A Presidential Committee on the Security Challenges in the North-East Zone of Nigeria has found out that Boko Haram has external connections through which it sources for automatic weapons and sophisticated explosives which are smuggled into Nigeria through porous borders
The federal government has finally accepted wide ranging recommendations submitted last year by the Presidential Committee on the security challenges in the North-East Zone of Nigeria, on how to tackle the Boko Haram menace in the country. Among the recommendations accepted by government is the option of dialogue with the dreaded Islamic fundamentalist sect, whose real name is Jamaatul Alhus Sunnah Lid Da’awatis Wal Jihad movement.
The government’s position on various issues raised about Boko Haram and the security situation in Northern Nigeria is contained in a White Paper dated May 2012, a copy of which was recently obtained by Newswatch. In the white paper prepared by a Committee of seven, headed by Abba Moro, minister of internal affairs, which Anyim Pius Anyim, secretary to the government of the federation, had inaugurated in September last year, the federal government specifically stated that it had accepted the recommendation for an “urgent need to constructively engage and dialogue with the leadership of the sect as an essential strategy in bringing them on board.”
The recommendation was made by the Presidential Committee headed by Ambassador Usman Galtimari. Other members of the committee whose terms of reference include, “to review all the issues of security challenges in the zone and proffer solutions/recommendations which could bring a speedy resolution of the crisis,” were: Ali Ndume, a senator from Borno State presently standing trial for alleged funding of the group and Joe-Kyeri Gadzama, a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Musa Shehu, a retired army colonel; Bala Mohammed, former Senator, Bello Mohammed, former minister of defence; Emeka Wogu, minister of labour and A.B. Shehu were also members of the investigation team.
Newswatch learnt that the federal government accepted the recommendation for dialogue with the Islamic sect because it did not want to continue with the present strategy of engaging the sect in open war fare. The strategy had resulted to intensified aggression from the sect and even led to more bloodshed and wanton destruction of properties in many cities in Northern Nigeria.
Findings made by the Galtimari-led committee on the present status of the sect as well as its growing might, external connections and sources of weapons were said to have further convinced the federal government that dialogue would be a more convenient way of stopping the sect from wreaking further havoc on the country. The committees said in its report submitted last year that the sect, which hitherto used crude and locally-made arms and few automatic weapons, “are now linked to highly sophisticated weaponry and explosives imported or smuggled into the country.” The committee members also found out that the modus operandi of the Boko Haram leaders has also changed drastically from mere confrontation with security agents to modern day terrorism with a high precision rate.
The Galtimari-led committee also reported that Boko Haram leaders were involved in training in the Sahara desert before they kick-started the bloody jihad which has so far led to mass deaths and wanton destruction of properties in the Northern cities of Maiduguri, Damaturu, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Bauchi, Suleja as well as in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Members who participated in the trainings were said to have been provided with assorted equipment thereafter.
Weapons used by the sect were said to have been imported into the country through existing transportation routes in Nigeria, via Gamboru/Ngala Chad border with Nigeria. The committee said in its report that it also obtained reports that “trucks destined for Nigeria were loaded with goods and weapons possibly meant for terrorists and other criminals” through the several trade routes existing in the zone. Other routes identified as sources of the weapons include Tetewa, from Cameroon through Bosso and Tudun Mota into Saga; the Banki border in Chad; Duji and Gashigar in Mobbar, New Marte and Mafa, all of which link up in Maiduguri.
The committee attributed the smuggling of illegal weapons into the country to Nigeria’s porous borders. It said: “the porosity of Nigeria’s borders is closely tied to the proliferation of small arms, smuggling and drug trafficking amongst other crimes. Lack of clear delineation of boundaries coupled with the inability to effectively man borders in most developing countries had resulted into porous borders.”
The committee said that the incessant incursions into the country by armed bandits from neighbouring Niger Republic, Cameroon and Chad through the porous and unmanned borders have serious implications on the security of the country. It explained that the development accounts for the increasing menace of armed banditry in states of the North-East geopolitical zone, leading to reduced farming, commercial and social activities as well as wanton killing of Nigerians by the marauders.
