Vanguard (Lagos)

23 February 2013

West Africa: Boko Haram - Battling Scourge of Migration and Terrorism in West Africa

The Transnational nature of thea Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) makes it imperative for authorities in Nigeria to pay more than cursory attention to socio-political and in the neighbouring countries.

It is a known fact that the cultural and historical relationship between Nigeria and its neighbours namely: the republics of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea, have not been smooth for security operatives in Nigeria. Criminal elements w have exploited the protocol on free movement of persons and in the process breach Nigeria's internal security.

The first sign of this came to the fore during the case of the Maitatsine crisis which was linked to the activities of Mallam Muhammadu Marwa, a Cameroonian and his successor Mallam Musa Ali Suleiman alias Musa Makanike, from Republic of Niger . Both of whom were respectively founder and leader of an extremist Islamic religious sect called 'Maitatsine' which translates "He who curses others."

It has been established that there is a disturbing link the Boko Haram sect and external radical forces in the sub-region, especially the Al-Qaeda in Maghreb. Countries like Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Sudan, have been mentioned as training grounds for the Boko Haram sect. According to Directorate of State Security, the Boko Haram has substantial link with these group. Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb has reportedl the recent instability in Libya e able them to seize weapons. Majority of the Tuareg warriors fought on the side of Gaddafi and the Tuaregs have substantial population and kinship relations in countries like Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Mali, Cameroon and Nigeria.The closure of the international border between Nigeria and its West African neighbours and deportation of 18,000 nationals from these neigbouring countries underscores the National Security implication of unregulated migration in the West African region.

The making of Boko Haram

The Boko Haram insurgency started in Bauchi in July 26 2009 following the extra judicial killing of the leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf who had engaged the Nigerian state in revolutionary activities. He had constantly criticised the state governments in the North for corruption and oppressing the poor above all, for stealing public funds. He had indoctrinated his followers to believe that the state was illegitimate and those occupying powers were usherpers and vote riggers.

The state was accused of perpetuating injustice, denying the masses access to healthcare etc. Before Boko Haram, we had the Taliban group which emerged in the North East in 1999.

It is interesting to note that the Three groups share the same world view. Maitatsine especially, came barely one year after the Islamic revolution in Iran, but no effort was made to connect the two. These radical Islamic group share anti establishment ideology and they believe that true and righteous servants of God are members of their sect. They dismiss other Muslims, Christians and Jews as those that have gone astray from the true God and should be the target of their jihad. sunnah and other universally accepted secondary sources of Islamic jurisprudence conducts and norms.

The modus operandi of Boko Haram, especially that of targeting innocent civilians, media houses, non combatant institutions, Christian Churches, and worships, foreigners etc, essentially drowned their message, focus and ideology. Consequently, the state has tried on one hand, to call them terrorists, at another level, the state is persuading the international community not to classify Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organisations. he strategic objectives of Boko Haram are to:

.Make the country ungovernable by creating a general sense of insecurity among Nigerians and foreigners alike

Disrupt social, political, and economic interaction among the citizenry and further polarize the society along ethno-religious lines.

Intimidate and harass authorities with their wanton acts of killing innocent people, security personnel and infrastructure and thereby force the government to enter into negotiations with them to enable them extract some concessions for their agenda,

4Punish non-compliant civilian population and eminent members of the society who do not share the fundamentalist religious and political agenda of the terrorists.

5.Provoke sectarian reaction from the Christian population or cause the Federal government and security agencies to over react,

6.Weaken Nigeria's position in the international community

7.Make life difficult for Nigerians living abroad

8.Scare away foreign investors, diplomats and other class of foreigners and wishing to come to Nigeria.

The D.G of NIIA Prof. Akinteinwa opines that the contradition makes nonesense of the 2011 Anti Terrorism Act and other efforts aimed at combating terrorism in Nigeria because the F.G .lacks the political will to tackle Boko Haram.

Prof Fred Agwu opines that the Northern political and religious and traditional elites are colluding and condoning the activities of Boko Haram to the extent that they do not want the F.G to deal with the issue frontally.

According to him those who think that Boko Haram represents the best interest of the North in the elite struggle for appropriation of Nigeria's resources will soon discover that in the event of Nigeria breaking up, the North will not fare better than Burkina Faso, Niger Republic or Mali..Another Senior Research Fellow with the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Dr. Charles Dokubo told Vanguard that "the truth remains that the countries in the Arab world are reacting to the autocratic regimes that have over the years suppressed the desires of the people for freedom"

The fact remains that the political leadership in Nigeria still regard the development in the Arab world as far removed from Nigeria, whereas the objective conditions that have precipitated the crisis are endemic in Nigeria.

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