- ONSA develops terrorism threat levels, launches revised counter terrorism strategy
- Air assault kills Boko Haram leaders, ‘Shekau’ fatally wounded, military claims
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed the protracted insurgency in the North-east on corruption and the embezzlement of funds meant to acquire equipment to fight terrorists in the regions by some government and military officials.
Yet, as the president was laying the blame on the doorsteps of some corrupt officials, the Nigerian military in its latest aerial assault against Boko Haram enclaves in the North-east, said it killed several of the sect’s commanders, including a fatally wounded man believed to be the eccentric leader of the terror group Abubakar Shekau.
Speaking yesterday at the launch of the Reviewed National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the president described the behaviour of the guilty officials as “disgraceful and wicked”.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, said that the selfish acts of the officials cost the nation thousands of lives, extended the reign of terror and strengthened the hold of territories in 27 local government areas in the country at a time.
He lamented that the activities and the warped ideologies of the sect still linger through personal contacts and the social media.
Buhari also described as mindless, the killings, kidnappings and destruction of churches and mosques carried out by Boko Haram terrorists, adding that such heinous activities are meant to instill fear in the citizens.
He said: “In the past few years, our nation has faced the threat of terrorism characterised by mindless killing of our people, including children. The massacre of the Buni-Yadi boys in their hostels at night, the bombing of churches, mosques and market places, the kidnap of the Chibok girls, and many others.
“The sheer recklessness of the killings and the shocking barbarity of executions were meant to terrorise and produce maximum fear. To further establish their reign of terror, they took territories and hoisted their tattered flag in almost 27 local governments in the North-east.
“Sadly, because of the disgraceful greed and wickedness of men, some in government and some in high offices in the armed forces at the time, they embezzled funds meant to equip soldiers to contain the terrorists.
“Their incredible selfishness cost the nation thousands of lives, extended the reign of terror, and strengthened the enemy,” he stressed.
The president however noted that his administration had since inception been committed “to the absolute defeat of the terrorists and to quicken and emboldened the morale of our armed forces”.
He also restated his orders to the security agencies to ensure that those that threaten the peace of the country, including the lives and property of citizens, are brought to book.
“I have repeatedly ordered our law enforcement agents, to ensure that the perpetrators of violence in any shape or form are arrested and made to face the law,” he said.
Buhari stressed that a robust counter terrorism strategy was crucial in the fight against terrorism and must be constantly reviewed from relevance to contemporary challenges.
To this end, he said that the launch of the revised counter-terrorism strategy, underscores the fact that terrorism has numerous ideologies, not static and the response must be dynamic and versatile.
The president noted that “since May 29, 2015, we have committed ourselves as a government to the absolute defeat of terrorists, and to re-equipping and rebuilding the morale of our armed forces”.
He added: “The gallant men and women of the armed forces, in a few months freed many from Boko Haram held territory and fatally degraded the fighting capacity of the terrorists.
“Our neighbours in the Lake Chad basin area have been tremendous allies in the various military engagements and unlike all evil the vestiges of their activities and warped ideologies still linger, through personal contacts, social media, capture and intimidation, men, women and even children are induced, persuaded or forced to engage in acts of terrorism.
“This is why a robust and dynamic counter terrorism strategy is crucial in
the fight against terrorism and must be constantly reviewed for relevance to contemporary challenges.
“Today we are gathered to launch such a policy, a revised counter terrorism strategy, that revised strategy underscores the fact that we have recognised that terrorism is not static and our response must be dynamic and versatile.
“I am pleased to confirm that this policy is fit for purpose and arguably responds to the current and imminent and future challenges.”
Buhari, while warning federal ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) to ensure that their officers who have been trained adhere to the strategy, as contained in the document, also warned against rivalry in the fight against terror.
He also noted that, even as many citizens are being released from captivity, the government is still faced with the severe challenge of malnutrition in the North-east.
Against this backdrop, the president said he had tasked the vice-president to chair an inter-ministerial team to quickly review the challenges and work with the multilateral development partners and other civil society organisations to resolve the problem.
