Vanguard (Lagos)

27 June 2012

Nigeria: Boko Haram - Nigerians Face Stringent Travel Measures

Photo: Leadership
Suspected Boko Haram sect members.

THE Federal Government, yesterday, gave reasons why it disagreed with the United States on the classification of Boko Haram as a terrorist group. The government said it opposed the classification because of the wider implication and exposure to stringent meaures that such actions will impose on ordinary Nigerians.

Activities of the radical Islamic sect have become worrisome to the United States and other countries that are uncomfortable with Boko Haram which the State Department declared three of its members terrorists last week but was shy in classifying the entire group as terrorist group as stipulated in Sector 219 of the US National Immigration Act

An External Affairs Ministry source said what we have succeeded in doing is to get the Americans to isolate activities of the radical Islamic sect and its members as actions being carried out by non state actors like Hamas and Hezbolla, Salafis movements or Al-Qaeda, Al- Shabaab in the Horn of Africa.

The source said: "We have made it clear that the sectarian group is not funded by the government or being used by government and its agencies to promote a foreign policy agenda. This is an important fact because the US went to the extent of branding Nigeria as a country "with interest" in January 2010 following the Abdulmutallab episode, but Nigeria was eventually removed from the list of countries with interest in terrorism."

Foreign Affairs Ministry source told Vanguard that "the classification affects members of Boko Haram sect would of course, affect innocent Nigerians and the issue of who is innocent is purely subjective so we as citizens of Nigeria will have to pay the prize. Some political leaders especially those in public offices, including members of National and State Assemblies, State governors, received financial support from radical Arab leaders including late Libyan Leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, with a promise that they would Islamise Nigeria when they get to power.

These leaders have failed to deliver on their promise, hence some of them are direct targets of Boko Haram. They have not been bold enough to tackle the sect which has become the jihadist army and the militant wing of their faith working to accomplish the goal of turning Nigeria into an Islamic country".

US worries about Boko Haram

The United States is worried about the link between Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in Magreb AQIM and the Al-Shabaab Islamic sect operating in East Africa from where the group gets its training and logistic support. Al-Qaeda in Maghreb stretches from the North African nations of Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and northern Nigeria. The Commander of the United States Africa Command, Gen. Carter Ham, who painted a grim picture of the threat posed by the Boko Haram sect said its attempt to coordinate efforts with the North African al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb by sharing explosives and funds was 'most worrisome'.

Somalia's Al-Shabab most dangerous group

In a speech delivered by the Commander to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) Senior Leaders Seminar on Monday which was reported on the Command's website, Gen. Ham noted that three of Africa's largest militant Islamist groups, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Al-Shabab in Somalia and the North African Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are trying to co-ordinate their efforts. According to the U.S. top military commander, although Somalia's al-Shabab was the "most dangerous" group, what was most worrying was that the most radical elements among them were coordinating and synchronizing their efforts.

Dipolmatic sources told Vanguard that classification of Boko Haram as a terrorist group is only a matter of semantics because "America will not want to play the good guy to individuals or groups that propagate religious hate and possess the capacity and mindset to cause harm to their own people but more importantly to Americans on American soil."

According to a source, "any act of terrorism on American soil in this election year, will be a nightmare for the Obama administration". There are growing concerns that activities of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb now poses greater threat to the United States, than in Asia where the use of drone strikes has incapacitated the leadership of Al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula and in the Asia countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Vanguard learnt that Nigerians who have visited countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Libya, Niger, Yemen, and Chad where Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are known to operate are marked out for special security scrutiny in the United States.

Similar action will be employed by Nigeria which has authorised the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to monitor and gather intelligence on the activities of such persons while in those countries with substantial interest in promoting radical and extremist religious world views and employ the use of violence and acts of violence on civilians and non combat institutions to make political statements".

Intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia: Vanguard was reliably informed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not entertain large number of pilgrims from Nigeria "because of the high cost and logistics of hosting faithful from countries where radical Islamic doctrine has become prevalent and may in fact threaten the internal security of the Holy Land."

Security laxity: Security sources said we have over the years made reports that "since the early 1990s, Muslim faithful have travelled to countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Iran, Syria, for technical trainings, and received funds for education including Koranic studies from the so called madras', which are known for religious indoctrinations. The content and the curriculum of the education that was being offered to our citizens were not scrutinised".

All these were done under different forms of bilateral technical cooperation agreements. "Some of the recipients of these programmes were given funds to execute all kinds of projects which the Federal Government at that time did not bother to scrutinise because the leadership of the country has been concentrated in the northern part". Said source: "The result is that so many graduates of these programmes are being indoctrinated and exposed to ideologies of hate and to kill other people who have opposing religious and cultural world view".

Boko Haram links with Al-Qaeda worrisome -US General

Meantime, the Commander of the United States Africa Command, Gen. Carter Ham has painted a grim picture of the threat posed by the Boko Haram sect saying that its attempt to coordinate efforts with the North African al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb by sharing explosives and funds was 'most worrisome'.

In a speech delivered by the Commander to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) Senior Leaders Seminar on Monday which was reported on the Command's website, Gen. Ham noted that three of Africa's largest militant Islamist groups, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Al-Shabab in Somalia and the North African Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are trying to co-ordinate their efforts.

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