The Nigerian military on Wednesday released 1,009 ex-Boko Haram insurgents, who had been in military custody at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The former terrorists were handed over to the Borno State Government in a secret ceremony that was initially billed to take place at an earlier date but was suspended indefinitely by the military authorities at the wake of the appointment of the new COAS.
According to sources in the army, the ex-terrorists were handed over to the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, who represented the state government at the event.
The officer said, “The army handed 1,009 Boko Haram insurgents to the state government today (Wednesday). It was done in secret. We were warned not to allow journalists to the venue.”
Efforts to reach the Army Public Relations Officer, Operation Hadin Kai, Col. Ado Isa, proved abortive.
Gambo did not reply to a text message sent to her phone too. (Punch)
A former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has warned that the country may disintegrate if Nigerians do not remain calm and united in the face of recent challenges.
While expressing dismay over the recent attacks in parts of the country, Abdulsalami called on governors to take full responsibility for managing the divergent voices and frustration in their states that could fuel disunity, anarchy and disintegration.
“As if the continued insurgency in the country, the kidnapping and armed robbery is not cup full, the recent happenings in some part of the country of ethnic attacks are unfortunate and adding to the problems,” he stated.
Abdulsalami, who is the Chairman of the National Peace Committee, told journalists on Tuesday at his Minna home that there was the need for all Nigerians to come together to overcome the current challenges being faced.
He said, “In the last two weeks or so, tension has been growing in the country and embers of disunity, anarchy and disintegration are spreading fast; and if care is not taken, this might lead us to a point of no return.
“We at the National Peace Committee wish to add our voice to the voices of millions of Nigerians calling for calm in these difficult times.
“These times demand that we all join hands to resolve our challenges so as to keep our country united. We do not have the luxury of trading blames.
“Thousands of our people are homeless and refugees across the length and breadth of their own country.
“We know the difficulties that our farmers have faced in the last few years and that harvesting will be a serious challenge this year. Therefore, let us all rally together in these hard times, make the required sacrifices and remain vigilant by standing by one another.”
Abdulsalami also appealed to governors of the various states to sheathe their swords, adding, “They should tone down their rhetoric and take full responsibility for managing the divergent voices and frustration within their states.
“It is true that we are all in a state of fear and collective anxiety. However, the last thing we need is for the enemy to sense a lack of unity on our part or a break in our ranks.”
He urged the new service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police to rise up to the urgent demands of the moment, saying, “You need to rally your troops and design the best strategy for ending this tragic war that has continued to consume and destroy the foundation of our dear country.”
“We hope that based on their field experience in this war, they can draw up a well coordinated programme to ensure that all our resources are deployed to achieve the much needed victory in this avoidable war.” (PUNCH)
Following a tip-off in July 2016, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) arrested an obscure fruit seller under a bridge in Zaria, Kaduna State. Investigations revealed the man to be a high-ranking Boko Haram operative who coordinated the finance cell of the group with others in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to disburse funds to various terror camps in North East Nigeria as well as Diffa, Nigér Republic. From what I gather, the Zaria arrest proved to be a major breakthrough that eventually revealed a pattern of financial flows and transactions not only to Boko Haram field operatives but to other criminal cartels, particularly those engaged in kidnappings for ransom.
The ONSA investigations further revealed that between 2015 and 2016, the sum of $782,000 was transferred from Dubai to Nigeria through Bureau De Change (BDC) operators to aid Boko Haram. As reported in the media, this was what led to the conviction in April 2019 of six Nigerians, including a man identified as a government official. Later that same year (December 2019), an Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the lower court and upheld the imprisonment sentence imposed on the six Nigerian citizens. Aside laundering money for the terror group, these men were also found guilty of running a Boko Haram cell in the UAE to raise funds and material assistance for the insurgents in Nigeria. Although the convicts claim innocence, follow-up investigations have helped the security agencies to better understand the movement of money by criminal cartels in Nigeria. The investigations also led to the arrest of accomplices in Kaduna, Kano and Zamfara States
Meanwhile, the Dubai security breakthrough helped to expose how some of the criminal networks operating in Nigeria had perfected a seamless method of laundering money through BDC operators. Once the money has been given to a BDC operator in Dubai, he contacts an associate in Nigeria who gives the same amount in cash to the coordinator. On the instruction of the Boko Haram leadership, the coordinator goes ahead to distribute the funds to members who incidentally have no direct contact with one another, in an elaborate scheme to cover their tracks. The same pattern was discovered for disbursement of ransom monies from kidnappings, especially those traced to illegal mining in Zamfara State.
