Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume
By Tokunbo Adedoja
Despite the many efforts of the Federal Government, Nigeria is not doing enough to check terrorism as exemplified by the activities of Boko Haram, a report by the United States has observed.
The report, titled ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2011’, was presented to the media on Tuesday by the Bureau of Counter-terrorism’s Ambassador-at-Large, Daniel Benjamin, who added that the US has been working to address the issue of insecurity in Northern Nigeria.
The report also stated the obvious when it added that there was an upsurge in Boko Haram attacks in the year under review, rising from 31 in 2010 to 136 attacks in 2011.
Under US law, by April 30 of each year, the Secretary of State is requested to provide Congress with a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to countries and groups.
The report noted that Nigeria experienced a steady increase in terrorist attacks in 2011, particularly in the northern states of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, and Kaduna, as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
It also said the Nigerian government worked to improve coordination, communication and cooperation domestically and internationally on counterterrorism matters, including intensifying military operations in the North-east to counter Boko Haram’s terrorist activities.
The report, which described some military operations against the terrorists as “often heavy-handed,” added: “Nigerian efforts to address northern grievances, a key catalyst of the violence, have lagged behind the military campaign against BH (Boko Haram).”
It recommended that the Nigerian government accelerate implementation of its plan to address these issues.
The National Focal Point on Terrorism – an inter-agency task force formed in 2007 that includes the State Security Service (SSS), Nigerian Customs Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Immigration – did not actively operate in 2011, the report added.
It said although President Goodluck Jonathan created the position of a counter-terrorism coordinator and replaced its first coordinator, who was an ambassador, with a well-respected army general last September, the National Security Adviser (NSA) remained the lead coordinator of Nigeria’s strategy to counter-terrorism.
On the issue of legislation and law enforcement, the report recalled that in May, last year, the National Assembly passed the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011, which was signed into law by Jonathan on June 3.
It, however, added that while the law was modelled on international standards, including United Nations guidelines, it did not clearly delineate which police or security agency served as the lead agency to investigate suspected terrorist crimes.
The report also commented on the arrest of Ali Sanso Konduga (also known as Usman al-Zawahiri) - whom it described as an ex-spokesperson of Boko Haram - and his trial and sentencing to three years in prison after pleading guilty last November to charges of sending threatening text messages to government officials and also the arrest of Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume.
But it said Ndume, elected on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, was arraigned on a four-count charge of collaborating with Konduga, was admitted to bail and his trial was still ongoing.
The report while reviewing Nigeria’s efforts to check terrorist financing as contained in Nigeria’s Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, warned that there were some outstanding concerns that the criminalisation of terrorist financing may not be fully in line with international standards.
It observed that in 2011, the Nigerian government did not prosecute terrorist financing crimes under either of these laws.
The report added that Nigeria-US counterterrorism cooperation continued in 2011, particularly following the June attack on the Abuja headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force headquarters, and that the Department of State’s Anti-terrorism Assistance programme and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) programmes provided training to bolster the capacity of Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies to address terrorist incidents.
Fielding questions from reporters, at the presentation of the report, Benjamin said the US had been working to address the issue of insecurity in northern Nigeria, adding, “This is a top priority for the department. We’re concerned about Boko Haram’s activities.”
Noting the recent designation of three Boko Haram leaders under Executive Order 13224, Benjamin said this would allow the US to “focus on those individuals who are most responsible for violence, for threats against the US and its citizens.”
He said Africa experienced 978 attacks in 2011, an 11.5 per cent increase over the previous year, attributing it “in large part to the more aggressive attack tempo of the Nigerian-based terrorist group Boko Haram, which conducted 136 attacks in 2011, up from 31 the previous year.”
Giving statistics of worldwide terrorist activities in 2011, he said there were more than 10,000 attacks in 70 countries, resulting in more than 12,500 deaths, with the largest number of reported attacks occurring in South Asia and the Near East - particularly Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
He added that more than 75 per cent of the world’s attacks and deaths occurred in these regions, with the victims being “overwhelmingly Muslim.”
Despite the huge figures, he said there was a drop of 12 per cent from 2010 statistics.