Federal Government must rethink its tepid war on terrorism

On Saturday September 11, terrorists yet again breached the security of a military facility, this time, the Forward Operating Base (FOB), Mutumji, Dansadau Local Government Area of Zamfara State. No fewer than 12 officers were feared dead in the attack. The attack at Mutumji is coming few weeks after terrorists attacked Nigeria’s elite military training institution, Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Afaka campus, Kaduna State and killed two officers, Lt- Commander Wulah and Flt- Lt Okoronkwo, while Major Christopher Datong was abducted. It has been over two weeks since Major Datong was abducted and the terrorists holding on to him have reportedly demanded a ransom payment from the military to release him.

The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is saddened by these embarrassing attacks on the military. Our sympathies go to families who have lost loved ones. However even without the benefit of a full inquiry into the circumstances of these attacks, there is no shadow of doubt about the identity of the attackers, their modus operandi and the strategic implications of their continued audacious assault on military facilities. A frontal onslaught on a FOB and the previous one on a prominent symbol of national strength like the NDA have grave implications for public perception of the security of our institutions and the capacity of our government to secure our country. These attacks have no doubt exacerbated the increasingly low confidence that ordinary citizens have in the ability, nay willingness, of the government to secure our country and our people.

Consequently, we reject in its entirety, attempts by the Presidency to downplay the criminal activities of the so-called ‘bandits’ and treat their heinous crimes against Nigerians as lesser offences compared to Boko Haram insurgents. The argument of a “subsisting order by the President that any arms-wielding, AK-47 bandits should be shot on sight” as enough action against ‘bandits’ holds no water. If anything, such an order has been ignored by relevant security agencies as Nigerians are yet to feel the effect of the Presidential order. Rather, these terrorists masquerading as ‘bandits’ have continued to unleash terror on innocent Nigerians. Before the shameful attack on the NDA, these insurgents had on July 18 shot down a Nigerian Airforce Alpha Jet Aircraft in Zamfara State, the pilot was only lucky to escape. In Kaduna State, official statistics revealed by Governor Nasir El Rufai indicated that between January and June 2021, 525 people have been killed and 1,723 people have been kidnapped in the state. Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State, frustrated by bandits’ siege on the home state of the President, urged the people to resort to self-help.

In Zamfara State, Governor Bello Matawalle unable to find a situation to curtail the rampaging terrorists that have turned the state into a combat zone, has also recently ordered the closure of all primary and secondary schools and declared a state-wide curfew after terrorists abducted 73 students from Kaya Day Secondary School in Maradun Local Government Area, his home local government!

We find sufficient merit in the argument of Nigerians that hold the opinion that the President Muhammadu Buhari led government is not doing enough to secure the country. Worse still, there are widely held views that the Federal Government’s war on terror is half-hearted. It is inconceivable that President Buhari who penned an article: “Africa needs more than US military aid to defeat terror” in the August 15 edition of Financial Times of London, to portray the existential threat the African continent faced in the hands of global terrorism would allow the government he heads to be flat-footed in crushing terrorism disguising as banditry in his own country. 

Terrorism and all kinds of atrocious crimes have blossom under his watch because the government he heads has been trivializing terrorism, pampering criminal elements, thereby allowing the culture of impunity to reign. 

It is incongruous that a country ranked third in the Global Index of Terrorism is seemingly unable to interdict the sponsors of terror and negotiating with these criminal elements, and even unconstitutionally granting pardons to self-confessed murderers and ‘reintegrating’ them back into the society through a non-transparent deradicalization policy.

President Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief leading the security agencies must do more to convince Nigerians on the sincerity of his government’s fight against terrorism. We reiterate that the government should rethink its strategies to combat terror by ceasing all manner of negotiations with criminal elements in the northeast and northwest. The recent disclosures by Matawalle and Masari on the failed negotiation with bandits show that from the onset, negotiating with bandits was a self-defeatist strategy.

To this end, the hundreds of terror suspects in various detention centres should be screened and those found culpable of mass murder and other crimes should be put on trial immediately. Also the 400 Bureau De Change (BDC) operators, that the office of the Attorney-General, Mr Abubakar Malami announced in May 2021 of being implicated as sponsors and financers of terrorism should be immediately put on trial. A similar trial and conviction of six Nigerian bureau de change operators for sponsoring terrorism in United Arab Emirate in November 2020 is a pointer to the Nigerian government on how not to pamper terror suspects.

Finally, and for the umpteenth time, we demand that the federal government and our security agencies get serious with intelligence gathering to weed out internal collaborators, identify sponsors of terror, cut off their sources of funding, supplies and punish severely those found guilty. Nigerians are tired of the excuses; President Buhari should act now before terrorists overrun his government and our country.

Abiola Owoaje 
NAS Capoon

Abuja


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