The rising wave of terrorism in the country has been attributed to, among other factors, the affiliation of the Boko Haram sect to Mali rebels – Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Shabab – adding an international dimension to the insurgency.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Azuibuke Ihejirika, made this disclosure yesterday, during an interactive session on Military-Media Relations in Nigeria, held at the 81 Division Auditorium, Marina, Lagos.
The four-day programme, which was organised by the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, Major General Mobolaji Koleoso, has the acting Director General, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Alhaji Musa Mayaki; and Editor-in-Chief/Chairman, THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, amongst others, as guest speakers.
Tagged “Enhancing Military-Media Relations Towards Improved Security”, Ihejirika at the event, spoke on the issue of terrorism, stating that the phenomenon required the close cooperation of all countries to contain it.
He disclosed that based on intelligence gathering, the security forces discovered a strong link between the Boko Haram sect and terrorists in the Maghreb, including rebels in Mali, who provide them with training, funding and weapons.
He said: “In Nigeria, the activities of the Boko Haram sect and other terrorist groups continue to threaten peace and security while their modus operandi poses a serious challenge to the security forces in the country.
“Their use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and the adoption of suicide bombing is a clear indication that the Boko Haram sect has no value for human life and the people they claim to represent.
“The sect's affiliation to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Shabab has added an international dimension to its activities.”
He expressed concern over the unpredictable and random nature of terrorist acts, which present a serious challenge to security forces in the country.
Ihejirika stated that it has been established that the Islamic hegemony whose declared intent is the Islamisation of the entire northern states of Nigeria, has no regard for constitution of the country.
The COAS, however, pointed out that any country or community whose citizens have high level of security awareness have greater chances of defeating terrorists before they carry out their dastardly acts.
Ihejirika said the role of the media in situations of warfare have taken root in the dynamics of the global security environment where information manoeuvring plays a major role in the shaping of public opinions and views with respect to any event.
He said: “It is for this reason terrorists carefully select the places in which they carry out their attacks in order to get the best media coverage.
“On the whole, terrorists rely on the media as a tool to shrink the power asymmetry between them and the governments they fight, create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, legitimise their acts, and reach greater audiences.”
While declaring the event open, the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, said apart from performing its primary role, the Nigerian Army has equally promoted the ideals of professionalism, integrity and discipline in all its engagement.
She pointed out that just as the media need the military in carrying out its activities, the military also needs the media to publicise its activities, adding that the media need to also understand and follow military procedures in dealing with them
In his remarks, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, laid emphasis on the need for a military-media relationship, adding that it would indeed improve on the challenges facing security agencies in the fight against terrorism.
The governor stated that the need for the interaction with the media also suggested that there was an issue, adding that security was often the most difficult role of government.
He said: “There is need for multi-level policing because the most difficult role of government is protecting lives. Since last week, we have been reaching out to all the strata of the society including religious leaders.”