Victoria Nuland, State department's spokesperson
From Tokunbo Adedoja in New York
United States has said it would continue to look at the question of a broader designation of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, (also known as Boko Haram), even after three of its leaders were designated global terrorists this week.
This is coming just as the Nigerian embassy in Washington DC appealed to the US government that whatever action that would be taken against the three designated Boko Haram leaders should not affect their immediate neighbours who had not only been the hardest hit, but had vehemently opposed the activities of the militant sect.
The three Boko Haram leaders labeled as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists", are Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar, and Khalid al-Barnawi.
Answering reporters question at a briefing at the State Department in Washington DC, the department's spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, said, "More broadly, as you know, there is always this question of whether designating individuals within an organization is the most effective strategy or whether the designating (of) the whole organization is the most effective strategy. So, we’re continuing to look at the question of a broader designation."
She however noted that Boko Haram was at the moment a loosely constructed group attached to trying to address grievances in the North.
Nuland said there were different views within the group, and US was looking at that, while also working with Nigerian authorities to encourage dialogue with forces in the North with a view to ensuring that, "a unified, multi – pluralistic Nigeria where the rights of all people, no matter their religion, no matter where they live, are protected in its own security efforts".
She added that Nigerian government needed to begin a real dialogue about some of the roots of the dissatisfaction in the North by engaging northern communities, thereby making them more resistant to some of the extremist-style tactics that the three designated Boko Haram leaders espouse.
"We are making some progress in terms of our security relationship with them (Nigeria), encouraging them to strengthen policing versus using the military in these cases. And we are working with them on the kinds of offers of dialogue, economic support, et cetera, that could be helpful", she said in response to whether US believes Nigeria was taking a broader look at some of the roots of violent attacks in the North.
A reporter also sought to know whether Thursday's designation was done in coordination with Pentagon (headquarters of US Department of Defense), and if their was a nexus between the designation and Pentagon’s ongoing interest and seeming ramping up of its activities to deal with Boko Haram and other extremist groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.
To that question, Nuland said, "Well, we always work in coordination. I think, as you know, as a government, we’ve been concerned about increasing extremism and loose groups coming together in that whole part of Africa."
The senior US official further said, "So, we are looking at all of the steps that we can take to support governments that are trying to close space for terrorism, including these designations today."
Nuland also justified the designation saying, "We took this measure to designate these three because they are clearly kingpins of Boko Haram, and clearly all of them have advocated terrorism as a weapon in their campaign. They’re all committed to violent extremism."
On the effectiveness of the designation using Executive Order 13224 which blocks their property in US and prohibits US persons from dealing with them, Nuland said she would not go into details of whether the three individuals have assets within US jurisdiction.
She however said the designation would not only make it impossible for them to personally be involved in fundraising in US or any of those kinds of activities, but also "sends a shot across the bow to those who are considering taking up extreme violence to address grievances in the North, that this is a course that is open to us with regard to them as well."
Nigerian government official reaction to the designation was contained in Note 50/2012 sent to the State Department on Friday by its embassy in Washington DC.
The five- paragraph note reads: "The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria presents its compliments to the United States Department of State and has the honour to acknowledge the news of the implementation of Section 1B Executive Order 13224 by which the State Department declared Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi as specially Designated Global Terrorists.
"The designation according to the Order is designed to diminish the capacity of these men who are members of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks. While the facts contained in the Order are not in dispute, the Embassy hereby expresses its sadness that the Boko Haram episode has led to such a declaration.
"The Embassy however wishes to assure that the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is firmly resolved in its determination to bring an end to the destructive activities of this group. We shall continue our efforts in this direction with the active cooperation and assistance of our friends and allies especially our host government.
"Finally, the Embassy wishes to appeal that whatever action that is eventually taken against these individuals, their immediate neighbours who have felt most the impact, but are very much vehemently opposed to the activities of Boko Hararn, should not be affected.
"The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the United States Department of State, the assurances of its highest consideration."