May 7, 2019

How to map-out and simply solve our protracted social problems: Boko-Haram terrorism, rampant kidnappings, increased banditry, communal violence, armed-robbery and Herdsmen-Farmers clashes in Nigeria

By Dr Baba J Adamu

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Today we live in an age of disturbing violence, on a scale on which the world has never seen before. In Nigeria, Boko-Haram terrorism, rampant cases of kidnapping, increased armed-banditry, communal violence, herdsmen-farmers clashes, suicide bombings etc., are complex Protracted Social Problems (PSPs) requiring a multi-faceted, concerted response that should include using modern technology, deploying all instruments of an asymmetric warfare backed by efficient government policies and legislative armory, proactive intelligence collection, vigilant and effective law enforcement (not senseless killing of innocent citizens by trigger-happy Police officers), critical infrastructure protection, and government targeted citizens engagement action toward positive development outcomes, promoting good values, interests and the safety-net of all Nigerians and the environment.

The aim of all these PSPs are to ruthlessly terrorize and spread fear throughout the population and to create a climate of insecurity by causing individuals mental anguish or physical injury, or by endangering their lives, freedom and safety and to generate multiple casualty incidents, in which random, defenceless and innocent civilians are the victims, or, the kidnapping of individuals and destruction of selected physical assets of a country’s infrastructure, including places of worship, schools, historical, public and cultural sites. The characteristics of these PSPs are explained by the Four Pillars of Terrorism, which are Motive (acquire unlawful wealth or ransom), Objective (spread prefectural fear), Target (ordinary and rich citizens, government officials or assets) and Asset Harm (leave a permanent impression).

As I mentioned in my Book “Effect of Global Terrorism & the Niger Delta Crisis” published in 2007, Nigeria is in this mess largely because Nigeria’s political leaders in the past have failed to map-out extreme individuals and radical religious or social groups that were radical, but not yet violent, allowing them to grow in force. You see, from independence, Nigeria had experienced conflict along ethnic or social lines, but mostly over resources like land and power. The country is also nearly evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, with three distinct languages corresponding to linguistic divisions, which became a recipe for political turmoil but not religious extremism. However, the arrival of the Maitatsine’s movement in the 1980s was a sign that the dynamics were changing, and that religious extremism was becoming more prominent in the Middle East in the 1970s was also finding a home in Nigeria. That was the best time for Nigerian Government to commence Conflict Mapping with the aim to predict a coming generation of conflicts fuelled by ethnicity, social, religious, political, communal or otherwise; and address their root causes. That is why in addressing the root cause of any conflict, it is important to map--out the conflict first.

Nigerian Government only cracked down on Maitatsine movement after its sermons became increasingly anti-government in the late 1970s. The crackdown culminated in an uprising in 1980 with the death toll in 1982 Kano-riot reaching over 4,000 and Maitatsine leader Mohammed Marwa, himself killed. The movement, however, lived on killing additional 3,300 people in Bulumkutum Borno State and nearly 1,000 in the former Gongola State; and hundreds more in Bauchi State between 1982 to 1984

This sudden rise of religious fundamentalism (Boko Haram) especially in the North East is not unconnected with the “Settlement of 1960”, in which Muslims traded away the right to impose Sharia law across the board, because around the time of Maitatsine’s movement, Philip Ostien and Sati Fwatshak wrote in their book on Sharia in Nigeria, “…by the mid-1980s the idea that Muslim consent to the Settlement of 1960 had been a terrible mistake… was widespread and firmly entrenched in the North” as illustrated by Capt. John Ford, US Army.

Although, later the 1999 Constitution has re-opened the door to impose Sharia by granting significant power to Nigeria’s States and creating a system of appellate courts to hear appeals from Sharia trial courts, some northern states took the opportunity to impose relaxed Sharia law over their territory. This relaxed Sharia law prompted some groups to start opposing certain law in a non-violent way, with the likes of Boko-Haram, which completely opposed western education. It is in this context, with religious fervor, joblessness and despair growing; couple with ignorance of their followers; and support from Al-Qaida that the sect leaders begun manifesting their groups in violent uprisings  that are  being witnessed today. Unfortunately, there are currently so many more of such groups gradually emerging lead by extreme individuals.

As the war on Al-Qaeda by USA intensified after Sept 11, Al-Qaeda was on the run but also began exploring new ways to bypass the daunting maze of deterrents already in place. They sought to entrench and spread where there is poverty, ignorance, despair and hopelessness; and they found Africa: Nigeria, Somali; a potential terrorist breeding ground especially with institutional weaknesses that allow terrorists to operate freely, and non-coherent and effective ways to forecast or address their menace. So the so-called terrorist partnership of convenience flourished illicit drugs, training on use of explosives and arms supply in Nigeria to groups like Boko-Haram, that started out as non-violent and turning horribly violent; all under the watch of unconcerned Government. But Boko-Haram is not a random event. Its emergence is a direct result of rising religious fundamentalism in Nigeria. Such threat to the region today has existed for decades, right from Maitatsine. Unfortunately, it has taken the kidnapping of nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls to get the international community to take notice.

