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Archive for the tag “Boko Haram”

Nigerian troops target Boko Haram in Damaturu

 

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“About 30 suspected members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram have died in a gun battle with troops in north-east Nigeria, the military says.

Army spokesman Lt Eli Lazarus said the battle in Damaturu lasted several hours and 10 arrests were also made.

He said the militants killed included a senior commander known as one-eyed Bakaka.

Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow the government and impose Sharia law across Nigeria.

Attacks in central and northern Nigeria attributed to the group have killed an estimated 1,400 people since 2010.

In a statement, Lt Lazarus described “the notorious one-eyed Bakaka” as Boko Haram’s field commander in Damaturu and a close associate of the sect’s leader Abubakar Shekau.

However, the BBC’s Will Ross in Nigeria says it is not possible to verify the information.

Earlier, police reports said four suspected militants had been killed rather than 30.

Nigeria’s military has recently reported major success in its campaign against Islamist militants and Damaturu, in Yobe state, is one of the areas worst affected by the violence.

However, human rights groups say army operations in northern Nigeria have also left many civilians dead and they complain that arrests are often indiscriminate.

In September the military said it had killed 35 suspected Boko Haram members in fierce gun battles in Damaturu. Scores of people were also arrested there in a door-to-door sweep of several neighbourhoods.”

BBC News

 

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FG ready to dialogue with Boko Haram – Sambo

By Gbenga Omokhunu

“The Federal Government has reiterated its call on the militant Boko Haram sect and other aggrieved groups to ceasefire and come forward for dialogue.

The Vice President, Arc. Namadi Sambo, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the National Symposium, organized by Nasirul-Lahi-Faith Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), tagged “Islam and Peaceful Co-Existence in a Contemporary Multi Religious Society.

Sambo, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the occasion, said: “government is ready to discuss. History has proven that even wars that are fought for decades, at the end, are only concluded by dialogue.”

According to a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Umar Sani, the vice-president lamented the activities of some negative forces whose activities have portrayed Islam in a negative and evil light.

He said: “Islam is a religion of peace; it is a way of life. It cannot promote senseless killings and wanton destruction of property. I am not aware of any religion in the world that encourages unprovoked and relentless attack on other people.”

He reiterated the determination of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to provide adequate security for the lives and property of all Nigerians and visitors.

Sambo commended the organizers of the symposium, noting its aptness, adding that it would help to educate the public on the Islamic view of peaceful co-existence and the concept of Jihad.

He used the opportunity to enumerate the strides the administration had made in achieving the objectives of the Transformation Agenda, which cut across improved electricity supply; education; agriculture, transportation system; and poverty alleviation.

The vice president stated that to deliver on government’s promise on the revitalization of the Railway system, government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with General Electric for the delivery of 200 locomotive heads and also for the location of a locomotive manufacturing plant in Nigeria, which would also serve the West African sub-region.

Similarly, he assured that the activities of militant groups would not jeopardize government’s desire to propel Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs).

In his remarks the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, called on the Muslim Ummah to champion the principle of peaceful co-existence and education.”

Source: The Nation Newspaper

Why terrorism is on the rise – Azazi

Gen. Azazi
Gen. Azazi

By Tony Akowe

The National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi , said in Kaduna on Thursday that governments’ failure to address the root causes of unrest in the country has created a fertile ground for the recruitment, indoctrination, brainwashing and training of terrorists and other insurgents in the country.

Speaking on the theme: “Northern Nigeria, The Prosperity Agenda and National Security” at the Northern Impact Summit organized by the Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative, Gen. Azazi also said that lopsided economic development of any nation has never worked anywhere and is capable of leading to the collapse of such a nation.

Represented by one of his Advisers, Prof. Soji Adelaja, the NSA noted that recent events in the Middle East and North African region have showed that long term failure to address long standing economic problems helped to erode national cohesion and the ability to advance as a nation.

He noted that even though the incidences of bombing and terrorist attacks have been concentrated in the north, the development has adversely affected the nation’s economy, pointing out that the economic prosperity of a region depends on national security which all Nigerians must be on board to address.

Azazi noted that Nigeria as a nation cannot afford to leave any of its states or region behind in the march towards a long overdue achievement of prosperity, stressing that comprehensive regional economic transformation has and will remain at the forefront of the nation’s policies.

He said, “From a practical perspective, evidence is mounting that some of the root causes of unrest and the feeling of dissatisfaction and disaffection amongst citizens are economic hardship and the lack of economic opportunity.

“This is the case, not only in the north, but all over Nigeria. The failure to address these root causes of unrest tend to create fertile ground for the recruitment, indoctrination, brainwashing and training of terrorists and other insurgents.

“As we have learnt from the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa regions, long term failure to address long standing economic problems helped erode national cohesion and the ability to advance as a nation,” the NSA added.

Source:The Nation Newspaper

Four bombs uncovered at BUK

by Salihu Mustapha, Kano

Bayero University

Four unexploded bombs were uncovered at the old campus of Bayero University, Kano, on Tuesday morning.

The bombs were believed to have been planted by members of the terrorist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

Security sources told our correspondent that the bombs were discovered in front of the faculties of Law, Sciences, sports complex and the lecture theatre.

It was learnt that curious attendees at the lecture theatre sighted a black bag in a corner of the hall and raised the alarm.

As a result, the anti-bomb squad was invited to prevent the bombs from detonating.

However, the bomb at the sports complex exploded on its own before the arrival of the anti-bomb unit.

No casualty was however recorded as most of the affected areas were immediately condoned off.

Kano State Police Public Relations Officer, Musa Majiya, said the police were on top of the situation.

Majiya said, “The command has taken care of it. It has swiftly dispatched the anti-bomb unit to handle the situation. The police are on top the situation.

“Residents should please go about their normal duties. The police however appeal that any suspicious movements should be promptly reported to authorities for proper action to be taken. The command also thanks the people of the state for their cooperation so far.”

In a video posted on the Internet last week, Boko Haram threatened to attack the media and universities.