What the foregoing suggests quite clearly is that we are dealing with a serious national security threat that is not only well organized but well-funded. For instance, the thriving Nigerian gold market in the UAE has been traced to activities of illegal miners in Zamfara with Aminu Kano International Airport as a gateway. “It is the most notorious airport in the country”, a security source told me last week. But the real challenge is in Zamfara where the proliferation of arms and hundreds of muscle men working as miners, (licensed as well as illegal) engage in kidnappings. A combination of porous borders, weak signal and technical intelligence, lack of proper data of licensed miners and the influx of illicit drugs such as Tramadol have combined to make banditry the most lucrative enterprise in the state
According to security sources, there is a nexus between kidnappings for ransom and terrorism as well as between gold prospecting in Zamfara State and the general wave of criminality by herdsmen that has spread to the southern part of the country with dire implications for national peace and security. For instance, a clear pattern has emerged between ISWAP and kidnappings with many of the herders implicated as foot soldiers. “Most of the herdsmen you see all over the place, whether in the north or south, kidnapping, raping and maiming people are employees of a larger terror network. They kidnap but the ransom does not go to them”, a senior security officer told me.
Most of the people identified with illegal mining in Zamfara State are herders who realize that more money can be made from kidnappings. They are not only ‘diversifying’ their business, many of them are also moving southward. “A lot of these Fulani marauders are from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso” said a security source. Sadly, rather than tackle the problem, the presidency indulges in making excuses that lead to accusations of complicity and most often in a manner that threatens the unity of the country as an inclusive polity founded on diversity. And with that, kidnappings for ransom has become the most lucrative enterprise in the country.
In October 2019, a former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar disclosed that over N3 billion was collected by bandits as ransom from relatives of victims in Zamfara alone within a period of eight years. Abubakar who chaired a committee set up by the current governor, Bello Matawalle to find solutions to banditry in the state, said the report covered the period from June 2011 to May, 2019. The money, according to Abubakar, was collected from 3,672 victims whose relatives paid to secure their freedom. Abubakar said that a total of 4,983 women were widowed, 25,050 children orphaned and 190,340 persons displaced by banditry over the period in the state.
While that level of threat should worry the authorities, there is also an international dimension to the criminality that is just as intriguing to security agencies. I understand that there are more than a thousand Chinese and Indians in the mining business in Zamfara State. “Yet, not a single one of their nationals has been kidnapped.” Meanwhile, some of the people who serve as security personnel to these miners have been discovered to be engaged in kidnappings for ransom, raising questions about who they work for.
The threat coming from this criminal enterprise is now political given what the senate yesterday described as “issuance and counter issuance of eviction notice by some ethnic entrepreneurs and groups posing as ethnic nationalists and champions”, while kidnappers continue to operate mostly on the roads, outskirts of towns and farms where they ambush innocent rural people. That these kidnappers kill, maim and rape is bad enough. That they are identified as belonging to a certain ethnic colouration is the problem. They particularly enjoy brutalizing their victims which perhaps explains why in most instances, they force their captives to walk long distances on thorns and sharp stones in the bush.
Quoting the global risk consultancy, ‘Control Risks’, the Financial Times of London, recently reported that Nigeria has the highest rate of kidnaps for ransom of both locals and foreigners in all of Africa. “For most businesses, the greatest risk to their employees is while they are travelling,” Tom Griffin, senior partner for Africa and the Middle East at Control Risks was quoted to have said. “Almost half of all kidnaps in Nigeria recorded by Control Risks occur during road travel, with kidnappers often selecting targets based on perceived wealth during roadside ambushes, roadblocks or attacks in traffic congestion.”
We must admit that we have a crisis on our hands that is not restricted to any section of the country. It is national. In the clip of the interview he granted a television station that has gone viral, Alhaji Bashir Kurfi, National Chairman, Network for Justice narrated an incident that happened in Kurfi, Katsina State where he hails from. “One lady came to share her story. She went to see her daughter who gave birth and then the bandits came—they asked her to hold the baby and they raped the daughter. And then after, they asked the daughter to hold the baby and they raped the mother. This is what is going on everyday…it is the reality on the ground and it is a shame on us.”
It should worry President Muhammadu Buhari that whether on land or in water, the Nigeria territorial space is now one of the least safe spaces in the world. The latest report by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveals that over 95 per cent of the 135 shipping crew members kidnapped last year were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea and mostly on Nigerian waters. “Incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are particularly dangerous, as over 80 per cent of attackers were armed with guns,” according to the IMB.
