Nigeria marked its 61 years of independence from colonial rule yesterday, October 1, 2021.
As it has become the usual practice, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, gave a special national Independent Day broadcast in which he assured the citizens of his government’s resolve to tackle the myriads of challenges confronting the nation.
It has been 61 years of a mixed bag of fortunes for the nation.
The country has recorded some appreciable measure of success in various aspects of its national life, but there have been many challenges and failures as well.
One of the nation’s greatest challenges in recent times, besides monumental systemic corruption and a failing economy, has been the menace of insecurity occasioned by terrorism.The nation has been grappling with the terrorism monster for about twelve years now since the Mohammed Yusuf-founded Boko Haram launched its armed campaign against the Nigerian state in 2009.
What started back then as a rag-tag army of misguided and brainwashed young men with primitive weapons, making impossible demands from the government, has since burgeoned into a hydra-headed monster that threatens the very foundation of the country’s existence.
As of today, many other armed groups have emerged to wage an atrocious war against the Nigerian state, thus compounding the nation’s already precarious security situation.
Although the federal government is yet to designate these other groups as terrorist organizations, they have been unleashing a reign of terror on the nation.
Statistics by Global Conflict Tracker show that since the advent of the insurgency, Boko Haram and its splinter group, ISWAP, have killed about 350,000 Nigerians since 2009 and displaced over 3 million others from their ancestral homes in northern Nigeria.
Even as we label these groups bandits, militants, militiamen, and herdsmen, the truth is that they are terrorists with a common mission to take over the nation and impose their brand of religious ideology and philosophy on all of us.
The major cause of terrorism in Nigeria is religious fundamentalism. Other peripheral causes and contributing factors to its growth include the quest for economic gains, the struggle for the control of natural resources, and a few other reasons.
The federal government has been in battling the nation’s insecurity problem without much success. The need for a change of tactics and approach to the war on terror has, therefore, become pertinent. If the government must succeed at taming the monster, it must adopt a holistic and multipronged approach to the war instead.
This approach would include taking the following six steps.
1. Tracing and blocking channels from which the terrorists get funding
The must of a necessity trace and block all channels from which the terrorists get funding to starve them of such funds and stifle their operations. This is a difficult task but the government can liaise with Interpol and the financial intelligence unit to trace the funds.
2. Hounding down and prosecuting terrorism financiers and sponsors.
Individuals and groups from within and without the country are responsible for funding terrorism. To end the scourge, therefore, the government must track, apprehend, and prosecute these sponsors and financiers.
In recent times the government has taken a positive step in this direction by apprehending 400 Bureau de Change operators for their involvement in wiring and laundering money for the terrorists.
The government, however, needs to expedite action on their prosecution to send a strong message to others.
3. Prosecuting purveyors of radical ideologies and teachings that breed terrorism
As I mentioned earlier, religious fundamentalism is primarily responsible for breeding terrorism. To tame the monster, therefore, the government needs to identify, arrest, and prosecute scholars and teachers of extreme religious ideologies. I do recognize the difficulty in doing that because of the sentiments involved.
But if the government is serious about tackling the problem headlong, it has to do the needful not only to deter others from treading that path but also to reduce the incident of radicalization of youths in the northern states especially.
4. Manning the nation's international borders to control the influx of illegal firearms into the country
There is no gainsaying the fact that the nation's international borders, especially those in the northern region, are porous. This makes it too easy for the outlaws to access high-caliber arms and ammunition brought in by smugglers across the borders.
The government must take very deliberate steps to effectively man these borders to control the influx of weapons into the country.
5. Investing in weapons for the armed forces and in the welfare of the fighting the troops
The government must invest more in the procurement of modern and state-of-art weapons for the military to behave better firepower than the insurgents who currently wield sophisticated weapons. The government must in the same vein ensure that funds it releases for the procurement of weapons do not get diverted into private pockets.
In addition, the government would greatly help its cause if it probes all past cases of missing funds meant for the procurement of military hardware to a justifiable conclusion and prosecute those found culpable of misappropriating such funds.
The government must also place a high premium on the welfare of the troops as well, especially because we have heard many persistent complaints of neglect and poor welfare from soldiers on the frontlines.
6. Reviewing the country’s laws against terrorism to strengthen them
The truth is that the nation's existing laws are not adequate to effectively tackle terrorism because the scourge is relatively new to the country. That is why the government needs to review them to strengthen them.
Doing that would ensure the speedy dispensation of justice in terror-related cases.
In addition to this, the government can also establish special courts to further enhance the speed of justice delivery.
7. Rolling out massive public awareness campaigns about the dangers of getting involved in terrorism
The government, through its relevant agencies like the National Orientation Agency, should begin a sustained public awareness campaign to sensitize citizens on the dangers of getting involved with terrorism.
The jingles for the campaign, which should be done in Pidgin English and local languages, should address the need for citizens to shun religious fundamentalism and those who preach extremist doctrines.
It should be broadcast on both the traditional and the new media.
The relevant agencies should bombard the airwaves with audio, visual, audiovisual materials to drive home the message.
The agencies should get renowned moderate religious clerics, especially Islamic scholars, to endorse the campaign to validate it.
8. Designating armed herders and bandits as terrorists
In 2018, the Global Terrorism Index listed Fulani herdsmen or bandits, as the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world. They have become even more deadly ever since.
But despite the knowledge of such fact by globally recognized terror-monitoring organizations, the federal government under President Buhari has not deemed it fit to declare the Fulani militants a terrorist organization.
A few days ago, both chambers of the National Assembly adopted a motion calling on the President to declare bandits as terrorists through a Proscription Order in line with section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 (as amended).
Such an order, according to the National Assembly, “will officially bring the activities of bandits and their sponsors within the purview of the Terrorism Prevention Act, and any persons associated with such groups can then be legally prosecuted and sentenced to penalties specified in the Act.
The Assembly's position backed the persistent loud cries from Nigeria for the same purpose.
I honestly believe that if the government would faithfully implement the steps enumerated above, it would defeat the monster of terrorism and the attendant insecurity in a short while.
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