Gunmen attacked a lecture theatre at the BUK which was being used for Christian Sunday services on April 29, killing 15 people.

Source :The Punch Newspapers

Senate Seeks FG, Boko Haram Dialogue

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President of the Senate, David Mark 

 

By Onwuka Nzeshi

 

The Senate Tuesday expressed concern at the recent spate of bomb attacks and the general level of insecurity across the country.

 

It urged the Federal Government to re-open dialogue with Boko Haram, which had claimed responsibility for the terror attacks.
President of the Senate, David Mark said the growing insecurity was unacceptable to the parliament and the generality of Nigerians. He said it was in the national interest for the country to experience peace and security particularly if the transformation agenda of government must  succeed.

In a brief remark on resumption from his medical vacation, Mark said since the members of the dreaded sect were Nigerians, government should explore the dialogue option to the resolution of the crisis. He said the activities of the group was not only a declaration of war on Nigerians but a threat to  the  unity and corporate existence of the country.

Mark admonished the group to eschew violence and seek better ways of expressing whatever grievances they may have with the government.

 

“In spite of all these bombings, we should not despair or be disillusioned. We shall overcome through our collective determination.

“This is the time for concerted action by all Nigerian; ethnic group, political affiliation, religious belief notwithstanding. We have a real problem on our hands and we must handle it with the seriousness it deserves and we should never politicise it,” he said.

“Divisive statements or finger pointing are not helpful. Attempts to apportion blame for failures at this time of the burgeoning terror threats will not lead to any practical and long lasting solution. The primary responsibility of tackling this challenge lies with the Government but that notwithstanding, we all have roles to play,” he said.

Mark also urged security agencies to intensify efforts geared towards improving on their operational capacities and prevent further bomb attacks.

 

He also challenged the standing committees of the Senate to strengthen their oversight responsibilities on government agencies to curb inefficiency and corruption in the system.

“In this regard, all Committees must submit their reports before our summer recess and as soon as we resume we shall take the Committee Reports in plenary. May I remind us that in the course of preparing our Committee Reports, we should look at the capital appropriation released for the first two quarters of the year and weigh it against the implementation of the capital projects,” he said.

 

Source: Thisday

Sheikh Zakzaky: Why Nigeria could fear an attack on Iran

Sheikh Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria
Sheikh Zakzaky says he has hundreds of thousands of followers

 

While the Sunni Islamist group Boko Haram makes headlines in Nigeria, a Shia group is also causing anxiety in some quarters, the BBC’s Mark Lobel reports from the city of Kaduna.

Saharan sand swirls around us as horses gallop through the film set we are visiting.

Brightly painted walls and wooden and straw weaponry line old forts, recreated to mirror the scene of the brazen Islamic revolution that arrived here in the 19th Century.

I am seeing for myself how media-savvy the mainly-Shia Islamic Movement in Nigeria has become.

Inside the compound, a dubbing operation is under way.

Flattering documentaries of religious leaders are being translated into the local Hausa language, with hundreds of DVDs sold to eager locals every month.

The movement has had a thriving daily newspaper for more than two decades and says it will soon broadcast its internet-based Hausa radio station on the country’s main air waves, and start up a new TV channel.

In recent years, the once tiny movement’s membership has sky-rocketed in size and scope while all attention has shifted to Boko Haram, the Sunni Islamist group fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Iranian inspiration

Some are worried that this movement may be growing unchecked by the current ruling powers it condemns as discredited.

Its leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, became a proponent of Shia Islam around the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Events in Iran encouraged him to believe that an Islamic revival was also possible in Nigeria.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has a youth vanguard, which goes through military drills, which mimics the state’s security services”

Muhammad Kabir Isa Ahmadu Bello University

Ever since, he has grown increasingly confident he can build a permanent Islamic state within the country.

Although he denies his movement gets any funding from Iran, he is also vehemently anti-American.

When I met the white-bearded, traditionally dressed religious leader, who looked older than his 57 years, he resembled a peaceful, friendly, elder statesman and smiled as he told me that he now has hundreds of thousands of followers.

We sat together on his bright, fluffy pink, red and white rug and an orange-flowered garland framed a hanging portrait of the revolutionary Islamic leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, who watched over us.

But followers here, including Sheikh Zakzaky, are closely watching present-day events in Iran.

The US and Israel threaten to attack the country if fears of a nuclear weapons building programme there are realised, despite Iran’s insistence its nuclear ambitions are purely civilian.

I asked the sheikh if Iran were attacked, would it have an impact in Nigeria?

“Not only in Nigeria, in the entire world,” he said.

Sheikh Zakzaky did not explain what would happen, but added: “How much the impact would be, would depend on which areas were attacked.”

Influential supporters

Throughout our encounter, the vagueness of some of Sheikh Zakzaky’s answers – perhaps driven by his apparent mistrust of the media, he separately recorded our conversation in order not to be misquoted – not only leaves many of his statements open to interpretation but also creates the perception he may have something to hide.

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Sheikh Zakzaky was a political prisoner for nine years during the 1980s and 1990s, accused by successive military regimes of civil disobedience.

His supporters have been involved in many violent clashes with the state over the decades – 120 of his followers are currently in prison – and political analyst Muhammad Kabir Isa says they do constitute a genuine threat.

Mr Isa, a senior researcher at Ahmadu Bello University, describes the sheikh’s movement as “a state within a state”.

“I know for one that his outfit embarks on drills, military drills,” Mr Isa said.

“But when you embark on military drills, you are drilling with some sort of anticipation. Some form of expectations.”

Sheikh Zakzaky later told me his movement did train hundreds of guards to police events, but compared it to teaching karate to the boy scouts.

Mr Isa also alleged the movement’s supporters have now become a lot more influential in society.

“I know for example he is making sure his members are recruited into the army, his members are recruited in the police force, he has people working for him in the state security service,” he said.

Kaduna state spokesman Saidu Adamu said he could not confirm if the movement’s followers were in the police, army or state security services but said he hoped it would not affect their loyalty to the state if they were.

