7 December 2011

Nigeria: Security Challenges in Nigeria, Way Forward

CANICE OPARA who attended a-four day conference on challenges of terrorism in 21st Century Global Community that was jointly organised by the Centre for Criminal Justice Reform and Citizens Awareness and other agencies, reports that cooperation among security agencies, stakeholders and individuals are essential in tackling the security challenges currently facing Nigeria.

WORRIED by the loss of lives and property as well as the negative image the Boko Haram terror group gives to Nigeria before the international community, stakeholders recently brainstormed in Lagos in an effort to arrest the Boko Haram menace and other security challenges in Nigeria.

The event, a four - day conference on the Challenges of Terrorism in the 21st Century Global Community was organized by the Centre for Criminal Justice Reform and Citizen Awareness in collaboration with other agencies, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.

The conference brought together local and international scholars who suggested and came up with appropriate measures to unravel the secrets behind the terrorist attacks as witnessed recently. Papers were presented by participants during the conference bothering on the different ways terrorism had thrived, the root cause, consequences and the way out of the problem.

Boko Haram, otherwise known as Jama'atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da'awati Wal Jihad which in Hausa language means "Western education is sacrilege," "Non-Islamic education is sinful" or western education is forbidden", seems to have gained root in Nigeria, and have been unleashing terror to innocent citizens, maiming, killing and destroying property, more especially in the northern parts of the country. To some, this is our own share of the international terrorism sweeping across the continents of the world, hence the world being a global village.

This menace was seen as a distant issue, but today it is here with us. This situation became more pronounced in the country immediately after the ascension on the throne of leadership of Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan after the April 2011 general elections which he overwhelmingly won.

During one of the presentation made at the conference, Prof. Osita Agbu of the NIIA tried to reconcile the different postulations on terrorism by various scholars, who "believe that terrorism has deep ideological and economic roots." he cited the trend which had started since the 1990s resulting in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Emphasizing that countries have been identified as practicing terrorism in so many ways aside what obtains in the middle East, Prof. Agbu quoted Oshnugor (2004), saying,

"Terrorism by those in power is seen as enforcement terrorism aimed at suppressing challenges to authority... while agitation terror is used by those who wish to disrupt the existing order and ascend to political power themselves." But which ever way according to him, terrorist assume that their deeds are extremely important and that any change is better than what presently exists.

"So, terrorism is not new to us, it's just that this time around, it is emanating from a sect and assuming the dimension of Al Qaeda, which engages the use of explosives to terminate the lives of innocent Nigerians."

Before this social disorder, Nigeria can not really claim to have relatively been that peaceful a country, with regards to the Niger Delta militants which the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua tried to solve by granting them amnesty for agreeing to lay down their arms and come out from the creeks and embrace the amnesty programme of the Federal Government. Prior to that, there was also the hostage taking and kidnapping for ransom which started in the Niger Delta extending and gaining grounds more in the eastern parts of the country which was equally handled.

But prior to all these, we were used to the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the west, the Bakassi Boys and the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the east and the a pocket of others, but they are not as violent as the Boko Haram sect, which one could not pass as a religious or political movement judging by its modus operandi and most of all, it's faceless and adoptions of a guerrilla type of warfare tactics in carrying out its heinous activities.

Daily Champion gathered from the convener of the conference, a lawyer, criminologist, security and counter terrorism expert, Dr. Paul Obianaso as the conference came to an end December 2, 2011 that, " The conference has shown that the existing need for inter agency co-operation in Nigeria needs to be coordinated, above all things, it is clear here as the different personnel from the different agencies have converged that they too are eager to see the inter agency cooperation take a better shape with respect to law enforcement administration in Nigeria as specifically regarding the fight against terrorism".

He added that, "Another thing that needed to be taken away here is that, it is a consensus among participants and delegates to this conference, that there is need to establish a national coordinating centre, national terrorism coordinating centre or a counter terrorism centre to be manned by a competent professional where a centre which should be an agency of government would have a job or a focus, their pre-occupation should be all that has to do with countering terrorism in this country".

