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Boko Haram the changing face of Terrorism- Surfing from Africa to Middle East

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Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist organization operating in Nigeria, has been a major source of insecurity and unrest in the nation for more than a decade. Established in 2002, the group’s objective is to establish an Islamic state within Nigeria and it has been responsible for numerous attacks on civilians and government facilities.

The name “Boko Haram” translates to “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language. The group perceives western education as a threat to Islam and believes it corrupts the minds of muslims. Consequently, Boko Haram has targeted schools and universities, resulting in the tragic deaths of students and teachers, who they view as promoting western values.

The abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014 brought international attention to Boko Haram, sparking the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, urging the safe return of the kidnapped girls.

Since then, the Nigerian government has been engaged in a prolonged battle against the group, with varying degrees of success. The election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 brought renewed hope in countering Boko Haram’s activities.

However, the fight against Boko Haram remains ongoing, particularly in the north-eastern region of Nigeria. The group continues to carry out attacks, exemplified by the abduction of over 100 schoolgirls from Dapchi in 2018, serving as a grim reminder of the Chibok kidnappings.

 

What is the official name of Boko Haram and its threat?

Boko Haram, officially known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, is an Islamist militant group operating in north-eastern Nigeria, as well as other neighboring countries like Chad, Niger, northern Cameroon, and Mali.

Despite facing some challenges, former President Buhari remained steadfast in his commitment to completely eradicate Boko Haram. He sought assistance from the international community to support Nigeria in its efforts to combat the group and promised to allocate necessary resources to the military for this purpose.

 

Boko Haram Web in the UAE

United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action by designating six individuals linked to Boko Haram, a deadly terrorist organization based in Nigeria. These individuals were proven guilty of establishing a Boko Haram cell in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to raise funds and provide material support to the insurgents in Nigeria. This action by OFAC was followed by taking them under custody, prosecutions, and designations in the UAE in September 2021, reflecting the UAE government’s commitment to using legal measures and targeted financial sanctions to disrupt the flow of funds to such networks.

The UAE Federal Court further appeals in Abu Dhabi for convicted Abdurrahman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad for transferring $782,000 from Dubai to Boko Haram in Nigeria. Salihu Yusuf Adamu and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad received life imprisonment sentences for violating UAE anti-terrorism laws, while Abdurrahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, and Ibrahim Ali Alhassan were sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by deportation. These actions will prevent the further use of these individuals’ funds to support terrorism.

Complications of Sanctions

As a consequence of their actions, all assets and holdings of the named  individuals mentioned above, as well as any entities in which they have a direct or indirect ownership of 50 percent or more, whether individually or in association with other blocked individuals, located in the United States or under the control of U.S. individuals, must be frozen and reported to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Unless granted authorization through a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions, including those transiting United States, involving the assets or holdings of designated or blocked individuals.

Boko Haram and its impact in Nigeria

(ISWA) primarily occur in the North East states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, were people have also witnessed significant attacks in the other regions, including Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi, and Taraba States. Boko Haram has demonstrated resilience and conducted attacks not only within Nigeria but also in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, major threat perception to both the western and regional interests.

The 12-year conflict between Nigeria and Boko Haram has had devastating consequences for communities in the country’s northern states. The group has targeted civilians and security personnel, causing severe damage to mast height buildings and public infrastructure. Local communities have endured grave human rights abuses, such as  killing abduction, sexual violence, forced labour, and the conscription of children. Additionally, Boko Haram has looted and burned public buildings, including schools, personal property like farmlands, and sometimes entire villages.

Since the onset of the conflict, over 43,000 people have lost their lives to Boko Haram’s violence. Survivors often suffer from lasting physical and mental trauma as a result of the attacks. The continuous violence perpetrated by Boko Haram has had far-reaching and devastating impacts on the affected communities.

What ARE THE STEPS taken by the current government against Boko Haram ?

President Buhari, a former military general, has prioritized the fight against Boko Haram during his tenure. His administration has taken various measures to curb the group’s activities, which include increasing military spending, enhancing intelligence gathering, and collaborating with neighboring countries like Chad, Cameroon, and Niger to address the cross-border threat posed by the terrorist organization.