Political party?

The state’s relationship with the movement may also determine how peaceful it remains, according to prominent human rights activist Shehu Sani.

There’s nothing like Boko Haram. I have never seen a single man calling himself Boko Haram”

Sheikh Zakzaky Islamic Movement in Nigeria

He campaigned for Sheikh Zakzaky’s release while the cleric was a political prisoner and says the government has to take its share of the blame for the recent violence by Boko Haram, which says it is trying to avenge the 2009 death in police custody of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf.

“If the Nigerian state applied the same measure of cruelty and extrajudicial killings to the members of the Islamic movement as it did to Boko Haram, we would be faced with a violence that’s a million times more than that because the Islamic movement’s well organised and educated,” according to Mr Sani.

The Nigerian government says it is prepared to talk to Boko Haram though it describes it as a faceless organisation with unrealistic demands.

In Sheikh Zakzaky’s home town of Kaduna, Boko Haram has directed attacks at both the security forces and locals.

When I met Kaduna’s Governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, to discuss the current security crisis, he told me he wanted to make use of all religious leaders to find a solution urgently.

I asked the governor if he had reached out to Sheikh Zakzaky.

“We are trying to reach out to everybody and I am sure, sooner than later, I will get across to him,” he said, underlining a conciliatory approach that has so far not borne results.

In contrast, it looks unlikely that Sheikh Zakzaky would be prepared to engage with the governor.

During our interview, he did say he would consider entering the political process and could, for example, have his own political party, if the system worked.

People gather around the car used to bomb This Day's office in Kaduna Analysts warn the sheikh’s group could become more violent than Boko Haram

But he said the current system did not work.

He rather surprisingly blamed that system for causing the current insecurity in the country by insisting Boko Haram was a creation of the “oil-hungry West”, whom he accused of using the Nigerian security forces to carry out heinous crimes here.

“Security forces are behind it,” he said animatedly.

“There’s nothing like Boko Haram. I have never seen a single man calling himself Boko Haram. Our enemies are from outside. And they are the ones behind those bombings.”

That theory goes against much of the evidence about the group that does exist, as the government has arrested senior members of the militant outfit and police stations and army barracks are often the targets of attacks.

Quiet for now

Oil analysts insist that the last thing the West would want is instability in the country, which, they say, would in fact jeopardise their operations here.

Yet Sheikh Zakzaky’s followers, young and old, confidently told me they agreed with his view of who was behind the unrest and were in full support of the sheikh’s brand of Islam spreading across the whole of Africa, not just Nigeria.

As I watched thousands gather for a weekly Koran class led by Sheikh Zakzaky, women covered in black clothes seated on one side, men in lighter clothes on another, they all appeared peaceful and studious.

The movement does not seem to be an imminent threat to either the government or Nigerian people.

But with a greater allegiance to external powers, and a clear hatred of parts of the West closely tied to the current government, the situation remains precarious.

***THIS IS ANOTHER TIME BOMB WAITING TO EXPLODE***

Source: BBC News

Obasanjo: Dialogue ll Resolve Security Challenges

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

 

By Chuks Okocha and Dele Ogbodo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Monday said the way out of the present insecurity and violent conflicts enveloping the country was for government to engage all stakeholders in dialogue.

Obasanjo’s statement however came on the heels of a clarification by the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Muazu Aliyu, that the insurgence of the sect, was as a result of the fact that the Northern part of the country had lost the presidential power to the South.

Obasanjo spoke in Abuja, in a keynote address presented on his behalf by the former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, at the opening of a two-day National Conference on Culture, Peace and National Security.

He said: “A way forward is dialogue, enlightenment and sensitization programmes such as we are having today. We need to sensitise the youths, community leaders, village, religious leaders, local government chairmen, traditional rulers, politicians to appreciate that building the Nigeria of our dream is a collective responsibility, and therefore we must take active interest in ensuring peace and security.”

Underscoring his reason for chairing the occasion, the former President  said: “I am therefore at this conference because I feel strongly that the issue of national security should be accorded top priority attention as no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of chaos and persistence violence.”

He said his unquestionable desire and interest in the oneness of this country is to ensure that peace and security is attained at whatever cost and efforts.

However, Obasanjo identified ignorance as the major factor responsible for conflicts in the country besides, poverty, unemployment, religious intolerance, ethnic rivalry, growing acculturation and resource agitations. According to him, it was for this reason that the United Nations, Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNES-CO), was established shortly after the 2nd World war.

“It was established based on the understanding that wars or conflicts, in whatever form, arise from ignorance, suspicion and mistrust and therefore the need for defence of peace be constructed in the minds of men and women,” he said.

In his remark, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, said the conference was designed by the Ministry to serve as a platform for the robust deliberation of the cultural dimension of peace and security.
Duke said: “In this regard, an aggressive and sustained sensitisation and public enlightenment campaign is of utmost necessity. All segments of society should be educated to appreciate the nexus between the culture of peace and national development.”

He assured that NICO will be engaged to carry out enlightenment campaigns in all parts of the country, adding that no country can satisfy the yearning and aspirations of the people in an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity.

The Minister appealed to family heads, community leaders, religious leaders and youth groups to join hands with government in addressing the security challenges facing the nation.

Meanwhile, Aliyu who spoke at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national secretariat when he paid a courtesy visit to the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, said the North and the country in general would certainly overcome the present security challenge in the country, because the Boko Haram insurgency was not up to the 30 months civil war fought to keep Nigeria united.

According to him “I don’t think so that because power has been lost was reason and those of us who believe in God will know that at any given time, anything can happen. In a federation, every child in Nigeria should be given opportunity and chance to aspire to the office of leadership. Therefore I don’t buy this idea of dividing group and said that they do things of this and that”.

He explained further, “Because when you say a whole group, nobody has sat down with me to say because we have lost power, we should do this and that. If somebody dare in his ignorance is doing because of that, that is unfortunate and I don’t think we should succumb to this idea of generalised statement.”