It made a case for more border patrols, explaining that “since the country’s national security is paramount, there is need to improve border security which would, in turn, degrade the efficiency of terrorist groups whose members include illegal aliens, using the cover of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol.” It opined also that the fragile security situation in Libya, following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, could facilitate the movement of mercenaries and their subsequent infiltration through the porous borders.
In the white paper prepared by the Abba Moro- led committee, the federal government also accepted the recommendation to improve border security. The government revealed that it has already apprised security services in the country, of the likely increase in security challenges as a result of the situation in Libya. The government also accepted a recommendation to intensify border patrols.
One other major recommendation which the federal government also accepted in the White paper is on the need to identify sponsors of Boko Haram. The recommendation was that “the federal government should direct the security agencies to beam their searchlight on some politicians who sponsored, funded and used the militia groups that later metamorphosed into Boko Haram and bring them to justice.”
The position of government is in reaction to the finding by the Galtimari committee that the sect is an offshoot of private militias in Borno State hired by politicians who set them up in the run-up to the 2003 general elections. The politicians who allegedly armed and used them extensively as political thugs were found to have left the militias to their fate; after the election, as they could not continue funding and keeping them employed. With no visible means of sustenance therefore, some of the militias were reported to have gravitated towards religious extremism, the type offered by Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the Boko Haram sect, who was killed under controversial circumstances in 2009.
In its report, the Galtimari committee traced the rise of the Boko Haram menace to the killing of Boko Haram leader, and many members of the sect in 2009. The report reads: “The immediate cause of the escalation of the sect’s violent activities is the extra-judicial killing of the sect’s leader and his followers in 2009 and the failure of police authorities to bring the culprits to justice.” The report added that the killing of Yusuf, which was captured and circulated by video clips, was horrific, barbaric and unprofessional. The committee stated that “the trial of the police personnel responsible for the extra-judicial murder of Mohammed Yusuf and some of his followers should be expedited and publicised.”
In reaction, the federal government noted in the White paper, that the late President Yar’Adua did not order any enquiry into this matter but that he rather directed the police to investigate the matter and the result of that investigation had led to the ongoing trial of the suspects.
Attention was also paid to the activities of the Joint Task Force, JTF, deployed to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. It was acknowledged that the Joint Task Force currently deployed to Maiduguri, Borno State, was in response to the breakdown of law and order in the city and that the security outfit had somewhat succeeded in bringing the situation under control. “Schools and markets that had closed at the height of the crisis have started reopening. Many of the sect’s kingpins have relocated to neighbouring countries due to sustained pressure exerted on them by the ongoing security operation,” the investigation committee said.
It, however, reported that there were allegations of high–handedness against the JTF, bordering on rape, destruction of property belonging to sect members, extra-judicial killing and harassment and intimidation of Maiduguri residents. In consequence, it recommended that “a judicial commission of enquiry should be set up to look into the alleged atrocities committed by some members of the JTF while the Rules of Engagement, ROE, should be reviewed to reflect the low intensity nature of the military operations not only in Maiduguri, but in all similar operations.”
The report further recommended that the JTF should endeavour to win the hearts and minds of the people but that in the present poisoned atmosphere, this would be difficult, if not impossible to achieve. It said since relative peace had to be attained before the JTF personnel could feel free to mix with the people in the state, it recommended the “replacement of the present troops with new ones from other units, preferably with those who are familiar with the terrain and the peoples’ socio-political and cultural values.”
The security agencies were also urged to commence immediate de-radicalisation of the sect members who are found to be willing to renounce violence and embrace the federal government’s olive branch. In response, the government said it has noted the recommendations and that steps were being taken by the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, to investigate the allegations and deal with them appropriately.
The need for prompt implementation of the recommendations of the Galtimari-led Committee was also accepted by the federal government in the White Paper. The White Paper Committee spoke the mind of government when it noted that “The timely implementation will, inevitably, serve as a lasting solution to the security challenges thrown up by the activities of the Boko Haram sect.” It also recommended that the Federal Government should circulate the report to all levels of authority, the security agencies as well as sensitise the generality of Nigerians to the necessity of supporting the security forces in safeguarding the nation’s security.
The white paper was approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in March. Labaran Maku, minister of information, said then that full details of the contents of the White Paper will only be made public after it would have been gazetted by the ministry of justice.