27 February 2013

Nigeria: Escalation of Terrorist Activity


Last Tuesday, seven French nationals were kidnapped in northern Cameroun, close to the Nigerian border. According to the French president, Francoise Hollande, the abductors belonged to a well-known terrorist group operating from Nigeria. He further maintained that the hostages were taken to Nigeria. The French president's statement was later corroborated by the Camerounian authorities.

This Monday, a video clip showing the seven French hostages was posted online by the militant group claiming to be Boko Haram. Now, the authenticity of this claim has been confirmed. Prior to that, on February 16, 2013, seven foreigners - five Lebanese, a Briton and an Italian - were taken hostage in Jamaare local government area of Bauchi State. The expatriates were working on a Setraco construction site. Indeed, there has been an upsurge in terrorist activity in Nigeria and in the northern West African sub-region.

The most worrisome development in this unfolding tragic saga is that Nigeria is now beginning to export terrorism to other neighbouring countries. Boko Haram, the most notorious terrorist group, was not only inspired by the Taliban, Al Qaida, Al-Sabaab and Aqim but it is fully supported directly and indirectly by them. Now they have become so strong that they can strike not only in Nigeria but outside the country. Slowly and surely, Nigeria is turning into a theatre of war. Suicide bombing, which was unknown in the country, has become a regular occurrence.

Last weekend, five British military planes arrived with a special force whose main objective is securing the release of the hostages. According to some sources, military drones were also spotted flying in the Nigerian airspace. This has not yet been confirmed but, whatever the case, the fact is that international troops are operating in Nigeria.

With military commanders and police officers being killed by the terrorists, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Goodluck Jonathan administration is incapable of handling the present security challenges. Any government that cannot provide security of life and property has failed. A responsive and efficient regime ought to understand the important issue of tackling the clear and present danger and then deal decisively with terrorism in the country as well as lend a hand abroad.

Things have become so bad (especially in many parts of the north) that Nigerians do not even understand the enemy. Last month, Boko Haram indicated that it had declared a ceasefire so that dialogue with the government could commence. But, within this period, there has been unprecedented escalation of hostilities.

In Maiduguri, posters were covertly distributed within the city by a faction of Boko Haram indicating that it was not interested in a ceasefire. It is now evident that Boko Haram is a hydra-headed organisation - a proof that dialogue may not be the best option, unless the genuine faction is identified.

The federal government should, as a matter of grave national concern, take immediate steps to end acts and threats of terrorism on the Nigerian soil. That's what is important, not the method it employs to achieve that aim.

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