In his reaction, the National Chairman of the PDP, Tukur said there were too many idle hands roaming the streets and that the best way to tackle the present security challenge is to ensure that employment is created.

“We must address security, food security and provide health for all. There are more idle hands out there in the cities and the best way to address these problems is to ensure that we send them to the farmlands. This is what the PDP will do”, the national chairman of PDP stated.

He urged the party governors to be loyal and committed to the PDP manifesto, saying: “it is a contract, we must all honour”, while appealing to the PDP governors to make the party to be independent, “as the era where the party will go cap in hand begging for funds is over.”

To this, the Niger state governor retorted, “If you go cap in hand begging for funds, when I go wrong, how you can correct me”.

 

Source : Thisday

#Nigeria FG to Amend Anti-terrorism Act

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Senate President, David Mark

By  Chuks Okocha   and Michael Olugbode
A n amendment to the Anti-terrorism Act, 2011, is underway to compel the trial of terror suspects, their sponsors and others suspected of aiding and abetting terror suspects under military law, THISDAY has learnt.

THISDAY gathered at the weekend that President Goodluck Jonathan would soon send an executive bill to the National Assembly to amend the Act, which when passed, would preclude members of Boko Haram, their sponsors and others involved in terrorist activities in the country from being tried in regular courts.

The proposed amendment is meant to hasten the trial of suspects and prevent them from exploiting any loopholes in the existing Anti-terrorism Act and the nation’s legal system to escape justice.

Boko Haram’s attacks, which have claimed about 1,500 lives since they were launched in 2009, have increased in intensity following the 2011 general elections which Jonathan contested and won in the presidential stanza of the contest.

The death toll rose again by three yesterday when suspected terrorists and members of the Joint Task Force engaged in a gun duel at a wedding in Maiduguri.

Also, in Potiskum, Yobe State, where suspected Boko Haram members attacked a cattle market, killing about 60 people on Wednesday, the people marched on the streets yesterday in protest against soldiers whom they accused of not coming to their aid during the attack.

THISDAY learnt that apart from members of Boko Haram, the amendment to the law will ensure that all those involved in unlawful combat against the government and their sponsors would face a military trial.

Others that may be affected by the martial law are Niger Delta militants and other militant tribal groups.

The amendment bill, which is being drafted, seeks to define the term of “unlawful combatants” to include all belligerent suspects, their sponsors and Niger Delta militants who are yet to surrender and others engaged in militant activities that are not defined within the context of the “Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The decision to ensure the invocation of full military trials or what could be described as martial law,” a presidency source explained, is that the passage of the bill “is a full declaration of war by the federal government on the unlawful combatant forces.”

According to the presidency official, “These unlawful combatant forces are engaged in various hostilities and have committed belligerent acts or have directly sponsored or supported hostilities in aid of unlawful combatant forces against the stability and security interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its citizens in general.”

He said the decision to adopt this measure stemmed from the fact that “Nigeria is at war against a mobile, dangerous and fanatical individual gang that has been inspired by an extremist interpretation of the Koran, and which will use the techniques of mass terror, violence and hatred to attack innocent citizens – both Christians, Muslims and otherwise minded.”

He said under the proposed amendment, the term “unlawful combatant” is defined to include, “an individual who was part of, or sponsored or supported the terrorist activities of unlawful combatant forces, or associated groups that are engaged in terrorist hostilities against the stability and security interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and its citizens in general.

“This shall include any person or persons who commits a belligerent act or has directly aided, abetted, or is perceived to have sponsored or supported hostilities in aid of unlawful combatant forces.”

The presidency source added that “the bill would endeavour to curb the excesses of some lawyers, whose deliberate use of legal tactics stall the trial and prosecution of those connected with unlawful combats.”

The bill will empower the Nigerian government to collaborate with countries that have successfully dealt with terrorist organisations like Israel, the United States of America and the United Kingdom which have a vested interest in combating global terrorism.
This, the source said, was to ensure that Nigeria is not a safe haven for terrorism or for its promoters.

In Maiduguri, a wedding ceremony became a theatre of war when members of Boko Haram and JTF personnel exchanged gunfire.

When the battle subsided, three people were killed in the crossfire and eight persons were arrested.

It was gathered that the military invaded the wedding, said to have been organised by a man suspected to have links to the sect at Sabon Layi, Gwange, following a tip-off that notable members of the sect, who are on a wanted list, would be in attendance.
On sighting the soldiers, the terrorists at the wedding were said to have immediately opened fire on them.
The guests at the ceremony scampered to safety as the members of JTF and Boko Haram engaged in a deadly gun battle.

It was gathered that most of the members of the sect in attendance shot their way out of the venue without being captured as they were conversant with the area.

JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, in a statement, confirmed the clash between the parties, saying three civilians were killed and four others, including two soldiers, were wounded.

He added that an AK47 rifle, 20 rounds of ammunition and a vehicle used by the terrorists were recovered.

Similarly, there was a breakdown of law and order in Potiskum, the commercial nerve centre in Yobe State, yesterday as residents challenged the authority of the soldiers deployed to the town at the peak of the Boko Haram crisis.

Irked and still mourning the killings of about 60 persons by suspected Boko Haram members, the people accused the soldiers of not coming to their rescue when it mattered.
It was gathered that problem started when the people accused the soldiers of manhandling some residents.

A source from the town told THISDAY that the soldiers are in the habit of beating up people at will.

He said the people, still incensed by the Wednesday attack, challenged the soldiers and demanded that they leave the town.

He said more people later joined the protest and went to drive away the soldiers from checkpoints in the town.

“Of what use are these soldiers anyway? They keep harassing innocent residents of the town but when the occasion presented itself last Wednesday to show the merit of having them around, they chickened out,” a resident said.

Attempts to get the military authorities in the state to comment on the issue proved abortive as calls to the phone lines of the officials failed to connect last night.
Also, the state police spokesman, Toyin Gbadegesin, could not be reached.