Under President Buhari’s leadership, the Nigerian military achieved significant successes in its efforts against Boko Haram. In 2016, the military reported liberating over 20,000 hostages held by the group and reclaiming control of several towns that were previously under Boko Haram’s rule.

In a recent article by Jibrin Ibrahim published on May 5, 2023, it was mentioned that former President Buhari proposed an economic governance plan for the country until the year 2050. However, during the first two years of his eight-year term, he refrained from appointing economic advisers. Even after eventually forming a team and receiving the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) proposal, he chose not to implement it, citing that the Central Bank governor provided him with substantial funds through “ways and means” advances, negating the need for him to make tough economic decisions.

Recent Attack on Boko Haram

Several Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists have been reportedly killed in airstrikes by troops of Air Component Operation Hadin Kai, in the Sambisa Forest axis of Bama Local Government Area. Sources said that the terrorists were eliminated in air strikes carried out on the night of June 21, 2023, in Amchille in Geizuwa.

Counter-insurgency expert in the Lake Chad region, Zagazola Makama confirmed the strikes noting that the air component carried out the strikes following credible intelligence inputs of terrorists planning to launch an attack.The jets successfully struck the camps, killing most of the terrorists while a few escaped.

He disclosed that the damaging airstrikes had forced over 50 of the Boko Haram and their family members from Mairambiri, Zaramari, Bula Tuja, Bula Marwa, Bula Daloye, Kajiri and Gare villages to surrender to troops of 202 and 151 Battalions of the Nigerian Army.

On the same day one Mohammed Yahaya, a 30 years old terrorist from Gobara village in Sambisa general area and his two wives, surrendered to the troops of 192 Battalion in Pulka in Gwoza local government.

Is the new Government going for total clean-up operation of BokoHaram?

In December 2020, the candidate from the ruling All Progressive Congress party called for a reevaluation of the government’s security strategy. Acknowledging the persistent threat of Boko Haram, he stated, “In such situations, what we do is re-plan our strategy.”

Is the ruling party’s candidate signaling a new approach? In his manifesto, the candidate, Tinubu, identifies the insurgency as a security issue stemming from a socio-economic crisis. He proposes the creation of new job opportunities, providing training for young individuals, and facilitating access to business loans to stimulate economic growth. These socio-economic initiatives will be complemented by a complete overhaul of the nation’s existing security architecture.

Back in 2013, Tinubu had already urged the Goodluck Jonathan administration to recognize that a solely military response to Boko Haram was inadequate.

Personal assessment: It is unlikely that President Bola A Tinubu will pursue an escalation of the counter-insurgency. While he does not explicitly mention engaging in formal negotiations with Boko Haram, he appears to be more open to exploring alternative solutions to the conflict. President Tinubu has made a commitment to eradicate Boko Haram and any form of insurgency.

Quotes from the party manifesto of the All Progressive Congress (APC), known as the “APC Common Sense Solution,” reveal its plans and strategies for addressing the Boko Haram insurgency:

Boko Haram massive & cryptic insurgency in the North, and its  subsequent increased audacious attacks, has underscored the extent of Nigeria’s National Security Crisis. This crisis goes beyond just Boko Haram and runs much deeper, with communal violence frequently erupting in several states. Ordinary Nigerians are facing the brunt of this crisis on a daily basis.

Various forms of unrest, including militancy, kidnappings, and armed robberies, coupled with a lack of access to legal protection against abuses by the government or powerful entities, have caused constant chaos and violence in many parts of Nigeria. This has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, endangering the solemn pledge that the first civil war would also be the last.

According to Section 14 of the Nigerian Constitution, the most important purpose of the government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. However, it is evident that the current government has failed in this aspect. The response to the Boko Haram insurgency has been grossly inadequate and ineffective, necessitating a new strategy.

