Tension as U.S. moves to name Boko Haram sponsors

Nigerians have expressed doubts about the willingness of the Federal Government to embrace the offer by the U. S. government to help and identify the sponsors of Boko Haram, which has waged an insurgency war on Nigeria in the last 12 years.

Some security experts, former diplomats, and leaders of some socio-cultural/civil society organisations in the country who spoke to The Guardian said embracing the proposal was the best option for the country at this point, but were skeptical about President Muhammadu Buhari’s disposition to the offer.

Recall that the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, had during a round-table on U.S.-Nigeria military cooperation with journalists in Abuja, last Monday night, declared that her country was very eager to partner with Nigeria on identifying Boko Haram sponsors.

A former Assistant Director of the Department of State Services, Dennis Amachree, asserted that the U.S. had been positively disposed to supporting Nigeria, especially in the fight against terrorism, noting that the question was whether the Federal Government would embrace the current gesture.

He said: “Are we ready to arrest and prosecute these sponsors when exposed? Are we simply going to lock them away as has been done in the past? These are the concerns and the Americans may lose interest if we don’t take it seriously.

“Nigeria will do well to accept the offer as the country is really at a crossroads and will accept any help she can get. United States agreeing to support Nigeria means that they will come with some of their cutting-edge technology, which will boost the capability of Nigerian security agencies.”

A former Naval Chief, Rear Admiral Godwill Siempre Ombo, simply said: “These are touchy questions. Who truly wants to end issues in his or her life that will not embrace any support to end such issues?”

To a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, “if the government of Nigeria is serious about the need to bring Boko Haramism to an end, the government should consider it as an opportunity to be taken advantage of.”

He added: “I remember that in 2020, either in July or August, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, accused the international community, particularly the big powers, that they were blocking all Nigerian efforts to deal with the Boko Haram group.

“Lai Mohammed by that time was accusing the United States, the big powers, their allies, holding them responsible for the government of Nigeria’s inability to contain Book Haram insurgency.

“Now, a year after, the U.S. is offering to assist in knowing who is doing what, who is funding Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. It will be very illogical for the government of Nigeria to have accused the big powers in the year 2020 that they were blocking their efforts, now when they are de-blocking your alleged efforts, it will not make any sense for the government of Nigeria to refuse.

“What I am saying, in essence, is that the first point is that the government of Nigeria wanted assistance, but it was allegedly blocked. Now that the U.S. is giving the opportunity of de-blocking, it is only logical to accept.

“The second point is that the Nigerian people have been asking President Buhari to seek international collaboration to end Boko Haram. If the government accepts, he will be doing so in the spirit of public request that Boko Haram cannot be suppressed without international support. So, if they accept the support, it is consistent with the spirit of the public in Nigeria.

“Thirdly, the reason we should support U.S. to reveal is that Nigerians themselves have been accusing the Nigerian government that the government knows all those who are responsible for Boko Haram.

“Theophilus Danjuma had already accused the military of aiding and abetting Boko Haram. Dr. Malaifa Obadiah told us the report of the meeting with Boko Haram commanders.

“Just last week, Commodore Omowunmi on Channel TV said that from 2007 to 2009, nothing has happened to the people they arrested for Boko Haram, that government knows. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said there is a Fulanisation agenda. So, if Nigerians know those who are in charge but they did not say it, we need the intervention of a country like the U.S. to reveal the secret.”

In an interview with The Guardian, the spokesman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe, noted that the time has come for the government to swallow its pride and cooperate with the American government to expose those behind the terrorism and banditry that have nearly torn the nation apart.

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According to him, the offer by the U.S. government to assist Nigeria in finding solutions to the current insecurity by exposing those behind it would go a long way in bringing an end to the challenges.

Yawe said: “For many years now, we have been battling with these security challenges. Our students have been captured; the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) was invaded and many people are still with kidnappers. And our government has not done anything. If the U.S. is offering to render assistance, we should quickly accept it since our government appears to be incapable of identifying those behind insecurity and cannot combat it.