Source: Thisday

 

#Nigeria Two killed as gunmen attack prison, police station

BY NDAHI MARAMA, Maiduguri
TWO Nigerian Prison warders were yesterday killed when gunmen attacked a Police station and a nearby prison in north eastern town of Kumshe, Bama Local Government Area of Borno State.

Spokesman of the Police in Borno State, ASP Samuel Tizhe confirmed the incident  from Maiduguri the capital city.

He said the “gunmen first attacked a Police station in Banki town but were repelled by the Police”

Tizhe added that, “five hours later, the gunmen went and attacked a nearby Prison in the town, killing two Prison warders and setting free all the inmates,” Tizhe said on phone from Maiduguri.

The spokesman revealed that the Police have “so far arrested 23 persons in connection with the attacks”.

He pointed out that the security agencies are doing everything possible to ensure the protection of lives and property of the citizenry, even as he advised members of the public to cooperate with the police, particularly in giving information about the hideout of criminals in the state, stressing that, all information received from the public will be treated with confidentiality, adding that a handsome award awaits anybody with information that will lead to the arrest of criminals in the state.

Source: The Vanguard

Between Terrorism and Corruption by Nasir El-Rufai

I am pleased to share my thoughts about two issues that confront our nation – terrorism and corruption. As a well-known opposition figure, I want to state clearly that the views expressed here are mine, and not of the political party I belong to – the Congress for Progressive Change. Secondly, my opinions are based on my interpretation of facts on the ground and research done by others, and not driven by politics.

At the crossroads that we have found ourselves as a nation, where a sitting government has shown no capacity and competence to confront these two challenges, we must be blunt in evaluating what has gone wrong – perhaps the moral outrage that results will be the basis for action to change things for the better. There are some preconceived and utterly wrong notions of where we are, how we got to this point and who to hold accountable that need to be questioned. There are narratives that are biased and not serving the nation well that need to be stated openly and sterilized. This is a duty beyond politics and partisanship, founded on respect for facts and logic. I will do my best to present some of these as a basis for our engagement. I thank you again for inviting me.

 

Terrorism and corruption are two words that now dominate our headline news more than any others. Domestic terrorism has now joined corruption as defining characteristics of our nation. It is sad that while other countries grapple with rebuilding their financial systems, upgrading their physical infrastructure and human capital, and adopting leapfrogging technologies to enhance their global competitiveness, our sensibilities are daily affronted by news of stolen trillions, multiple bombings and hapless leaders.

Terrorism
Terrorism is simply the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political goals. While to many, it appears to be a recent phenomenon in Nigeria, looking at it closely shows it has been with us in various degrees. What else do most of our political parties do other than use violence and intimidation in pursuit of political goals? Who else exemplifies these characteristics more than the ruling party? In the context of this definition, where would you place what OPC and Egbesu Boys were doing in the 1990s? What have the militants of the Niger Delta and their umbrella organization called MEND been doing for years? Now there is no dispute as to whether the anarchist Boko Haram is a terrorist organization or not. The truth is that one’s freedom fighter is the terrorist in the eyes of another.

Even with the activities of these fringe ethnic and regional groupings, Nigeria did not enter the map of terrorism-prone nations until recently. Maplecroft, a British risk analysis and mapping firm that publishes the Terrorism Risk Index (TRI) ranked our country 19th and at “extreme risk” of terrorism in 2011, ahead of Israel (20th) but safer than Yemen, South Sudan and India among others. With the escalation of attacks by Boko Haram in the north, and resumption of threats and hostilities by MEND in the Niger Delta, Nigeria is likely to jump to near the top of the TRI soon, unless something concrete is done.

Our nation and citizens are in grave danger. Our unity in diversity is at the highest levels of risk since independence. The possible break-up of Nigeria is being discussed openly not only in the Villa, but in various regional and cultural association meetings. Our democracy is in danger, and its desirable end canvassed by young people in social media. The state no longer has monopoly of violence, and no longer in exclusive control of our maritime borders. We are increasingly resembling a failed state with confused and corrupt persons at the helm of affairs who seem concerned only about enriching themselves and their coteries of choristers. How did we get to this point of near helplessness so fast?

Corruption

Corruption on the other hand refers to dishonest or fraudulent conduct by people vested with authority, and usually involves bribery or gratification. I think corruption is something Nigerians are sufficiently familiar with, so we do not need to spend a lot of time defining it. We all know it when we see it, and we see it often. For those in public office, I think the best way to determine whether that innocuous end-of-the-year gift amounts to a bribe, the question posed by Islamic jurists is appropriate – “Will this thing of value be offered to me by the person in question if I am not holding this public office?” If the answer to the question is not an immediate and unhesitant “Yes”, then the gift is a bribe, and should therefore be rejected.

You will notice I have carefully avoided referring to legislation, legal maxims and decided cases in defining either terrorism or corruption. It is not just because we have little by way of convictions for terrorism and corruption in our case law, but because many Nigerians have lost confidence in our justice system in its effort to deal with these terrible phenomena. For years, our nation has struggled with the reputation of being one of the world’s most corrupt nations. In 2002 we were amongst the bottom three, but with the emergence of EFCC and the implementation of several governance reforms between 2003 and 2007, we were out of the bottom thirty by the time the Obasanjo administration left office.

Under Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC charged eleven former governors for corruption and money laundering. With the exception of Lucky Igbinedion’s ‘plea bargain’ arranged by Farida Waziri, none of the cases have moved forward since then. Several of them now sit in the senate and chair powerful committees. Our justice system has been lax and ambivalent about dealing with cases of grand corruption, as evidenced by the recent conviction of James Ibori in London after a federal high court in Asaba had dismissed over 100 counts of money laundering and corruption against him. It is not surprising that we are now back to nearer the bottom of the corruption league table.

According to Human Rights Watch (2007), the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria has led to the loss of US $380 billion between independence and 1999. A Global Financial Integrity Initiative report dated January 2011 estimated that US $130 billion worth of illicit financial flows occurred between 2000 to 2008. Adding these numbers to the loss of nearly $7 billion to the fuel subsidy racket alone brings our national loss due to corruption to something in the region of US $600 billion from independence to end of 2011!

