Many years ago, terrorism and terrorists’ operations were alien to this clime. Even when it reared its ugly head in places like Algeria and Somalia, Nigeria was still exempted from the deadly scourge. Today, the story is different.
Terrorism and terrorists’ operations have berthed in Nigeria, ravaging everywhere. The first major incursion was the bomb blast in Abuja two years ago which almost truncated the celebration of 50 years of Nigeria’s Independence. Since then, the country has come under a plethora of terrorists’ strikes to the extent that it now features prominently in the comity of terrorists’ haven.
Nigeria’s security agencies were caught napping at the advent of these terrorists’ activities. Terrorists have been having a field day, operating with impunity and hitting their targets with precision anytime they embark on their deadly shuttles. So much is the rapacious onslaught of these hoodlums that “the fear of terrorists is the beginning of wisdom” has now become an acceptable cliché. Even when information about a likely terrorist strike is circulated all over the place and security agents are consequently placed on the alert, the most astonishing thing is that these terrorists still succeed in unleashing indiscriminate attacks on the public and government interests thereby creating a perpetual climate of fear in the country.
I was in Abuja last week. The fear of terrorist strike was palpable everywhere. In the first instance, some of the prominent hotels have lost a good number of their clientele to terrorists’ threats. Patronage has fallen to the lowest ebb, while business is booming in the small and medium-sized hotels and guest houses that are now considered safer than the big brands.
There is this feeling that government might have been paying only lip service to the security challenges. Even among the security agencies, some moles are believed to have been giving away vital information to these terrorists in return for God knows what. Although all arms of the security agencies appear to be involved in one way or the other in the fight to extirpate terrorism from Nigeria, the heat is mostly concentrated on the military. Their officers and men have been having sleepless nights either in the Niger Delta, in Plateau State, Borno State and, in fact, the whole of the north-east of Nigeria, including Abuja.
One good thing is that while the military have been waging a relentless war, they have also been involved in a good number of humanitarian gestures in these areas to win the minds and hearts of the populace. Unfortunately, not even one of these activities gets mentioned in the press. What take precedence in news reports in Nigeria is possibly negative stories which are enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the soldiers. Besides, the terrorists have set up some powerful propaganda machinery through which they churn out misinformation to the public and the outside world, especially through the social media – Twitter, Facebook, You-Tube and others.
But if I may ask, why is it proving so difficult to win the war against terrorism? The answer is not farfetched. Like I said earlier, obviously, there are moles in the security apparatuses of the nation. There is also the absence of the required will by the government itself to take this war to its logical conclusion. Those at the helm of affairs seem to be playing politics with the security of lives and property of Nigerians. That is why the willpower is not there regardless of the usual sermons, tough talks and long speeches after each devastating terrorist strike. Also worthy of note is the fact that the public have not deemed it expedient to cooperate in this war by volunteering information to security agents.
Just last week, Little Okojie, the director of the State Security Service in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, hit the nail on the head when he alleged that some communities were shielding members of these terrorists groups from security operatives. Okojie said the security threat posed by these terrorists had become seemingly intractable because of the cover provided by members of the communities. He added that the terrorists’ asymmetric mode of operation also contributed to the difficulty in going into meaningful dialogue with them. According to him, the situation was further complicated by the fact that intermediaries of the group refuse to disclose the identities of the members.
Okojie’s disclosures underscore the frustration of the security agencies in the ongoing war. It might also interest the public to note that in the past one or two weeks, more than 200 suspected terrorists have been rounded up by the military in Abuja alone, particularly at night. The suspected terrorists, who are all Nigeriens, were intercepted by military undercover agents in long vehicles conveying them to Abuja. Apparently, they had entered the country through the porous borders from where they headed to Abuja. When they were asked about their mission and destination, they did not even know where they were going to or what their mission was.
The security implication of this is that some unscrupulous Nigerians are recruiting and giving tacit support to these terrorists. Otherwise, how can large contingents of foreigners enter the country by road and drive all the way to Abuja with no defined mission or even proper destination without being noticed or accosted on their way? Such people are brought into the country, then indoctrinated and turned into pawns in the hands of terrorists. These are the foot soldiers deployed as suicide bombers all over the place to visit mayhem on unsuspecting and innocent Nigerians.
“If we must win this war on terror, the government of the day should be more decisive, stop playing politics with the security of the nation and refrain from treating those identified as terrorists and terrorism sponsors as sacred cows!”
It is obvious that the Nigeriens will be handed over to the Immigration authorities for deportation to their country of origin. But then, there is no assurance that those who aided them to come to Nigeria would not devise other ingenious methods to bring them back. Nobody can guarantee that.
Perhaps, another source of worry over the war on terrorism is the conspiracy of silence over the activities of these terrorists in the northern part of the country. Even though the activities of these terrorists have almost turned the area into a ‘pariah’ zone, no prominent figure has come out to openly condemn these terrorists. Each time the terrorists wreak havoc, the sing-song has always been that the federal government should “address poverty in the North and take measures to address the growing discontent which breeds terrorism.” No condemnation of the dastardly acts ever gets mentioned. Yet, the issue of who or what is responsible for poverty in the North is another matter altogether.
At any rate, it took the terrorists several years to perfect their plans. When the Seal – an elite branch of the American Marines – stormed the residence of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, in Abotabab, Pakistan, last year, several documents were ‘retrieved’ from his residence. Among them were letters between Bin Laden and terrorists groups in Nigeria seeking support. In return, he promised them financial support, training and other assistance. He particularly linked them with Al-Qaeda cells in Africa – Algeria, Somalia, Mauritania, Chad and other places in the Maghreb region. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi from power could have also led to stockpiled Libyan arms finding their way into Nigeria.
The truth is that the terrorist group operating in Nigeria is a franchise of Al-Qaeda, which has been funding and providing logistics to them. And that is why they are so vicious in wreaking havoc on the country with impunity. Therefore, if we must win this war on terror, the government of the day should be more decisive, stop playing politics with the security of the nation and refrain from treating those identified as terrorists and terrorism sponsors as sacred cows!