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Confronting Nigeria’s Domestic Terrorism Threat and the Federal Government’s Complicit Body Language

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Following the announcement by Fulani Herdsmen to withdraw their service and demanding an outrageous sum of N475bn compensation, threatening acute shortage of beef, vegetables, tomatoes and onions, among other essential edibles from the North to the Southwest and Eastern states. With these kidnappers, rapists and land-grabbers increasingly adopting new techniques and advanced tactics in an effort to circumvent Nigeria’s homeland security and threaten the safety, security, and prosperity of the Nigerian public and our allies, would the government’s dalliance with these terrorists persist against the interest of the suffering Southwestern and Eastern states farmers and innocent citizens in the hands of these cowardly Fulani herdsmen terrorists continue? Would the Federal Government play to the gallery and compensate alone, the Fulani herdsmen or confront Nigeria’s growing domestic monsters threatening the collective peace and unity of the nation, or it would it be proactive to identify, detect and prevent further fulanisation of the Nigerian republic Adedayo Adejobi inquires…

National President of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN), Muhammad Tahir, disclosed in Abuja on Monday that the association had lost property and several members were, therefore, demanding N475b as compensation from the Federal Government. He hinted that unless the Federal Government addressed its grievances on or before Wednesday, February 24, 2021, it would have no other choice than to withdraw its services.

The statement reads in part, “During the #EndSars protests, our members were killed and their property destroyed. We demanded compensations for lives and property our members lost.’’

“We have also written to various security agencies on multiple taxation hampering activities of our members through illegal roadblocks at unavoidable and strategic locations on federal highways and demand tax worth N450,000 before reaching our destinations. It is sad that some of the federal highways are not accessible to our members, as a result of multiple taxation, armed robbery attacks and kidnapping of our members until ransom are paid,” he lamented

Insecurity and terrorism have been a major challenge to the Nigerian government in recent times. The activities of the Islamic sect -Boko Haram and now Fulani herdsmen amongst other had led to loss of lives and properties in the country especially in the Northern part of Nigeria and now its increasing foothold in Southwestern and Southeastern states. Some of these activities include bombing, suicide bomb attacks, sporadic shooting of unarmed and innocent citizens, burning of police stations, churches, kidnapping of school girls and women, etc. Kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, political crises, murder, destruction of oil facilities by Niger Delta militants alongside the attacks carried out by Fulani Herdsmen on some communities in the North and South have been another major insecurity challenge facing the country. Owing to these terror attacks, Nigeria has been included amongst terrorist countries of the world, whilst the Trump Administration proscribed Nigeria placing travel ban on Nigerians.

 Many lives and properties have been lost and a large number of citizens rendered homeless. Families have lost their loved ones. Many women are now widows. Children become orphans with no hope of the future, with implications for national development, yet the Federal government grants amnesty to Killer herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. Who Negotiates with terrorists?

Despite its unprecedented scope and destruction, the last eight years, extremist’s groups across the northern region of Nigerian armed with over 350million illegal weapons have become more visible, but in the last five years and counting, they have become emboldened as they raid farms, kidnap and rape women in host communities.

Recent events from the abduction of the Chibok, Dapchi, Kankara students and wave of ransom negotiations, have led to questions surrounding the adequacy of intelligence gathering, the success of information sharing, inadequate law enforcement, congressional oversight, seeming complicity and the lack of commitment on the part of the Federal government to prioritise countering domestic terrorism.

Atrocities perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen include the destruction of houses and churches, as well as the seizure of land and properties belonging to Christian owners. Reports have also emerged of the Fulani herdsmen ‘kidnapping Christian schoolgirls to marry them to Muslim men.’

Among these have been an apparent shift in operational intensity from traditional sources of terrorism—state sponsors and formalised terrorist organizations—to loosely affiliated extremists like the herdsmen. This trend has been paralleled by a general shift in tactics and methodologies among domestic terrorists that focus on kidnapping for ransom and producing mass casualties. These trends underscore the serious threat that domestic and international terrorists masquerading as Fulani herdsmen, continue to pose to Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world.

Speaking to an aggrieved farmer in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State, John Ayoola Ajekigbe who lost five of his men and a large portion of his 200 Acres farm and monies worth hundreds of millions to attacks by Fulani Herdsmen and their wandering cattle’s, ‘‘The north is looking to be compensated with our oil money again. Who will compensate we southerners here and in the North whose alcohol beverage businesses were destroyed by the Hisbah police force that was set up by their state assemblies? The assemblies of some of those Southern states have legislated against the destructive activities of your cows on their farmland, and the need to put an end to the practice. Rather than complain they should comply by the laws. If boycotting Northern beef, onions, tomatoes and pepper is the price Southerners have to pay to stay alive, so be it.’’, he enthused.

According to another farmer in Aiyepe, Ogun State, Oreoluwa Akinloye Tofowomo tells of the horrendous treatments farmers transporting their produce from the south to the north face, ‘‘Regarding taxation by state government officials and hoodlums on our roads while moving your cow’s southwards, I want you to note that transporters of kola nuts, palm oil, garri, coconuts, banana etc. in the South who are moving their produce to the North also face similar challenges. While in transit, some of their goods are destroyed as well. They never ask the Federal(?) Government for compensation. Is your Federal(?) Government different from theirs? A lot of farms across Southwest are shutting down due to the influx of Fulani herdsmen on their farms. A lot of farmers are out of business. The disposable income is not there. Famers are just getting bye. To this end, the government needs to look at ways to compensating and providing security for farmers in the Southwest’’

Although the President’s spokesman, Femi Adesina intones that ‘‘the Federal Government is making frantic efforts to tackle these challenges posed by terrorism and insecurity in the country and put an end to it’’, but the rate of insurgency and insecurity is still alarming.