In 2008, Afrobarometer reported that 57% of respondents surveyed considered the Yar’Adua government as handling the anti-corruption war badly. The same survey revealed that 30% of respondents did not trust political parties. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2010 painted a similar picture with 40% of household respondents judging the government’s war against corruption as ineffective, while political parties and the national assembly were perceived to be amongst the most corrupt bodies in Nigeria, side by side with the Nigeria Police.

This finding – that political parties, the legislature and the Police are the least trusted is not surprising because corruption takes many forms. Indeed, I am of the view that rigging elections is the foundation of all corruption because it confers power without legitimacy, and without responsibility. And in Nigeria’s fourth republic in particular, it has birthed not only financial corruption, but immorality, violent crimes and terrorism.

The scale and scope of corruption in Nigeria have moved from irritating road-side demands and under-the-table payments worth billions of naira per annum captured by officials to a multi-trillion naira business under Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Everywhere we bother to check, billions and trillions are being wasted or stolen – fuel subsidy, pension funds, inflated and unexecuted contracts, goods and services paid for that are never supplied, taxes collected but not remitted, illegal allowances and benefits collected by officials, and entire budgets for security diverted to private pockets. How did we get to this point of near hopelessness so fast?

The Unholy Trinity

Violent crimes, corruption and terrorism were referred to as the unholy trinity that would confront citizens and countries in the twenty first century by Shelley (2005). These constitute Siamese triplets that often go together. Some commentators like Sarup (2005) insist that corruption increases terrorism. Contributing at a debate about corruption in India, a judge, Justice Santosh Hegde opined that “terrorism is caused by a disease called greed.” He went to observe that “politics was public service, now it is business.” Do these sound familiar? Do these opinions apply to us in Nigeria in 2012?

In my humble opinion, our own version of the unholy trinity has roots in toxic politics, rigged elections and bad governance. Political ‘God-Fatherism’, transactional leadership and social injustice are the key manifestations of this trinity. They are a toxic cocktail that would bring down any community, nation or government sooner or later. We got to where we are because due to years of practicing a brand of politics that is neither democratic nor meritocratic, with elections that are mostly rigged in many parts of the country, and political parties that are capriciously controlled by a few people.

Undemocratic politics is based on the deployment of money, violent thugs and coercive powers of state machinery. In many states, politicians and parties have armies of “youths” that are fed with cheap drugs and then armed with machetes, swords and guns to attend political rallies and attack any perceived opponents of the party and candidate. For instance, in Bauchi, Isa Yuguda has his ‘sara-suka’ (attack and stab), Ali Modu Sheriff in Borno had his ECOMOG, and Gombe’s Danjuma Goje had his “Yan Kalare”. In Rivers State, Ateke Tom and Asari Dokubo were similarly trained and armed by the PDP initially to ‘win elections’.

What then happens after the elections are won and the supply of cash and drugs end? Society was left with young, bitter and hopeless people that happen to possess some dangerous weapons. The result – kidnappers for cash that metamorphosed into militants in the Niger Delta, kidnappers and armed robbers in the South-East and Area Boys and various NURTW thugs in the South-West, and Boko Haram in the North-East.

When ‘elected’ officials know for sure that they were not truly elected, but rigged their way to power, the organic link of accountability between the leadership and the electorate is broken. The ‘elected’ official panders to the interest groups that got his or her into office rather than the people – these could be the party Godfathers, the officials that wrote the results (INEC, Police and the SSS) or the thugs that snatched ballot boxes and so on. The structure and composition of these interest groups vary from state to state, but the overall picture is similar across the board.

Pandering to these narrow interests cost money with the result that diverting budgets, operating huge security votes and appointing hundreds of ‘aides’ that do nothing becomes the norm. It is when these interests are taken care of that the electorate is remembered. The overall outcome is capricious governance, discretionary application of resources and transactional mindset in governance. Little can be achieved under these scenarios, and this is what happens in most of our 36 states, the FCT and the Federal Government in most of the 13 years of ‘democratic’ governance.

Social and economic injustice is the sum total of these decisions and actions by the political leadership. Young people that have worked hard to get an education do not have equal opportunity to compete for jobs, because only those that are politically-connected get jobs even when they are the least qualified. The lazy drop-outs of the last few years have built mansions and drive SUVs because they were ‘youth leaders’ of the ruling party. Gutsy but brainless people that are willing to dance to the tune of the state governors end up as local government chairmen or in national or state assemblies as members earning hefty but illegal allowances for doing next to nothing.

Unintended Consequences

Our politics and its products completely inverted and reversed the incentive structure in our society. Merit, honesty and hard work ceased to be virtues in politics and public service. Sycophancy, servility and cunning were more useful qualities for getting ahead and succeeding. Our young men and women – about 4 million of them added every year to the population – have observed and appeared to internalize these distorted values. There is little or no sense of community in that generation just as the concept of social justice is unknown to them. Generally, there are just two types of young people now. The smart ones that wish to take advantage of the system and the honest but bitter ones that feel short-changed by our generation and the system they think we created.

With the exception of a minority of deeply thoughtful ones amongst them that can see through what is going on, most of our children have zero idealism. Many are uncouth, rude and abusive to everyone.They have no respect for their peers and seniors, and using the anonymity of social media, they vent their anger and frustrations on anyone that they believe is remotely responsible for their condition. They take no responsibility to be informed, educated or experienced. Such youths see everything through ethnic, religious and regional lenses. They only care about sex, expensive cars, music and European soccer leagues. When I compare the idealism with which we viewed the world in our younger days with what I read on Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger these days, I am worried about the future of our nation (or more precisely, the lack of it.)

Another unintended consequence of our toxic politics is poverty, unemployment and income inequality. Nigeria boasts of a rapidly-growing economy but has 113 million living below the poverty line of a dollar a day. For an agricultural nation, it is a shame that 41% of Nigerians – nearly 70 million – are classified as “food poor” in 2010. The zonal distribution tells a deeper story. Nearly 52% of the people living in the North-West and North-East, 39% of the North-Central, 41% of South-East, 36% of South-South and 25% of South-West are hardly able to feed themselves.