That there is no coherent strategy to deal with the challenge can be glimpsed from the interview granted the BBC Hausa Service by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir elRufai. While he advocates that you do not appease criminals, his Zamfara State counterpart believes in offering ‘amnesty’ and money to bandits and kidnappers to make them change their ways. El-Rufai has therefore cited lack of unity and cooperation among the governors of the North West as one of the reasons the security challenges persist. The governors, according to El-Rufai, have different approaches to ending banditry and kidnapping.
This is where the moral authority of the president can help. He should be able to impress upon the governor of Zamfara State that you do not make deals with criminals. Bandits and kidnappers being offered government largesse will never keep to deals as we see with the experience of Katsina State. And while there is a place for the personal efforts such as the one being undertaken by Sheikh Gumi, the state must muster the capacity to restore law and order without bowing to criminals.
At a time we are facing apprehension over impending national crisis, it is the responsibility of leadership to identify solutions to difficult problems, ensure stability of the polity, and guide the society to prosperity. The fear of a national crisis, this time, is fueled by criminal activities traced to herdsmen who now roam the country with impunity. The rising profile and complexities of conflict disorders in the country therefore requires a hands-on approach from the president. Sadly, that is precisely where the problem lies.
That sundry criminal cartels have overpowered the capacity of the state to restore law and order is no longer in doubt. But more worrisome is the fact that our national security challenge is being framed around identity politics which can only exacerbate the situation. The tone of debate yesterday in the Senate reflected this unfortunate national divide. According to a senator from Adamawa State, Binos Yaroe, whenever kidnappers are arrested anywhere within the country, the majority of them always turn out to be Fulani. That is the kind of rhetoric you also get from the street. “Right now, we are an endangered species. People are going into homes to abduct, to rape, herdsmen are everywhere. We have spoken several times and nothing has been done. Posterity beckons”, said Senator Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti State in a note of resignation
The connecting thread for the variants of violence that we witness across the country today, as I have argued several times on this page, is that the Nigerian state has lost what Max Weber described as the monopoly of “the legitimate use of physical force” to criminal cartels. Until we muster the capacity to effectively confront them, we will continue to be at their mercy. But whichever way one looks at the current challenge of insecurity across Nigeria, it all leads to the doorstep of President Buhari. It is therefore my hope that he will address that challenge most decisively. Before the amber light turns red!
The United States under the leadership of President Donald Trump is strongly considering a military action against terror groups in Nigeria. This came after several considerations after designating Nigeria as a country of concern in terms of religious freedom and unabated violence which has both religious and ethnic cleansing colouration. And the cold attitude of the Buhari’s government in dealing decisively with these terror groups.
A very reliable source close to The Republican News within an important office in the United States hinted on a plausible consideration for military action against all terrorists groups in Northern Nigeria.
The information is very reliable and the debate that just took place in the US Congress about insecurity caused by these Northern Nigeria based terror groups, namely, Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, Fulani bandits and splinter group of Boko Haram known as ISWAP, further buttressed the hint on possible military action in Nigeria.
The link below is the US Congress debate on insecurity in Nigeria and the impact of such on West Africa and the continental Africa and the rest of the world di to her large demography. They discussed also the need for the United States to do something before it is too late.
Trump administration has earlier designated Nigeria as a country of particular concern, CPC, for religious freedom. This is the first time Nigeria is being added to the list which paves way for potential sanctions if the country does not improve its record. But the administration is now going further to discuss possible military action due to few reasons that are of great concern to them.
Like US foreign Secretary, Pompeo said recently, “No country or entity should be allowed to persecute people with impunity because of their beliefs. These annual designations show that when religious freedom is attacked, we will act.”
Some of the reasons of concern is the inability of Buhari’s administration to bring any members of these terrorist groups to book after series of heinous crimes against humanity. So, the Trump administration believes that there is some element of complicity and some degree of approval of these crimes by the government.
Another concern, which was buttressed by the debate by United States Congress is the possibility or danger of full-blown civil conflict, which judging by the demographic capacity of Nigeria, would cause huge human catastrophe that would overwhelm, west Africa and the entire continent. So, they are very worried of the impact of refugees influx that not only would overwhelm Africa, would touch on Europe and the United States for obvious reasons.
Further on their concern is the danger of the newly formed splinter group from Boko Haram terrorists, which has allegiance to ISIS and known as ISWAP. Islamic State West African Province, ISWAP poses serious threat in that they are very capable of exporting their terror to the United States and its allies. So, this is of serious concern to the administration of Trump.
It is not known at the time of this report, the nature of this possible military action and how long it would last. Another fact is would this administration military action be considered by Joe Biden administration if he is finally considered the winner of the last election? Could we see the United States military stay too longer to completely deal with all the terror groups in Northern Nigeria or would it be a swift military action to downgrade their capacity to attack? Either way, many Nigerians especially those civilians in the North, would welcome such action.