Going by the Global Terrorist Index 2019 reports, conservatively, over Fulani Herdsmen Killed 2539 Nigerians in 654 Attacks, whilst tens of thousands are yet undocumented or unaccounted for.

The report noted that most of the “Fulani attacks were armed assaults” (200 out of 297 attacks) against civilians (84 percent of the attacks).

A breakdown analysis of the document by THISDAY indicates that in 2017, there were 99 attacks resulting in the killing of 202 people while 12 were kidnapped. In 2018, the attacks intensified rising to 245 resulting in bloodbath that caused 1,478 deaths.

The number of those kidnapped during that period rose to 29. Last year, 169 attacks, 524 killings, and three kidnappings were reported.

So far, in 2020 as of May 2, according to the report, there were 141 attacks, 335 people killed and 137 kidnapped.

But behind the figures, the document said the attacks, killings, and kidnappings were targeted at farmers who were “predominantly Christians.”

According to a Public Policy Analyst and Lawyer Chuks Nwana, ‘‘The golden rule which has been applied in Israel and America and indeed other parts of the world is that you do not negotiate with terrorists. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case in Nigeria, and for which reason the scourge of terrorism has come to stay.’’

With the Federal government diverting financial resources meant for development purposes to security votes in the last five years and counting, asides the borrowed $1bn to fight terrorism, the monster persists.

If the expenditure on security matters doesn’t seem to have had any effect in ameliorating the negative effect of terrorism and insecurity, the need to call to question the role-play of the former service chiefs turned Ambassadors, becomes more imperative.

What becomes more puzzling is the Federal governments complicity with these terrorists. It’s weak body language and inability to out rightly declare war on terrorists, seek assistance or advice from local security experts and international communities who have in the time past faced this kind on challenge and were able to tackle it.

Equally alarming is the horrendous neglect, despair and ill-treatment Nigerian soldiers face on the battle field. Unending tales of Nigerian soldiers complaining lack of firearms, food and medical supplies in the face of heavily armed-to the teeth terrorists, danger and death.  You can’t but help wonder where all the funds and equipment’s meant to fight the terrorists have disappeared to. Who are those sabotaging these fearless soldiers? Is there a conspiracy to put Nigerians under the chokehold of foreigner Fulani’s?

Our gallant soldiers are losing their limbs and lives looking for terrorists’ hideouts, yet the terrorists get amnesty and someone is visiting the terrorists, shaking hands, taking pictures and advocating on their behalf. Who is deceiving who? With Federal government aware of their leaders, names and location, why are these terrorists still alive? This smack off a distasteful sign of complicity.

Dozens of domestic extremists have not been indicted neither have they been prosecuted in the past. In addition, numerous individuals have been indicted for their involvement in terrorist activities but are walking freely- at least they haven’t been indicted.

The threat of terrorism to Nigerian remains, hence the urgent need for proactive law enforcement efforts and significant legislative counterterrorism initiatives. The overall level of terrorist-related acts in Nigeria increased in the last six years, when compared to the last ten years. The increasing numbers of bandits, kidnappers and terrorists pervading the Southern and Western states further underscore the continuing terrorist threat Nigerian faces.

If the war against terrorism must be won, the Military should be empowered more with arms to fight. Government should beef up security in the Southern and eastern parts of the country to curb the menace of insecurity. Grazing grounds or/and ranches should be built in major states of the country where cattle rearing is prevalent.

A willing government’s top priorities is to resolutely protect its citizens from terrorism and other homeland security threats, but with negative turn of events, the government is evidently failing in this regard.

In confronting a range of these threats, the need to amplify new and diverse voices in national policy making has never been clearer.

Terrorism represents a continuing threat to Nigeria and a formidable challenge to the new Service Chiefs. In response to this threat, developing a broad-based counterterrorism program, based on robust investigations to disrupt terrorist activities, interagency cooperation, and effective warning. While this approach would yield many successes, the dynamic nature of the terrorist threat demands that our capabilities continually be refined and adapted to continue to provide the most effective response.

Improved analysis and operational capabilities combined with increased cooperation and integration would enhance inter-agency ability to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism.

Whilst congressional appropriations would help strengthen and expand counterterrorism capabilities, combating terrorism on three fronts: international terrorism operations both within Nigeria and in support of extraterritorial investigations, domestic terrorism operations, and countermeasures relating to both international and domestic terrorism is pivotal to achieving success in the fight against terrorism.

Federal government agencies like the NFIU, EFCC and the Service Chiefs should maintain a regular presence in the center and participate in the daily operations and fight against terrorism. This multi-agency arrangement provides an unprecedented opportunity for information sharing, warning, and real-time intelligence analysis.

According to a quote credited to the Former Military Head of State, Late General Sanni Abacha, which reads, “If insurgency lasts for more than 24 hours, the government has a hand in it”.’’ The statement by the former general no doubts puts to test the integrity of the Federal government’s resolve in ending terrorism in Nigeria, if indeed it is fighting terrorism.

Threats emanating from domestic and international terrorists will continue to represent a significant challenge to Nigeria and Africa for the foreseeable future. Further, as terrorists continue to refine and expand their methodologies and are treated with kids gloves, the threats they pose will become even greater if the Federal government doesn’t confront head-long these threats..

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