- Category: Interview
- Published on Monday, 20 June 2011 00:52
- Written by Admin
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Dr Amaechi M. Nwaokolo is a research fellow in International Terrorism and Political Violence. He is based in Scotland. He has written extensively on the rising spate terrorism in parts of West Africa and on states failure in Africa. He is also a member of the Society for Terrorism Research, Harvard University, USA. In this interview, he argues that Nigeria can’t tackle Boko Haram by using force. Excerpts:
The bomb blast did not come to me as a surprise. This is because we are living in a globalised world and a lot of things are happening around the world. Terrorist activities are not only in Nigeria. It is something that every nation-state in the world, including industrialized countries is facing. There is free access to the internet, including among Nigerians. Because of the access to different groups and information on the internet, I’m not surprised that such an attack has taken place. Last year in an interview we had, I had said that the bomb blasts would continue after the elections, if not properly checked. However, the most disturbing thing is that the group has been able to take on security agencies, to the point of attacking the force headquarters. These are the challenges of the 21st Century and we have to rise to the occasion as a nation. If not checked, it will destabilise Nigeria.
The attack came about 24 hours after the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, vowed to put an end to the activities of the Boko Haram, but the opposite happened. What is your take on this?
I’m not going to criticize the IG, but I would say that some policy matters should not appear on the pages of newspapers or be aired on television. Probably this would be a lesson to persons in security services, that there are certain things that should not be said before the camera. But I don’t know under what circumstances the IG made the statement. Some information should be left to the consumption of the security services.
Is there any parallel between Boko Haram and any group you know of in any part of the world?
From little research we’ve done in the past, and from my experience while in government, I had some inkling that there’s been funding from some international organizations to foster education, religious institutions, and the like in the North. Some scholars in the United States are well- aware that the Sahel Savannah of West Africa has become a hotbed for terrorist activities. But with what I’ve been watching and according to information among the academic, the American security had known that some activities had been taking place there for a long time. But I don’t know what links Boko Haram would have with any other part of the world. They may have taken advantage of the opulence contrasting the lack of development in the North to carry out their activities.
Can we tackle this group with force?
I’m of the school of thought that there is no way the use of force can solve the menace of terrorism around the world. Terrorism is an asymmetric war, so you need a proper intelligence to be able to win the war. Nigeria, as a country, needs a lot to learn from countries like Britain and Pakistan, which have been fighting wars against terrorism for a long time. Almost every two months, in Britain, one terrorist plot is nipped in the bud. But in our own case, we’ve not been able to achieve that. Using force to fight those we can’t identify can be difficult. These terrorists are normal persons like you and I, who are carrying out this terrorist acts. They are not a group of persons carrying guns you can identify. The use of force is baseless. We need a serious intelligence network to be able to curb the activities of these terrorists. It is not only about terrorism, but about kidnapping and armed robbery in other parts of the country also. We need a good intelligence network to be able to tackle them.
How is it done in the UK, for instance?
In the UK, the intelligence works very well. They work hand-in-hand with the communities. The security agencies pass information to one another. I don’t know how the network is here, but before I left government, there was no proper coordination between the police, customs, etc. In the UK, the anti-terrorism squad pool resources from the various intelligence services together. Having realized the intelligence failure of 9/11, they have come together up to the UK border agency, are involved in the fight against terrorism. I don’t think that is the situation here. We need a synergy between all the security agencies in information gathering and sharing. This is important in the fight against terrorism.
What should Nigeria have done since the 1980s, 1990s, to tackle the extremist groups that we never did?
If you look at it, our borders in the Northern parts of the country are very porous. Again, we have neglected intelligence network for a very long time. It’s a kind of complacency. It was inherited. It didn’t start today with this government. It’s been there since the 1980s. Research scholars on terrorism have discovered that the Nigerian borders in the North had been a beehive of activities of terrorists from North Africa through Chad and Niger Republic. They have had some influence in Nigeria, but little has been done about the porous borders there. Now government has to look at those things going on at those borders, the influences, the infiltrations from that part of the country.
Did you have instances in which politicians use groups like Boko Haram to settle political quarrels?
I can remember reading a statement by the head of the European Union some time ago, in which he said Nigeria didn’t have any terrorist group, but he added that he knew some persons were being influenced to carry out terrorist activities. As I said in my earlier interview, a whole lot of the violence taking place in Nigeria were being motivated by politicians because of their do-or-die attitude. They would say, ‘if I don’t get it, no other person will get it.’ That’s what empowered these groups initially. Now that it has metamorphosed into a religious sect, I don’t know where we are heading to today? It would require a new strategy. Initially it was the politicians who had been funding and motivating these young ones who don’t have jobs or good education. (Sunday Trust)