In an effort to address this Boko Haram problem which activities have assumed a terrorist act dimension, we should view it from the global angle where it actually originated, for instance 10 years have passed since the terrorists shock attacks on the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001 in the United States of America, since then a great deal of change has occurred within the US Intelligence gathering at least to forestall future occurrence. They have created a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with authorities to develop overall strategies and promote integration of intelligence activities, they didn't just stop at that, they also created Department of Homeland Security within their FBI, the National Counter-terrorism Center and the National Counter proliferation Centers. These and many other changes are what the United States is facing as challenges since the end of the Second World War. This, Nigeria ought to borrow a leaf from in addressing this canker worm rearing its head in our country.

From findings, it has been discovered that many of the major terrorist attacks, which have gone transnational anyway, including those of 9/11, were carefully conceived, planned and launched, making the individual actions of any single government or intelligence service ineffective in detecting, deterring or preventing those attacks. Nigeria's method in confronting this monster should toe the line of our peculiar terrains and cultural dispositions.

Terrorism should be treated as a criminal case considering its antecedents which results in the killing of people and destruction of property. The recent bombing of the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja on August 28, 2011 with the number of casualties recorded is still fresh on our minds, consequently, giving us a bad image before the comity of nations, which now sees us as a terrorist nation.

Based on this therefore, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has recently in Benin, Edo State during the Chief of Army Staff Annual conference, with theme, "The Nigerian Army in the National Transformation Agenda", handed the Army and other security agencies the responsibility of stemming out terrorism from our country.

"These threats demand an integrated approach from all the security agencies in order to effectively combat them and create an atmosphere conducive for economic activities to thrive in those areas.

"The Nigeria Army in conjunction with other security agencies must devise new innovative ways to address these challenges.

"I therefore, explore you to intensify and sharpen your skill and attitude in the area of intelligence gathering and counter terrorism and to evolve new approach to the current security challenges to twat the evil mechanization of misguided terrorist and other promoters of mindless violence in our country", Jonathan said.

Even at the peek of all these, accusing fingers are allegedly being pointed at some government and public officials as having a link with the notorious sect, in fact, a serving Senator, Mohammed Ali Ndume has been arrested and arraigned in an Abuja Magistrate court recently by the State Security Service (SSS) along side one said to be the former spokesman of the sect, Umaru Konduga Al-zawari.

The Boko Haram sect was as well alleged to have been found and funded by a former Borno State governor, as his political thugs, code named ECOMOG.

Though, the sect has denied any connection with the mentioned people or any party or politician but that they want to Islamise the entire North. Perhaps, the escalated killings witnessed recently could not be unconnected with the killing of their leader, Ustaz Mohammed Yussuf by the police on August 30, 2009. All these notwithstanding, they are not enough reason for these attacks. The issue should not be handled with levity or treated with kids' glove as it is undermining our corporate existence as a nation.

Also, during the fifth policing executive forum held recently in Abuja, a lecturer of Mass Communications at the University of Maiduguri, Abubakar Mu'azu, did some findings about the antecedents of several dissenting groups along Nigeria's geographical lines and was quoted thus, "There is widespread disenchantment with the Nigerian State arising from its failure to meet its obligations to the people and the perception that State policies are implemented to advance private interests for personal accumulation".

At least four different types of killings were identified during that conference- those perpetrated by Boko Haram, others by security forces, some by ritualists and others termed "hatred killings" being carried out by people settling scores with opponents.

Therefore, in putting an end to all these, and curtail terrorism according to Prof. Agbu, government should provide effective leadership, good governance and ensure that systemic corruption is reduced or eliminated.

Ensure a more effective poverty alleviation programme and economic empowerment regime to be put in place that will provide jobs for the youth.

Take preventive measures that are sustainable against terrorism by comprehensively addressing its internal contradictions and creating awareness of the evils of terrorism. Ethnic and religious fundamentalism constitutes the more deadly variants of terrorism, and should be given more attention and so on.

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