“We are in a desperate situation in Nigeria today. We should accept the American offer and allow them to help us out of this critical situation.”

A former Secretary-General of ACF, Elder Anthony Sani, also said that the ability of the American government to confront and defeat terrorism was not in doubt, adding that, “the U.S. has done this in the past by not only exposing those behind terrorism but also fighting them.”

His words: “Terrorism transcends national boundaries. That was why Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda could base in Afghanistan and attack New York Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9/11. That was also why America put up a coalition of 66 and now 102 countries of all faiths to fight ISIS.

“It is all because terrorism is not a local phenomenon, but a global threat. That accounts for why America put a price tag of $7 million on late Sheik Shekau. And when you consider identification of sponsors of terrorism as part of the mechanism to fight it, then there is nothing wrong in America helping Nigeria to know the sponsors with a view to curbing it.”

The ACF chieftain noted that sharing of intelligence between and among nations could go a long way “in improving the efforts to end the menace of terrorism that is now a global phenomenon.”

He added: “This underscores the need for collective approach as against leaving the fight for individual countries, many of which lack the wherewithal to confront the menace of terrorism alone.

“The time it took America to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the time Somalia has been fighting Al-Shabaab without successes should underscore the need for collective approach against the war against terrorism.”

On his part, National Publicity Secretary of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, told The Guardian in Enugu that with rising insecurity, the country needs as much collaboration as possible to curb it. He stated that current developments were indications that Nigeria’s security forces could no longer handle the security of the nation.

Ogbonnia said: “The level of insecurity in Nigeria requires international collaboration to overcome. Over the years, it has been proven that there is no way we can overcome the security challenges we have by ourselves without international support.

“We have always asked for international intervention; even in the time of Goodluck Jonathan, we had sought the support of the international community. The problem is that the government has not wholeheartedly defined support so that other people can appreciate the enormity of the problems they have.

“For instance, if you surf the Internet, the global community sees herdsmen as a terrorist group. But in Nigeria, they are treated with kid gloves. What you call unknown gunmen, how can something remain unknown for a long time and you have security professionals? The advanced society hates this kind of double-dealing.

“If Nigeria begins to define things the way they are and with sincerity of purpose, you will see a way out of the security challenges we have. When the citizens are in danger, they run to them for the protection of their lives and property. When on the other hand the government appears to be overwhelmed because unscrupulous elements are in control of instruments of violence, there will be a problem.

“So, surely, it has come to the point where Nigeria has to define her problems very well so that the international community will see the sincerity in the approach to solving their problems.

“The offer by the U.S. can help our society survive because we have come to a stage where we can no longer handle it alone. There should be no limitation in the struggle to free the country from the level of insecurity we are into. What is clear is that Nigeria can no longer manage its internal security alone.”

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Also, a former President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said he was worried that the Federal Government might ignore the offer.

He stated that the efforts to curb insecurity in the nation had not materialised because of insincerity, stressing that the government had continued to neglect offers for assistance and information on crimes, especially those involving certain elements in the country.

“I know that in today’s world, there is one cliché ‘follow the money trail’. If you follow the money trail, you can see the movement of money and how it ends. This is one thing the Americans have built for a long time now, to trail those who are financing instability, financing terrorism, and other criminal acts. Look at Hushpuppi, what happened? The Nigerian government never did anything. The Americans are ready to trace what is happening and by the time they trace it to top officials, the Federal Government will start blowing grammar.

“In the same way, if the Federal Government is serious to fight corruption and those who are financing terrorism – Boko Haram and bandits, why is it reluctant to name those behind them? Those who shot down the military aircraft recently are not amateurs; they are professionals and to finance such an exercise, you need a lot of money. So, how did the money move? Nobody carries the money as cash; they send the money through the Internet system and that is why the Americans are saying, ‘let us help you.’ Believe you me, the Americans know. To move one million dollars in any account, there is an alarm that goes on. Now, the AK47, which the herdsmen carry, is about N450,000 or more. If you want to finance such a thing, you don’t carry cash; you move such money through the Internet. All wealthy people are operating with American knowledge. But whether the Nigerian government is willing, I don’t know.

