The death of al-Qurayshi: Lessons for Nigeria in counter-terrorism

Feb 15, 2022 | Press Releases

On February 3, 2022, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced to Americans and the rest of the world, that Abu Ibrahim  al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the “horrible terrorist leader is no more”. According to Mr Biden, the ISIS leader who had ordered atrocities in his lifetime died during a pre-dawn raid by US Special Operation Forces at his ‘hideout’ in Northwest Syria.

Commenting on the operation, President Joe Biden said: “This operation is a testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they try to hide anywhere in the world”. Before  al-Qurayshi’s death, other dangerous and notorious terrorists that had been neutralized by the United States include former Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and erstwhile leader and self-styled caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, among others.

The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) strongly believes that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration can draw learning moments in the United State’s approach to its execution of the war against terror.

Over the course of seven years in power, the glib assumption that President Buhari, as an ex-general would be better qualified to rid Nigeria of internal and external terror threats has been totally repudiated by the rather abysmal performance of his administration in this most important regard. The poor results, manifested in the lived experiences of millions of ordinary citizens, have been sadly highlighted by numerous strategic and tactical slip ups within the security establishment.

The absurdity of the military declaring Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau ‘dead’ a record ten times, the strange disclosures before hand of plans to attack terrorist camps, and the inchoate and continuously worrisome propaganda by Presidency officials, are some of the embarrassing gaffes that hapless Nigerians have been fed daily by the current administration. This is even as terrorists led by the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) and other criminal gangs persist in their murderous and expansionist agenda, having seized the momentum from state actors, and turned Nigeria into a vast killing field.

We salute the enduring courage and thankless sacrifice of our troops in the combat field, and we fully acknowledge the logistical and other challenges that they have been forced to deal with in what has since become an asymmetrical engagement. The story would have been totally different if the Buhari administration had mustered the required political will to deal decisively with these merchants of death. This includes coming down heavily on the enemies within – the ideological bedfellows of religious bigotry among its own ranks, the hideous links in the terrorism financial value chain, and all the other collaborators and facilitators who have bolstered the amorphous insurgency.

The recent disclosure by the administration’s spokesman, Lai Mohammed, that an agency of the government, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has uncovered 123 companies, 33 bureaux de change linked with terrorism, 96 financiers of terrorism, and 424 associates and supporters of the financiers, is a typical example of how the government continues to pay lip service to a comprehensive strategic approach to the whole issue of insecurity.

Nigerians would recall that this is not the first time we would be regaled with news of plans to arrest sponsors of terror by the government. This same government that expects Nigerians to queue behind its feeble anti-terror efforts with patriotic fervour has blatantly refused to name the individuals and groups associated with terrorism; not to mention charging them to court.

Before the recent disclosure by Mohammed, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in May 2021, had similarly announced to Nigerians that the government had concluded arrangement to prosecute 400 suspects allegedly sponsoring terrorism. Several months later, not a single charge has been brought against any of the suspects!

While the Buhari’s government plays the ostrich on the issue of insecurity, terror gangs have brazenly continued their bloodletting across the country. Statistics compiled from media reports by Premium Times, a leading investigative newspaper, revealed that 486 people were killed across Nigeria in the first three weeks of 2022. In the first week of this month, terrorists have killed 46 people in separate attacks in Zamfara and Kastina States.

We are, once again, constrained to wonder what purpose a government serves if it cannot perform the most basic sworn duty of protecting lives and property, and ensuring the welfare of the people. Section 14 (2) b of the Nigerian Constitution expressly states that the “security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” We are all witnesses to how, on the watch of President Buhari, this section of our constitution has been upheld in the breach as innocent Nigerians are killed, dispossessed and displaced in their thousands.

Again we reiterate our earlier declaration that the present administration should move beyond vain rhetoric in its war strategy against terror and move swiftly to interdict the sponsors of these criminal gangs. Their identities should be revealed, accounts should be frozen, assets seized, and they should be expeditiously and vigorously prosecuted to demonstrate the administration‘s seriousness in ending the reign of terror across the country.

Our security agencies should lean towards being less flippant with important information about strategy and focus on rigorous intelligence gathering. The operation that took out  al-Qurayshi took months of serious planning, and was aided by robust and discreet intelligence gathering. Our security agencies should be reminded that military hardware alone is not enough to tackle insecurity and win the war against terrorism. There must be concomitant and effective field and strategic intelligence, as well as community-based battle for ‘hearts and minds’. 

President Buhari should show sincerity of purpose by rallying the Nigerian Armed Forces to confront the criminal gangs killing our people. He has a constitutional responsibility to prevent the collapse of Nigeria. Enough is already enough.


Abiola Owoaje
NAS Capoon

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