Addressing the root causes of insecurity, such as poverty and disempowerment, is crucial. Simultaneously, a Comprehensive Security Sector reform needs to be implemented, focusing on the effectiveness and efficacy of the sector while upholding human rights and fundamental civil and political liberties. The APC government aims to equip security and law enforcement agencies to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

Additionally, the APC government will actively contribute to regional security in West Africa and the continent. This includes advocating for the establishment of the proposed African Standby Force by the African Union. Some of the Key Points or Gaps, which needs immediate attentions by the Present Government  are as:

  • Immediately the situational demand is to tune or enhance the capacity and capabilities of Nigeria’s military, police, and other Law Enforcement Agencies by recruiting additional personnel, providing modern equipment, and fostering a commitment to professionalism, merit, and excellence in their respective services, considering the demands of a growing population.
  • Collaborate with neighbouring countries to employ military force in dismantling the factions of Boko Haram that refuse to surrender their weapons.
  • Involving both military and non-military strategies to secure the release of all individuals kidnapped by the insurgents.
  • Implement a time-bound partial amnesty for lower-ranking Boko Haram members who have been coerced into the group, in exchange for surrendering their arms and participating in a reintegration program into society.
  • Forming a compensation program for the victims affected by the insurgency.
  • Establish the Factual & Reconciliation Commission to address human rights abuses that occurred during the insurgency as well as the fundamental issues that underlie the insurgency.
  • Rigorously work on Agreements, Treaties, and Regulations seeking to limit and reduce the incidence of illegal trade in and movement of small arms across the West African sub-region and into Nigeria, Supporting the Security Services.
  • A National Security Audit mechanism is to be put in place to determine the state of affairs, capacity and capability deficits in the armed forces, police and other security agencies.
  • Improve the security forces architecture by increases in budget, modernized equipment and more personnel. They will be kept to match new higher standards of accountability, openness and professional management.
  • Urgently audit and revamp the existing management structures of the five security services- the Police, the Army, the Navy, the Air- Force and the intelligence services.
  • Immediately commence a capacity development program initiative for the Nigerian Police and Armed Forces to improve their professionalism and service Delivery.
  • Increase personnel levels in the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and other Security services to meet current challenges and ensure that they are well trained and equipped for their constitutional responsibility.
  • Urgent review of death and disability insurance to a minimum of Ni m (One Million Naira) only, from the current level. Accountability & delivery
  • Create a Federal Anti-Terrorism Agency (FATA) or a Task Force similar to that with properly trained and professional staff combining elements for both the Police and the State Security Service, which would be fully accountable to the National Assembly to conduct anti-terrorism and counter insurgency operations.
  • Develop, promote and implement a public accountability framework to enhance the operational autonomy and efficiency of the military, police and other security agencies in the discharge of their constitutional mandates.
  • Devolve the oversight of local policing, including the nomination of the State Police Commissioner and management of the prison service to the state.
  • Establish a Federal Police Complaints Authority and Ombudsman to provide transparent process for ordinary Nigerians to raise complaints over police conduct.
  • Promote peaceful and harmonious coexistence by ensuring that Nigerians are free to live, work and worship in any part of the country without let or hindrance, and introduce legislation to outlaw inflammatory hate speech.
  • Protect the country against external, internal aggression and enhance national security through stricter control of borders while maintaining strong, close and beneficial relationship with neighbours and other countries
  • Address the root causes of the insurgency, such as unemployment, poverty, and social injustice, by implementing a Comprehensive Economic Development Programme for the affected states and communities.
  • Establish a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to address human rights abuses during the insurgency and to tackle the underlying issues that contribute to it.

With respect to Nigerian involvement in or their presence of foot prints in UAE or other countries of the middle east, the informative source had disclosed about an overview that the Families were most likely deceived in the regular course of action to the level that some of the transactions they facilitated turned out to be for proceeds meant for Boko Haram activities. The facts collected revealed that one of the Boko Haram couriers, Alhaji Sa’idu, would arrange an unidentified or vaguely identified Arab person on a visit to Dubai from Turkey to hand over an amount of money in US Dollars to one of the convicts,  who in turn, advised his Nigerian-based business partners to hand over the Naira equivalent of the amount to him (Alhaji Sa’idu).

Also the most important aspects which needs to be understood and examined is that the percentage of women terrorist in Boko Haram is almost 40-50% which is alarming and needs to be flagged The other most important point which needs to be understand is the operation process. It is seen that they are more adoptive to brutality, assassination then men. Now these are some of the areas which needs to be examined in the case of African Terrorist Group and we should not deny the fact that reach is no more in their dictionary for such Terrorist Groups.

Boko Haram the changing face of Terrorism- Surfing from Africa to Middle East -

By: Dr Prof Nishakant Ojha
Eminent Expert- Counter Terrorism (West Asia & Middle East)

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