“My worry is that the Nigerian government is not interested. If the Americans can say some persons are financing IPOB, the Nigerian government will jump up. Meanwhile, nobody has been able to trace one AK47 to the IPOB, not even one. So, the Federal government of Nigeria is not interested in the American offer, unless it concerns the IPOB. I believe they will not even say they are rejecting the offer, but they will ignore it. So, if the government wants to tackle insecurity in this country, it knows what to do and that is by accepting the offer and working with it. But I encourage the American government to continue to work. One day, a government that will be interested in those things will come in place.”

A former National Chairman of the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, also said the offer was a welcomed one that should be embraced with both hands by the Federal Government.

Insisting that the government should formally accept it, Okorie explained that the government and individuals had before now beckoned on the international community to assist in solving of the country’s security challenges.

He said: “It is a welcome call because for many years, right from the time of President Jonathan, I have been a strong advocate of seeking international assistance to fight against insurgency in Nigeria and I have always advised that we cannot hide under the toga of national pride and be losing opportunities to seek help to solve a problem that has become so overwhelming and threatening the stability of the country. If the offer has almost unsolicited, we should accept it with both hands. Helping to disclose sponsors of Boko Haram is like helping to solve the insurgency because everybody knows how sophisticated they are equipped and this thing costs a lot of money. You should know how much it is costing Nigeria even to defend Nigeria. So, I am in support of it, the government should defend it and if credible information is given to them, we would like to see the government act on it and let the public see that action is being taken.

“The problem we are having is this lack of enthusiasm to act on information available even to the government. I remember, not long ago, it was announced that not less than 400 Nigerians have been identified to be sponsoring Boko Haram or providing facilities for money laundering. We had hoped that those people would have at least been charged to court and when you charge them to court, it becomes public information and the list will be added there. But up till now, nothing has happened and it was the government that gave out that information and raised the expectations of Nigerians and that expectation is hanging.”

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On the security implication of the offer, Okorie said that it will help boost the morale of the officers fighting the various crimes, stressing that, “we will now know the people we are dealing with and how well connected they have been”.

“The offer cannot undermine our security in any way. It will rather help it. The U.S. has the technology to know. Did they get our permission to nail the DSP Kyari who was being hailed here? They still went ahead and exposed him. They have the information. All we need is to formally accept it and it will be there. They don’t need our approval to get into it; all they are saying is that we can give it to you if you so desire. But I think we should desire it. I think we should embrace the offer with open hands because that is information that is already available to them,” he added.

Leaders of two prominent Yoruba socio-political organisations, the Afenifere and Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) also doubted the readiness of the Federal Government to embrace the proposal by the U.S. government.

While the chairman of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said it was not necessary for the American government to waste its time and resources to help Nigeria identify sponsors of Boko Haram, Secretary-General of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said since the government has obviously failed and lacks the political will to apprehend the faces behind Boko Haram, there was nothing bad if any country within the international community offers to help us address the situation.

The YCE scribe said there was a need for foreign intervention in Nigeria’s security situation now because the incumbent government had severally told Nigerians that it has the dossier of all the sponsors of Boko Haram and that it would soon prosecute them but nothing is happening.

“Boko Haram has transformed to banditry and they are now using it to make money at the detriment of lives and properties of Nigerians. The idea is a welcome development if it will bring a solution.”

He stated that the U.S. and some other world powers could not afford to take their attention away from what is happening in Nigeria because they have their citizens here and other vested interests they would not overlook.

“If this government has failed to expose sponsors of Boko Haram, let help then come from outside,” he added.

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