the ongoing efforts of the security services. That is how it is done in other climes where terrorism has become an Albatross. Meritocracy should be the driving philosophy, not the traditional practice of business as usual.
Not forgetting the need for the government to launch-off a mass sensitization campaign to enlighten the citizenry about what terrorism really is, and how they can contribute towards putting a final lid on this crazy phenomenon. Most Nigerians are completely ignorant of the real dangers posed to their lives by the violent dispositions of terrorists. Thus, it behooves the government of Nigeria, through its various mediums of mass mobilization, to immediately jumpstart the processes of bringing every Nigerian into the fray in its war against the violent activities of extremist groups bent on destabilizing this country and turning her into a perpetual laughing stock in the committee of nations. This, perhaps, constitutes the missing link in government’s current war against violent groups; one which if adopted will help in witling down the dangers posed to the lives of Nigerians by violent groups. The current jingles currently running on some of television stations are quite commendable. But more can still be done in reaching out to the wider population.
Countering terrorism in Nigeria requires sincerity and commitment on the part of the government, security agencies, professional security practitioners, the populace, and other equally important stakeholders from within and outside this country; a holistic approach as this column has always advocated. I believe terrorism cab be checked if the right things are done by all concerned.
The security of Nigeria is the collective duty of its citizens; not the sole duty of government and its security agencies. In the country’s drive towards the eventual formulation of a standard and sustainable national security policy that will ultimately guarantee the safety of the lives and properties of all Nigerians – regardless of status – all square pegs must be put in square holes. Anything short of this is an invitation to chaos. God save Nigeria!