Monday 19 November 2012

Containing the Menace of Boko Haram Part 2

Boko Haram is known to have obtained support from willing sources and from individuals and organizations that have been duped or coerced. They also force members of the public to provide Schedule intelligence, funds, accommodation and special materials used in terrorist operations. Innocent youths are commandeered and used to provide real-time intelligence, surveillances, transportation, couriers, medical assistance, food and local security against their wishes. In all these, the government is dragging its feet thus invariably contributing to Boko Haram’s unity.

The use of provocative tactics by Boko Haram necessitated the employment of the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) by the Federal Government in an attempt to put Boko Haram’s activities in check thereby generating international and local sympathy and outcry with the Amnesty International condemning the Nigerian government’s handling of the issue and the Northern Nigeria Leaders kicking against full scale military intervention.   

Boko Haram spouts from the existence of aggrieved group in the north.  This aggrieved group shares two essential characteristics, namely: they have specific objectives, and they believe that violence is an inevitable means to achieve their goals. The socio-political dimension of Boko Haram sect is the key factor that distinguishes it from other criminal groups. Boko Haram should not be confused with a mere gang of criminals. Although the political and religious objectives sought by the Boko Haram group are not legitimate, members of the group share the perception that their grievances have been ignored and their demands neglected. It is this shared perception that helps to define Boko Haram as an aggrieved group out to address their grievances to the government, and have established its operational stronghold in Maiduguri from where it directs its terrorist activities against domestic targets across the north. It is evident that Boko Haram is also receiving direct financial and military assistance from a-Qaida in Maghreb and training and other contingency supports from Niger Republic. The link must be traced and cut and the collaborators and facilitators prosecuted accordingly.
The attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja was intended to serve as message generator to lure America into Nigeria, and force the Federal Government to apply maximum force thereby attracting more sympathy and support in terms of personnel and resources to Boko Haram. Both the American and Nigerian Governments acted wisely in managing the attack maturely.
 However, in Nigeria, major acts of violence, kidnapping, assassination and bombing including open hostilities against targeted groups and the law enforcement agencies are usually painted either as political, economic, religious, tribal or ethnic crisis. This makes it complex to have a genealogy of terrorist activities in the country and difficult to design and manage proper terrorist countermeasures.
Major General Sarkin Yari Bello, the Coordinator of Counter-Terrorism in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has a lot to do to contain the activities of Boko Haram. First Boko Haram must be seen as and treated as a terrorist organization, its leadership identified, its structure known and the chain of command established and its link with government exposed. It is disheartening to note that between 2002 and 2012 government security agencies are unable to understudy and understand Boko Haram’s surveillance technique, its targeting methodology and attacking tactics. I remember some years back, undercover agents and intelligence operatives are sponsored in various institutions across the country and overseas as either students or workers, some assigned to communities and cities to do odd jobs or fake madness as cover to gather real-time security intelligence that helped in effective governance and management of the nation’s security system. It pains to hear that undercover agency operation is now redundant and that luxury and self-interest has taken over the place loyalty, professionalism and patriotism.
However, we still have people, agents, serving or retired who are worth their salt, who can infiltrate Boko Haram no matter how close an organization it is. Intelligence information does not move on its own, people or a medium carry’s it. What happen to our well cherish intelligence security and effective policing mechanism? Yes, there are more security-officers determined to salvage Nigeria than those who want her down and out. But 52 years after independence we cannot tell who our external and internal adversaries are, we lack knowledge of their attack methodology, previous incidents, target of choice, explosive components, blast impact zones, levels of sophistication, size of organization, affiliates, current intelligence, and their methods of targets acquisition.   
This is not the appropriate medium to discuss the available techniques. But, with appropriate policy in place and wide interagency and civil group coordination and effective management Boko Haram containment is possible. Agents must be carefully recruited, trained and enticed into cooperation. In enticing agents extreme caution is required to avoid infiltration of double agents. That is the fear of our President when he said Boko Haram is everywhere.
Penetration of Boko Haram is now the most acceptable way to contain it. We must infiltrate the leadership so as to obtain advanced knowledge of the location and identity of intended victims, nature of the disguises being used by the hit team, and the secret sources of weapons. The government needs this information to foil Boko Haram activities in the bud.   Security professionals do not get involved in socio-political disputes or correct deviant behaviours. Rather they deal with the symptoms of the problems, namely: crime and pure risk losses. (Excuse my technicalities).

In the Nigeria context, government has employed two kinds of remedies to the problem of terrorism. These are: Direct Military Confrontation (JTF), and Dialogue. It is on record that Direct Military Confrontation has failed to address the activities of Boko Haram. Rather it is generating international and local condemnations. As usual the government is considering Dialogue. Unfortunately dialogue has never been successful in solving the problem of terrorism. Dialogue can address development problems not terrorism. Dialogue can open up economic opportunities and not check Islamic Fundamentalists that are determined to abolish western education and forbid interaction with the western world, support opposition to the Government of Nigeria, institutionalize Islamic law and enthrone Islam in Nigeria. Dialogue is in line with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter which requires parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger international peace and security to seek a solution, among other peaceful means, by negotiation, mediation and conciliation but Boko Haram is not asking for socio-economic development of the north, good governance and/or the rule of law. To Boko Haram all these are part of Western Education and the Western world that are sin.
 It is unreasonable to expect the Federal Government to organize and support a discrete system (police, intelligence, courts, military units and other government agencies) solely to combat terrorism. Rather, it is necessary to use existing organizations and institutions, with special units organized and trained specifically to deal with visible problem like Boko Haram. With policy on terrorism established, the organization created, intelligence operations defined, operational security put in place, training programmes institutionalized, and counteraction programme ongoing the government is on the way to containing terrorism irrespective of those behind it.

 Of all the activities and programmes discussed in this write up, two most vital to the defeat of Boko Haram are intelligence and policing. Police are accustomed to the legal procedures, which follow counterterrorism actions, and the society generally accepts the use of force by police. However, it appears Boko Haram is well supported, and might not be defeated by present level of intelligence and policing. We must raise our intelligence and policing approach to the next levels, adopting the most current technology and skills. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should avoid the use of military methods and military forces because of the potential danger to innocent people. The use of military measures could lead to an overreaction, which can be exploited by Boko Haram. Security holds the key to defeating Boko Haram not militarism.  In the words of Colonel James Hall, the British Defence Attaché in Nigeria the war against Boko Haram is a “battle of minds that requires the use of intelligence”. It is suggested that civilian authority command the war, the police lead the battle while other intelligence agencies support as foot soldiers and the military play civilized second fiddle. Enough is enough!

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