Boko Haram: Security Agencies Have A Great Job To Do


Nigerian’s Islamic group called “ Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad “ popularly called Boko Haram was founded in the year 2002 with its’ headquarters in Maiduguri capital of Borno state, under the leadership of a Moslem cleric, the late Mohammed Yusuf. Mohammed Yusuf set up a religious complex, which includes a mosque and an Islamic children school. Most poor Muslim families across Nigeria and neighbouring countries enrolled their children at the school. According to the news, the sects despises western education and wants Islamic law imposed in the country.

In my opinion, that was an adventure dictated by his will and his heart, because every behaviour is motivated by a belief, and every action is prompted by an attitude. Let it be known that “You can’t control what you can’t define.” Now terrorism is in full bloom in our country.

Terrorism means the use or threat that is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use of threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause. Where the action involves serious violence against a person, serious damage to property, endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action, creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system;. The use or threat of action involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism. Whether or not the first condition is satisfied.

First of all, I strongly blame our State Security Service, SSS, the spread of terrorism. Internal security organisations play an important role because they are the ones who should be able to provide the intelligence to guard against possible threat and outbreak of violence. Boko Haram’s issue posed a direct challenge to the explicitly stated objective of establishing State Security Service, SSS. This outfit was carved out of Police Special Branch (“E” Department) in the late 70s.

Though a strong security measure does not guarantee that country could not be attacked, lack of such a culture provides greater opportunities for terror activities to go undetected or for atrocities to occur.

A vigilant security management should take proactive actions in preventing potential criminals from committing a crime. It shows that there is something awfully wrong with our security agencies in terms of intelligence gathering and pre-empting such an embarrassing attack.

At times, Security agencies may be rendered ineffective when government does not appropriately follow-up problems identified by the operatives. That may be the case due to the “winking in the dark mentality” of our government, or the delay may have occurred because of lack of acceptance by government of the role and importance of security services such as SSS.

What started like a child’s play in 2002 transformed into a monster when pandemonium broke out in Maiduguri city, Borno State capital in July 2009, seven years after the formation of Boko Haram in which government buildings were attacked and Maiduguri police station was stormed by Boko Haram group. It led to the shoot-out on the streets of Maiduguri and hundreds of Boko Haram’s supporters were killed and thousands of residents fled the city.

Nigerian Army personnel were also deployed and the insurgency was brought under control . Boko Haram’s headquarters was seized, their leader Mohammed Yusuf and other fighters were captured by the soldiers drafted to assist the police that day. Under 24 hours, the soldiers handed over Mohammed Yusuf and others to the police. Few hours later, Yusuf and others were all extra judicially executed by the police.

Similar killings happened in 1980, when Mohammed Yelwa the leader of Maitatsine sect was killed by the police.

As a result, the security agents thought the issue of Boko Haram had ended, not knowing that they had stoked a huge inferno despite the fact that over hundreds of them were remanded in prison custody. It’s fighters have regroup.

For the group to have come together again under a yet to be identified leader means another FATAL ERROR on the part of our security agencies especially State Security Service (SSS) for their inability to design a system in order to improve their intelligence gathering mechanism with a specific goal to identify potential terrorist sleeper cells within the country. State Security Service (SSS) are supposed to put in place a road map for developing intelligence and collection requirements targeting terrorist training, financing, recruiting, logistical support, and pre-attack preparation within the country.

State Security Service should also learn to think strategically before making arrests, sometimes opting to delay a suspect’s arrest to allow for opportunity for surveillance that might disclose other conspirators or other criminal plans. Our security agencies should recognise that investigations could produce intelligence benefits beyond the arrest and prosecution . This is the approach that is needed to prevent a recurrence for God’s Sake!

In a pamphlet widely distributed to the public, Boko Haram group vowed to retaliate for the injustice meted out to them by the government and the security agencies in 2009.

And true to their promise, the Boko Haram members came in commando style as they launched the unexpected attack. On 7 September, 2010, about 200 Boko Haram sects armed with rifles and ammunition, carried out a successful attack on Bauchi prison and released about 173 of their members and other awaiting trial inmates and prisoners. In the process, a soldier, a mobile policeman and three civilians were killed. But they spared the lives of the warders.

Police authorities in Abuja claimed to have got the intelligence report about the attack two weeks earlier. According to the Police Force Public Relation Officer, PPRO, ACP Emmanuel Ojukwu at press briefing, “in the past two weeks, security alert was given to the police command on the incident but there was no sufficient proof.” (Daily Sun September 9, 2010 pg 9).

Police have always ignored intelligence reports on looming crisis. A similar thing happened in 2001 during the Miss World pageant crisis in Kaduna. It was learnt that the police were reliably informed some hours to the attack. But the protesters had a field day.