According to him, “There must be an understanding that the war against terrorism is a most unconventional one, the enemy is essentially an insane nuisance, because he revels in cowardly attacks, does not obey any rules of warfare, kills the defenseless including prisoners, uses children as human bombs and consider the killing of any one as a victory.
“Therefore, as we think through our strategy, we must remember that to permanently win the physical battle we must win the battle of the hearts and minds of even the most impressionable young men, who sign up to join Boko Haram and other violent extremist groups.
“We must understand that terrorism is essentially a psychological warfare, and as such a psychologically sophisticated and nuanced response is necessary, we must also educate the millions of our young men through the leadership of our faith.
“And we must let them know that neither Islam nor any other religion that we know endorses the slaughter of anyone, and anyone who kills the innocent and shouts that God is great either does not know the meaning of those words or is simply deranged.
“We must work hard to provide opportunities for these young men and women who for years have lacked education and the real chance of doing-well; social investment programmes, home grown school feeding, and vocational and technical education are designed to give them real opportunities.
“Today as hundreds are being released from Boko Haram captivity, we are faced with serious problems of malnutrition in children. I have asked the vice-president to chair an inter-ministerial team to quickly review the situation and work with our development partners and overseas experts to resolve this particular problem.”
In launching the revised counter terrorism strategy, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), said the revised strategy explains what organisations and individuals can do to help in its implementation in order to reduce the risks of terrorism and ensure that people go about their lives freely and with confidence.
Monguno said the new strategy is anchored around five streams aimed at forestalling, securing, identifying, preparing and implementing with key objectives and indicators “to effectively ensure monitoring and evaluating successes at each stage”.
He said his office had developed a benchmark framework for the evaluation of the implementation of the former strategy to combat terrorism, which was reviewed to include salient areas like the Nigeria Countering Violent Extremist Programme, which is a very critical pillar in the fight against terrorism and will engender sustainable peace.
“The NACTEST desks in MDAs have been established to drive the process so that the menace of terrorism must now be addressed from a multi-dimensional and multi-pronged and all of society approach, in order to make it all encompassing,” he explained.
Before Moguno spoke, the Coordinator, Counter Terrorism Centre (CTC), Commodore Yemi Musa, said ONSA, in furtherance of the national counter terrorism efforts, developed the National Terrorism Levels document to guide MDAs on measures to be taken on receipt of information on a likely terrorist attack.
Musa said the document, which outlines the alert levels and the actions to be carried out when a terrorism alert level is declared comprises five-levels.
These are Critical (Red) – Attack is imminent; Severe (Orange) – Attack is highly likely; Substantial (Yellow) – Attack is a strong possibility; Moderate (Blue) – Attack is possible but not likely; and Low (Green) – Attack is unlikely.
“The authority to issue the appropriate threat levels lies with the ONSA. The NSA will issue appropriate threat levels based on the threat analysis and risk assessment by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Branch (JTAB) whose work is dependent on inputs from relevant intelligence gathering and security agencies,” he explained.
As a complement to the Threat Level System, Musa disclosed that ONSA had also developed a national handbook on safety and security tips as a basic compilation of simple guides for personal and corporate security.
According to him, the handbook will enlighten the populace on critical security measures required at all levels of terror threats.
“It is in this regard that this document has been translated into the three main languages, in the first instance, and to others subsequently to give it the much needed circulation among the citizenry,” he said.
As the revised strategy on counter terrorism was being launched, the Nigerian military said yesterday that its recent aerial assault against the Boko Haram enclaves in the North-east killed several of the sect’s commanders including a fatally wounded man believed to be the leader of the group Abubakar Shekau.
Nigerian Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, in a statement, said the feat was achieved through what he described as the most unprecedented and spectacular air raid by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
“We have just confirmed that as a result of the interdiction efforts of the NAF, some key leaders of the Boko Haram terrorists have been killed while others were fatally wounded,” he stated.
Usman said that the air interdiction took place last week Friday, August 19, 2016, while the terrorists were performing Friday rituals at Taye village, Gombale general area within Sambisa forest, Borno State.
According to him, “Those Boko Haram commanders confirmed dead include Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman, among others. While their leader, so called ‘Abubakar Shekau’, was believed to be fatally wounded on his shoulder.”
The army spokesman said that several other terrorists were also wounded.