Unemployment is the primary target of every sensible nation’s economic policy, but our policy makers seem quite content trumpeting our jobless growth. Nationally, at least one in every five able-bodied Nigerians willing and able to work has no job. Again, a sample of different rates for states show a more serious disparity. In Lagos only about 8% are unemployed, and 9% in Oyo State. In contrast, it is 39% in Yobe State and 27% in Borno – the birthplace of Boko Haram. Other states’ indices are Bayelsa (19%), Akwa Ibom (26%), Kaduna (25%), Kano (26%), Zamfara (33%), Benue (26%), Nasarawa (22%) and Anambra (21%).

Income inequality is another serious problem. According to the NBS, in 2010 65% of Nigeria’s wealth is owned by just 20% of the population. This effectively means that 80% of the population share between them only about one third of the nation’s wealth. This income inequality manifests itself in conspicuous consumption by a few side by side with abject poverty experienced by the many. Income inequality, unemployment and poverty have been shown to correlate strongly with increases in violent crimes in many societies. This cocktail is what US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson referred to when he stated that Nigeria’s Boko Haram was capitalizing on popular discontent with bad governance in Nigeria in general and the North in particular. The fact that virtually all indices of development and progress have been deteriorating from 2007 in spite of being a period of high oil prices and production should make every thoughtful person to question what is happening.

Emergence of Boko Haram

In 2007, we had terribly flawed elections that brought Umaru Yar’Adua and several governors into office. In at least 14 states of the federation, ballot papers for the presidential election were being delivered when the results declaring Yar’Adua the winner were announced. The new president was decent enough to admit that the election that brought him to power was flawed and established a committee to recommend remedial measures. The judicial challenges to the various elections were going through the election tribunals slowly but surely.

The Yar’Adua-Jonathan administration inherited about US $50 billion in foreign reserves, US $27 billion in the excess crude account, and only US $3 billion in foreign debt. Yar’Adua inherited a country that was liquid and had a strong balance sheet, with BB- sovereign credit rating by both Standard & Poor and Fitch. The economic prospects were bright if the political economy was managed well. The twin deficits of electricity and rail transport were being addressed through the award of contracts to build seven new power stations and the Lagos-Kano dual-track, standard gauge railway line.

Over the ensuing four years, the federation earned another US $180 billion from oil and gas, import duties and taxes. By 2011, all these resources had been wasted with little to show for it. The excess crude account had been run down to less than $1 billion, the reserves drawn down to about US $35 billion and none of the rail and power infrastructure projects completed. What is significant is that since February 2010 when he became acting president, Mr. Jonathan has been borrowing an average of US $1 billion monthly, mostly by issuing bonds, thereby doubling our total debt levels to nearly US $42 billion and counting. The federal government is fast accelerating towards insolvency!

In April 2007, Sheikh Jaafar was murdered in cold blood while praying in his mosque in Kano by assailants that years later turned out to be suspected members of a sect to be known as Boko Haram, operating out of Bauchi State. However at the time the Sheikh was killed, an attempt was made to link the murder to the state governor Ibrahim Shekarau. This as we shall see, became a recurring pattern of behavior by the security agencies in cases of this nature – the politicization of terrorism.

In July 2009, Yar’Adua deployed the Nigerian Army to “crush” Boko Haram. The leaders of the sect were captured alive, or arrested from their homes and extra-judicially executed by the Nigerian Police. The sect believes that Ali Modu Sheriff, then governor of Borno State and the Commissioner of Police took the decision to wipe out its leadership, regrouped and went on what was essentially a revenge mission targeting the Police, the Borno State Government and other uniformed services of the Federal Government. That is how Boko Haram evolved from a largely peaceful, fringe Islamic organization to a vengeful sect and currently an anarchist threat to the Nigerian nation.

Initially, Boko Haram’s targets were symbols of authority (Police, Borno State Government, etc.) and limited geographic (Borno State) scope. The attitude of authorities to the sect’s (Northerners are killing one another, so we do not care, etc.) activities emboldened them, and when the first bomb was exploded by MEND in Abuja on October 1, 2010, the sect learnt a thing or two about grabbing national attention. As the media gave the sect attention, it mainstreamed its activities to first attack Yobe State then the Federal Capital Territory.

The watershed in the sect’s activities were the June 2011 bombing of the Police Headquarters and the August 2011 attack on the UN Headquarters. By these actions the sect established the capacity to operate in the nation’s capital, outside its original geographic location thus attracting national and global attention. Sadly, between 2009 and 2012, more than 1,000 people have lost their lives as a result of Boko Haram’s attacks in Maiduguri, Potiskum, Damaturu, Jos, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna and Abuja. In 2011 alone, Boko Haram attacked 115 times with 550 deaths resulting.

Socio-Economic Impact of Terrorism and Corruption

Terrorism raises levels of insecurity and fear among citizens. It results in movement and travel restrictions and curtailing of human rights. These have negative impact on investment flows and functioning of markets. These combine to reduce employment opportunities, wealth creation and capital formation.

According to the World Investment Report of UNCTAD, the Nigerian economy recorded a reduction in foreign direct investment from US $8.65 billion in 2009 to US $6.1 billion in 2010 due to the fear of Boko Haram. The Nigerian tourism sector which is worth some N80 billion annually has lost more than half of its value due to fear of terrorist attacks. The domestic air transport industry which generates some N3 billion annually has been hard hit by flight cancellations to destinations in the north, with nearly half of the revenues lost.

In Borno State, schools have been closed. In other affected parts of the north, normal social life is unlikely to return soon. In places like Jos, the city is so neatly divided along ethnic lines that the vibrancy and inclusion that has been its heartbeat has been lost for a long time to come. The recent attack on media houses and Bayero University has opened new areas and targets of the sect that should worry the authorities.

