15 July 2012

Nigeria: Need for an Independent Counter Terrorism Office


That Nigeria is presently under security threat from the activities of the dreaded; Boko Haram is no longer news, what is however news is that, the office of the special adviser on counter terrorism has remained largely anonymous in the face of the bombings and mass killings of innocent Nigerians by the militant group.

Following the increased spate of bombings in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan had in January 2011, appointed a national coordinator on anti terrorism in the person of Dr. Zakari Ibrahim. The appointment was applauded across the length and breadth of the country considering Ibrahim's pedigree in intelligence and security sector.

A former director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ibrahim came to the position at a time Nigerians were battered left and right by the sect and the government was desperate to find a solution to the menace. Unfortunately, his stay in office was very uneventful until he was eased out by the president.

Ibrahim was consequently replaced by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Sarkin Yakin Bello as Jonathan's new Adviser on Counterterrorism.

Like his predecessor, Bello's appointment came amidst a lot of expectations because the Boko Haram had changed tactics and intensified their war against the state and the people of Nigeria attacking places of worship, particularly churches and government institutions especially security formations.

As former Commander of the Joint Task Force (Operation Restore Hope) in the Niger Delta in the heydays of militancy and also one time Commander of Operation Flush Out III in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigerians thought the era of Boko Haram was at hand.

However, not much has been heard of that office. The counter terrorism bill has been signed into law by the president and the expectations from Nigerians are high. The questions on the lips of many Nigerians are: do we need an adviser on counter terrorism?

And if we do, where should the office be domiciled and what should be his responsibilities? Again, what has become of the counter terrorism law? What should be the relationship between the NSA and the counter terrorism adviser?

The fact of the matter is that the counter terrorism battle has been sadly in error for misplaced applications, because the whole system from conception to implementation was militarized. Right from appointments, mobilization, deployment to the appropriation of the budgeted funds.

The few years of military experiment by deploying troops in the core northern part of Nigeria were not only passive but wasted years without any visible achievements. The past strategy of combat operations has woefully failed; therefore we need to try our hands on something new.

The office of the Special Adviser to the President on Counter terrorism which has been caged in the office of the erstwhile National Security Adviser to the President should be allowed freedom in operation and action. The office and its functions are too big, important and challenging to be warehoused in the office of the NSA.

This is why the office has been operating in limbo for years with the occupants maintaining much closed lips over the years. This is a security aberration never practiced anywhere in the civilized world. Not even in terror hosting countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States of America, Libya, England and the rest has this been mentioned. Where are all these our principles and applications coming from?

With the level of sophistication in the operations of Boko Haram, Nigeria should start thinking of adopting the resolution of UN that calls for a third force to combat terrorism by signed-in member countries. The formation of this autonomous Agency should be outside the profile of the normal Military and Police.

The resolution specifies that well researched experts should constitute the main organ that will be advising and briefing the President daily on terror and allied matters. The President must not mortgage this very sensitive sector to an in-house arrangement as he needs to be briefed daily on this volatile matter through, PDB, (Presidential Daily Briefing).

The military, the Police and the other forces had openly declared to the consternation of the country and her populace, that terrorist is a new unknown enemy emerging in their midst, so they need time to understudy him and his tactics.

Nwabara wrote in from Abuja

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