Religion of Islam should not be associated with terrorism. I think a clear clarification in connection with Islam and terrorism is required. The circumstances of terrorist acts witnessed today, the September 11th, 2001, the numerous acts committed in Borno, Adamawa, Zamfara and many other terrorist acts in the world, ranging back several decades, in which some Muslims have been indicted or convicted reflect two facts: Firstly, that some terrorist acts are committed by persons who incidentally happen to be Muslims but their religion is not relevant to the terrorist act at all. Secondly, some Muslims commit terrorist acts, misusing, distorting and projecting the name of Islam. This differentiation is not always appreciated by some sectors of the media who tend to equate all terrorism by Muslims as so called fundamentalist Islam and under the banner of a Jihad, holy struggle or war. This is entirely inaccurate. Other media sources automatically attribute Islam to any terrorist who happen to be ethnic Arab, Muslim or of Middle East origin; a result of a widespread misconception that all Arabs are Muslims. This is however, incorrect as national and ethnic Arab populations include Muslims, Jews and Christians among their numbers, a likely situation, considering that these three great religions have one origin, all born in the Middle East. A large number of Israeli Jews are ethnic Arabs. Other related widespread misconceptions are that Iranians or Persians are also Arabs, which is incorrect and that anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, when in fact it is hatred for the many different Semitic races, including Jews and Arabs. One of the results of these misconceptions has been to wrongly simplify some conflicts and boil them down to facile slogans such as Islam versus the West, and Islam versus Jihad, which very wrong.

It should further be noted that the word often incorrectly attached to Islamic terrorism is Jihad (Arabic - meaning to make an effort or struggle). The word means, by translation and theological tradition, a holy struggle, especially spiritual, against evil, injustice or personal imperfection. It may be fulfilled in four ways; by using the heart, tongue, hand or sword. In contemporary use, except by terrorists, it denotes an effort against something either personally negative or detracting from the common social good, and is used mostly as a last resort, as in self-defense. There are many such Jihads. For example: A Jihad on litter in order to clean up an area, or a Jihad on one’s self when encountering difficulties achieving a personal goal, such as studying. In simple terms, it can be considered as a self-motivating effort to do some good, underpinned with prayer. But to attribute terrorism to Islam is totally wrong and unjustified.

To effectively address these complex Protracted Social Problems (PSPs), there is need for a proactive intelligence collection strategy in place, a comprehensive monitoring approach to the diverse threats faced by all communities in order to avoid sudden, planned overnight attacks, kidnappings, group or suicide bomb attack of individuals, places of worship or buildings, banditry, etc. Such monitoring, along with improved emergency preparedness using modern technology and proactive human intelligence with instruments of an asymmetric warfare in place and increased funding and welfare of security personnel will enhance public safety in relation to a variety of threats, while avoiding potential attacks. All these have to be done in a concerted effort and manner, in global collaboration.

Finally, following the anti-terrorism resolutions passed by the United Nations and international conventions; and landmark UN Resolution on terrorism passed with sanctions against a government accused of terrorism in 1992, nations should uphold those resolutions, agreed upon by the majority of nations, and work together to counter the threat of terrorism by creating an Anti-Terrorism Agency.

Anti-Terrorist Agency of Nigeria (ATAN) seeks to establish a unifying core for the vast national network of security agencies, organizations and institutions involved in the efforts to secure and protect our nation, and to anticipate, pre-empt and deter threats of terrorism in Nigeria and elsewhere whenever possible, with the ability to respond quickly when such threats do materialize. The Agency will work to prevent the loss of sensitive information that would result in damage to Nigerian National Security and economic well-being. ATAN will contribute to the collective work of other Nigerian Security Agencies and form partnerships with other international organizations, and will among others:

  • Investigate suspected individuals and organizations and groups to obtain, collate, analyze, profile and assess secret intelligence relating to the threats of terrorism;

  • Gather intelligence and manage information effectively and timely;

  • Frustrate terrorism and build resilience to radicalization and brainwashing;

  • Act as a counter-terrorism body: Investigate sources of threats, funds  and compile evidence that will enable it to bring suspects to justice through the Ministry of Justice;

  • Advise the Government and others of the threats and advises on the appropriate response, including protective security measures;

  • Manage and coordinate the mass evolving algorithmic surveillance system to filter, collect, and analyze staggering volumes of data flowing across the internet and mobile platforms as well as to create a Social Credit System (SCS) to pre-empt and curtail the scourges of terrorism, banditry, kidnappings etc.;

  • Assist other agencies, organizations and other Government Security Agencies in combating the scourge.



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