The north has been the hardest hit with the leading commercial centre, Kano being under military occupation since January 2012. Kaduna, a leading industrial centre has also been repeatedly attacked by the various shades of what is known as Boko Haram. Many of us believe that there are at least four variants of Boko Haram – the real BH and three other fakes that use the brand to advance their own narrow, self-centered agendas. Many in the North see the patent inaction of the authorities as the advancement of a sinister agenda to destroy an already near prostate northern economy through occupation, militarization and disruption of socio-economic activities. The federal government has done nothing to indicate otherwise, and the state governments have acquiesced to the cavalier attitude of the Villa.

Way Out of the Quagmire

Terrorism and corruption are big issues with no easy solutions. There are no silver bullets and no country has been able to eradicate corruption or be totally immune from domestic terrorism. I will make some suggestions here as a basis for discussion and way forward.

I do not think our anti-corruption strategy attacks the roots of corruption. In addition to the unsuccessful ‘arrest-and-charge’ approach that we have tended to focus on, I believe we must reduce cash transactions to the barest minimum. If all transactions are electronic, it will be harder for untraceable, illicit payments to be made. If Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s efforts in cashless banking are complemented with a national ID system that can identify, monitor and audit every resident, and his or her financial transactions when a court order is obtained, it will be harder to take bribes and launder the money.

We also need to strengthen institutions by appointing decent people to head them, respect their tenures and appoint successors from within rather than bring in political hacks to do jobs that they are neither qualified nor trained to do. Our judiciary needs revamping. The last CJN has done incalculable damage to the the most important arm of government – because without an honest and decent judiciary, nothing will ever work in this country.

Terrorism is a harder nut to crack. I am of the view that a multi-track approach is necessary to increase the chances of its’ success. First, the prevailing narrative in the Jonathan camp must be discarded. This narrative is what the national security adviser tried to communicate at the Asaba summit of south-south leaders, but he was misunderstood by the media. Jonathan and his inner circle believe that Boko Haram is a northern conspiracy to prevent Jonathan enjoying his presidency. And northern political leaders like IBB and General Buhari are the sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram.

This narrative is believed by most Niger Delta leaders because of their own experience in organizing, training and arming the militants and providing funding for MEND during the period of ‘resource control’ agitations of the Obasanjo administration. Because theirs was a conspiracy of the political elite, they think the North must be doing the same. And they also feel that Boko Haram largely kills northerners or “parasites” as one presidential aide, Reno Omokri tweeted; so the more they are killed, the lesser the burden on the ‘oil-rich hosts.’ Another presidential aide actually said these words to an old ex-OPC friend of his in London in June 2011. With this narrative wired in the brains of Jonathan’s inner circle, they spent their first year trying to link some of us in opposition to Boko Haram instead of honestly tracking the real problems. While wasting time on us, the sect grew stronger, bolder and better trained. The first step therefore is to unwind this narrative and honestly ask the right questions.

It is of course disingenuous to believe the narrative, but I assure you that they believe it. Boko Haram’s first bloody confrontation with the authorities was under a northern, Muslim president in 2009. And Obasanjo is not a northerner but governed without Boko Haram. Anyone can see that it is indeed northerners and Muslims that constitute the bulk of the victims of the insurgency. And I think the insurgency escalated not because Jonathan became president by whatever means, but because the government did not care to address it early enough. Now things have spiraled out of control.

Secondly, I believe the fundamental roots of the insurgency challenge – rewarding those who take up arms against the state with the cash hand-outs called amnesty program has to be reviewed. Any society that rewards bad behavior with cash creates a moral hazard that may consume that society. Those giving out the cash should know that they are doing no favors to anyone. Indeed, they are fostering an entitlement culture that would ultimately be the undoing of that part of the country. Boko Haram does not appear to be motivated by money, so those thinking of an amnesty-like program may need to go back to the drawing board.

Thirdly, the corruption, inequality, poverty and unemployment cocktail that creates the breeding ground for violent crimes and terrorism need to be addressed through well-thought out and targeted programs of investment in education, healthcare, skills development and training, and infrastructure building that will provide employment opportunities in various communities. In addition, the authorities must criminalize the existence of political thugs by whatever name and of whatever description, and ensure elections are henceforth free, fair and credible. The political parties need to be reformed, leadership selection be guided largely by merit, while the electoral institutions need to be alive to their responsibilities.

Fourthly, as a medium term, structural measure, we must work to restore our federalism to the broad outlines embedded in the 1963 republican constitution, devolving more powers and responsibilities to the states and making the federal government less of a busy body. This would require that states like Bauchi whose annual internally-generated revenue is N7 billion should not run a government costing N58 billion because of monthly hand-outs from Abuja. Each state should learn to live within its means and seek to actively develop its comparative endowments. This also means the states would have greater say over their policing and security, natural resource royalties and taxation. State governors will then be compelled to use their resources better and not point fingers at the federal government.

Finally, in addition to reviewing the failed military strategy now in place and scaling back what has become the militarization of the north, the government must work with community leaders in Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Kano and Kaduna States to identify interlocutors that would enable honest discussions with Boko Haram to establish what they REALLY want. The arrest and prosecution of those that murdered their leaders would certainly be one demand, but there may be others that the government knows but would not want us to know. The Maitatsine sect was easily defeated in the 1980s because the surrounding communities despised them and their methods. The current situation in Kano and Borno States is one in which the military occupiers are killing more innocent people than Boko Haram, which injustice is tilting sympathy in their favor and against the Army. Unless the reckless killings of unarmed men, women and children stop, these communities would revolt sooner or later.

There is nowhere in the world where insurgencies like Boko Haram have been defeated purely through military force and occupation – ask the Americans about Afghanistan and Iraq, or the British about Northern Ireland. Those saying “crush them” should know that recent history of the war on terror is not on their side. We want a country that works for everyone, and this senseless loss of lives must end soon. The government that has the responsibility for our security must bend over backwards to deliver it. If they continue to fail in this regard, they will not be in

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