War Against Terror: Neighbours as safe havens for insurgents

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Take a very close look, if you have the heart, at the gory pictures of the wreckage at Nyanya Mass Transit Park, Abuja rocked by bomb blast in the early morning of Monday, April 14, 2014. About 100 people were killed, over 200 others sustained injuries, many maimed, burnt beyond recognition while nearly 18 high capacity buses, several smaller commercial vehicles and cars filled with passengers ready to leave, all destroyed in the explosion planned and mindlessly executed by Boko Haram Islamist insurgents.
Immediately following on the heels of the Nyanya deadly blast about 234 female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were abducted by the Boko Haram sect after sitting for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations. This has caused international outrage as USA, Britain and other western European countries have pledged to assist Nigeria in efforts to rescue the abducted school girls.
Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau in a report by Reuters was quoted as saying: ‘I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market by Allah,” claiming that the girls were being held as “slaves.”
On May 1, while workers world-wide were celebrating May Day, just barely 18 days after the first blast, the insurgents struck again some few meters away, near the Nyanya Park, with another blast killing about 20 persons, injuring scores of others. This time it was Wazobia Park.
Almost as a follow-up, eleven teenage girls between ages of 12 and 15 were abducted in Warabe village of Gwoza Local Government Area, near the Cameroon Republic border, about 160 km from Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
Shekau had threatened he would marry off a woman at the age of 12, adding, “I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.”
The sect leader in a video clip, recalled his disdain for Western education, affirming that Western education should end and girls should go and get married.
Since the Boko Haram violence began four years ago, the country had been gripped by a spate of unending deadly attacks culminating in the loss of innocent lives including security personnel almost daily, cutting across all segments of the population in North East of Nigeria.
Over 20,000 people in a rough estimate may have been killed in the carnage and reckless blood-letting which seemed to defy all security measures and military operations to stem this ugly tide and restore peace to the flash points of these attacks.
Several innocent souls – young and old, males and females, students and teachers, traditional chiefs and clerics, in churches and mosques, boarding schools’ inmates were attacked at night, many slaughtered without regard for human lives.
Some were killed in cold blood or shot at close range, including suicide attacks. Saturday Vanguard investigation has shown that Boko Haram, which sprang from among Muslims in Northern Nigeria and which derived its name meaning “Western type of education is forbidden” to the Muslims has been getting cross-border assistance from Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Mali to name a few.
Nigeria has a long, not structured, poorly demarcated and highly porous borders with its immediate neighbours – Niger republic (1,500 kilometres), Chad (87,000 km), Cameroon (1,700 km), Benin Republic (773 km).
The fluidity and flexibility had made it possible for nationals of these neighbouring countries to enter and leave Nigeria at will, many of them enjoying permanent residential status and even possessing Nigerian passports. A lot of them have claimed Nigerian nationality, moving in and out along these common borders without any meaningful restriction.
After conducting raids and attacks with sophisticated weaponry and convoy of long military-type vehicles, Boko Haram members often disappeared into these neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, Niger and Chad, sometimes after hot pursuits by Nigerian military forces.
Said a competent security source: “These neighbouring nations are providing safe havens for the insurgents. After hitting at Nigerian targets, bombing crowded places, markets and schools, they run and take cover in these countries, re-kit and transport their arsenals back and forth along these porous frontiers. Nigeria does not have the resources and personnel to effectively patrol these long borders. We even lacked the surveillance technology and gadgets to check or monitor movements of people and goods along these borders.”
There are no operational, bilateral security co-operation with our neighbours. The need for Nigerian security agencies to seek strategic working relationships with their counterparts in ECOWAS sub-region cannot be over-emphasised.
Considering the challenges of insecurity posed by Boko Haram terrorism, some of the Impoverished Explosive Devices (IEDs) were manufactured in these neighbouring countries, many of them already having terror cells and receptive to terrorism operatives.
There are now established links between Boko Haram in Nigeria which is fast becoming the hub of terrorism in the Sub-West African region, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Al-Shabab in Somalia and Arabian Peninsula. The cooperation between these terror groups include training, logistics, sharing of intelligence and operational modes.
Mr. Chigozie Ubani, a security expert in a television interview, acknowledged that although the Federal Government is doing a lot to tackle menace of Boko Haram insurgency, more can be done in terms of funding. “For example, in the United States after the 9/11 attack, the focus was on Osama bin Laden. They went for him and tracked him down. Osama was worth over 300 million USD.”
He called for increased funding to motivate security operatives. “Government can match the funds the insurgents are getting. Again it is important to stifle the sources of funds for the insurgents. Sources of funds for Boko Haram must be traced. Some people and businesses are funding the sect. They are either buying favour for security purpose, some are buying safety by funding criminality.”
Ubani went on: “We need to barricade or fence our borders. Money can be borrowed for this to enhance border security. Wires can be installed and create buffer zones. Our borders should be mapped. If one considers the views of the Lamido of Adamawa that part of his kingdom stretched to Cameroon and can always move away in times of crisis, then it’s obvious that certain interests will resist the fencing of our border.”
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