Hammer Boko Haram
Tuesday’s proscription of Boko Haram and a sister anti-social group, Ansarul, underscores a clear cut move by the federal government to tackle the menace of terrorism, writes Olawale Olaleye
Although still one of the many steps to be taken in the concerted fight against terrorism- away from the prevailing petty politics and personality clash that seem to have assumed the centre stage- the approval, on Tuesday of the proscription of Boko Haram and Ansarul, another sister organisation by President Goodluck Jonathan, comes across as a defining move geared towards stamping out from the fabric of the nation, the scourge of terrorism which has called to question, her sovereignty.
Coming less than a month after the declaration of a state of emergency in the three north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, Jonathan has obviously upped his game in the fight against terrorism by not only designating Boko Haram and others as terrorist organisations but also approved their proscription.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, which confirmed the development, stated that the president had also authorised the gazetting of the order declaring the groups’ activities illegal and acts of terrorism.
The order which has been gazetted as the Terrorism (Prevention) (Proscription Order) Notice 2013, therefore affects both Boko Haram (Jamaatu Ahlis-Sunna Liddaawati Wal Jihad) and Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, approved pursuant to section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 as amended.
By this pronouncement, activities of both groups within the purview of the Terrorism Prevention Act and any with persons associated with them, the statement noted, are now legally subject to prosecution and sentencing to penalties specified in the Act. The proscription order also warned the general public that any person “participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the collective intentions of the said groups would be violating the provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act.”
For instance, section 5 (1) of the act prescribes a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years for any person who knowingly, in any manner, directly or indirectly, solicits or renders support for the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group.
Such "support" is however interpreted in this subsection to include: incitement to commit a terrorist act through the internet, or any electronic means or through the use of printed materials or through the dissemination of terrorist information; receipt or provision of material assistance, weapons including biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, explosives, training, transportation, false documentation or identification to terrorists or terrorist groups.
“Receipt or provision of information or moral assistance, including invitation to adhere to a terrorist or terrorist group; entering or remaining in a country for the benefit of, or at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group or the provision of, or making available, such financial or other related services prohibited under this Act or as may be prescribed by regulations made pursuant to this Act.”
Moving forward, the stage seems set for a more determined fight against terrorism, yielding to process as prescribed by law and defining terms and conditions as enunciated in the rules of engagement.
Many, perhaps, would contend that this is coming even late, the same way the declaration of a state of emergency was almost told off by some sections of the society. There is no doubting the fact that this administration has come to the battlefield with a human face. Not only has it offered to dialogue, it has pondered amnesty for a group that has no clear focus what it is fighting for. But determined to get this behind, the idea of amnesty also gave birth to the Alhaji Kabiru Turaki committee, assigned the responsibility of driving the initiative.
But because of the somewhat perceived weak disposition of the leadership, not only did the group call the bluff of government and even offered amnesty to it instead “because it has not done anything wrong to deserve federal government’s amnesty”; it did not consider the idea of dialogue a possible way out of the crisis.
Thus, by daily getting away with attacks on critical public facilities and the killing of high profile targets, the Boko Haram group and their ilk thought they were in charge; they underrated the strength of the government of the federation and even boasted as having superior firepower and training to contain as well as dislodge the nation’s security forces.
Perhaps, they were right initially. Apart from sacking several police stations and posts in many parts of the north, they also dared certain military facilities and got away with the killing of security operatives in such manners that truly reflected a weak system. And despite displaying inexplicable irrationality and wanton mindlessness in their operations, government was still willing to talk to the groups and even grant them amnesty because “some people mounted as much pressure.”
However, for the concerned Nigeria, following the recklessness of the group, it was either government asserted itself or allowed the country to slide into total precipice. It was for that reason that the declaration of emergency rule in the three north-eastern states received a lot of commendation, almost across board.
Interestingly, that presidential discretion appears to be yielding. Recent reports from Yobe, Borno and Adamawa showed that the insurgents had lost complete control and fled their control bases. As a result of this, the military has not only demystified their firepower, the insurgents now seek international support from their allies. That is good report by any standard and if the tempo is sustained, there is no doubting the fact that terrorism related-attacks would be over soon, at least, considerably.
Also, by this development, the idea of amnesty may have been rested. What this means is that government has finally come to terms with the fact that no sane sovereign nation negotiates with terrorists. This is because the anti-social groups are not only irrational, they usually come forward with such demands that even the greatest of nations cannot meet.
But then, the need for caution in the operations of the military to avoid needless civilian casualties is sacrosanct. The tendency for the soldiers to go overboard is equally high, hence the need for periodic review of the operations to assess both the success and failure of the operations and improve where necessary.
Instances abound whenever the military is deployed in operations and are seen as going off-track, deliberately for sheer indulgence. From stories of alleged harassment of the civilian population to molestation and even raping of their women, such ugly developments must not be introduced into this critical assignment.
Importantly, government must strengthen its anti-terrorism unit which is practically non-existent. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have kept a small but effective one which was alleged to have been dismantled by the late president Umaru Yar’Adua. Except Jonathan has resuscitated it, there is the possibility that none exists for now and as such, the need for an effective one is essential.
The use of the regular military personnel in the fight against terrorism is against standard practice. It is basic fact that fighting terrorism is intelligence warfare, an assignment reserved essentially for the State Security Service. Rather than assign the few SSS operatives to individuals, government can deploy them to better national assignment where they can be as useful.
It is also arguable that the nation was not prepared for the kind of security challenge thrown up by terrorism menace, hence, the training and retraining of the security agents is as important in order to keep abreast of these developments and tackle them effectively, deploying their experience to use.
It is also important for government to rid the rank and file of its security architecture of the moles whose stock in trade is selling out to enemies of the state for whatever reason. This is also an aspect that requires intelligence gathering and it is as important as combating the insurgents themselves since enemies within carry greater weight.
On the whole, this is yet another step the president is deemed to have taken right and just in time. All it requires now to lock it down further is sustain the tempo and improve on the initiatives. This will help close the loose ends and push the insurgents out of their hiding and by so doing, declare the Nigerian territory unsafe for them.