Failure of police to respond promptly was typical of police preference for a containment approach instead of preventive. Certain fundamental problems in the police must be tackled.

After these attacks, Boko Haram group has staged several more audacious attacks in different parts of the Northern Nigeria. But the bombing of police headquarters in Abuja on June 16 this year should still be considered as a something of a question mark. Was that bomb attack actually the handiwork of Boko Haram?

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Is that a new pattern of Boko Haram’s attack? We might need to find out. There are more to that attack which makes it impossible for me to place a complete reliance on police version of the incident. The trade mark of Boko Haram hit squad has been the use of gunmen on the motorbikes,(shoot and run pattern) killing police, and anyone who criticizes it.

Our problem is that our various intelligence outfits, i.e. NIA, SSS, DIA, DMI and NFIU have not developed the institutional structure and processes necessary for a fully functioning intelligence operation. It’s like we were fighting terrorism with one arm tied behind our back. Part of the problem with the police and SSS was due to duplication of duties which creates rivalry, conflict and inefficiency.

Our SSS should learn from, for example, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) cases in the 60s and the mafia cases of the 70s. American security agents began to view criminal investigation not only as a means of arresting and prosecuting someone for a completed crime, but also as a means of obtaining information to prevent future crime. Their goal was not simply to arrest individual member of the Ku klux Klan (KKK group) or the Mafia, but to penetrate and dismantle the whole organization.

The best way to hit criminals is through their purse. This terrorist group is being financed by certain individuals and groups in Nigeria and or may be outside Nigeria with the active collaboration of Nigerian conspirators.

Financing Terrorism :means inviting another person to provide money or property or receiving money or property or providing money or property, knowing or having reasonable suspicion that it would be used for the purpose of terrorism.

To consolidate our approach to dismantling terrorist financing operations, there should be a terrorist financing section in State Security Service (SSS) that should work not only to identify and track financial transactions and links after a terrorist act has occurred, but the section should exploit financial information to identify previously unknown terrorist cells, to recognise potential terrorist activity or planning and to predict and prevent potential terrorist acts. The section should also be involved in the financial investigation of individuals and groups suspected to be financing and supporting a terrorist organisation.

Besides that, What is our Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, doing on terrorist financing? What happened to Cash Transactions Report, CTR, and Suspicious Transaction Report, STR, being uploaded into their system by Banks? Are those reports not being analysed by NFIU? Fellow Nigerians, there are so many fundamental problems with our various intelligence units.

Our intelligence services must be people with competent, well trained individuals who have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.

The pertinent question is, why was Yusuf Mohammed killed after he has been captured alive and handcuffed? The reason is quite obvious, “a ploy to cover up the involvement of prominent Nigerians in the formation and funding of the Boko Haram and also the involvement of some police officers.” It was a matter of concealment of felony.

In the first place , such an offender was supposed to be handed over to the State Security Service, SSS, for interrogation and not Nigeria Police Force after all, each of these agencies also maintains holding cells and detention centres. See what is going on in Nigeria.!

Initially we were faced by what, at first glance, appeared to be a “religious-motivated terrorism”, but son we will realise we had a very serious political issue to solve. Who first suggested the issue of amnesty? Does government realise that granting of amnesty would evoke response from other potential terrorists in other geographical areas of the country. The same diamond looks different from different angle.

The killing of police DSP called Gadzama and a six-year old girl took place in Maiduguri when he went to condole with the family of policemen killed the previous week. He was shot at a close range by gunmen. But then governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff exonerated the Boko Haram from the spate of killings in the state. (P.M.NEWS Wednesday, 2 February, 2011). This is another food for thought.

The arraignment of 17 policemen before a federal high court in Abuja in 2011 over the extra-judicial killing of Boko Haram leaders namely, Mohammed Yussuf, his father in-law, Baa Fugu Mohammed, and alleged financier and former member of Borno state cabinet, Buji Foi in July 2009 is like a case of the more you look the less you see.

It was claimed that the Boko Haram sect had demanded the trial of policemen involved in the killing of its leaders as one of the conditions for embracing offer of peace talks initiated by the government of Borno State and the Federal government. Can you hear that? I see that as a first thread woven for a new pattern of deceit.

The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act. Whoever that is proposing amnesty on this serious issue where so many lives have been lost should know that you are creating a dangerous precedent.

We should not turn act of terrorism to a billion naira baby. Every time the baby cries he is given a kiss worth one billion naira, and so the baby now realises that it pays to cry, and crying has been his pastime.

Government should make it as a matter of policy not to negotiate or dialogue or grant amnesty to any terrorist group. It portrays the government as very weak.

•Mukaila Apata Akinsemoyin writes in from Lagos.