Nigeria unveils soft approach to counter terrorism


Colonel Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser is at the centre of the arms deal fund

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd) on Tuesday unveiled Nigeria’s Soft Approach to Countering Terrorism (NACTEST), which defines roles and responsibilities of ministries, departments and agencies, as well as the role that civil society has to play in the fight against violent extremism.

Dasuki said the programme which is the ‘PREVENT’ strand of Nigeria’s national counter terrorism strategy was developed by the NSA office, international partners, experienced academics and selected non-state actors based on the experience of other countries in tackling terrorism.

According to him, the strategy was developed based on the understanding of the root causes of terrorism, as the best approach to proffer solutions to problems is to first understand it.

The NSA said findings have revealed that there are many complicated paths that lead to development of terrorism.

Col. Sambo Dasuki
Col. Sambo Dasuki

In tune with this findings, NATCET, Dasuki said, aims to prevent attacks before they happen by preventing people from becoming terrorists in the first place.

“The soft approach to counter terrorism has resulted in the development of a Countering Violent Extremism programme that is vertical and involves the three tiers of government – federal, state and local.

“The programme is also horizontal, involving civil societies, academics, traditional, religious and community leaders.”

According to Dasuki, the programme will make use of existing structures within and outside government to deliver targeted programmes and activities that further the overall objective of stemming the tide of radicalism.

The strategy, he said has four streams.

“The first stream is the, de-radicalisation of convicted terrorists, suspects awaiting trials, and those who might be released through court orders or such order government arising from the ongoing engagement and dialogue with repentant terrorists,” said Dasuki.

This stream of the programme, he said will be prison based and will be under the control of the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Prison Service.

It will involve training of prison staff in areas like psychology and sports.

Also, faith based instructors and experts in vocational training will be employed. Dasuki revealed that his office has already refurbished two prisons for this purpose.

“The objective is to engage violent extremist convicts/suspects in theological, ideological, physical and entrepreneurial value change that leads to a change in their behaviour,” said the NSA.

“The second will move from government to society approach on counter terrorism thinking.

“The third will be building capacity through strategic communication for the military and law enforcement agencies.

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“The fourth stream, based on our understanding of the economic root causes of terrorism and global best practice in addressing them will be working with the governors of the six North-Eastern states to design an economic revitalisation programme targeted at the states most impacted by terrorism.”

The NSA added that under the strategy, government would build resilience to violent extremism through families, communities and faith-based organisations.

Dasuki added that every Nigerian has a role to play in countering violent extremism and that the soft approach would provide the country a framework that identifies roles and responsibilities of every segment of the society.

Dasuki however assured that the programme is not targeted at Muslims.

According to him, “terrorists are influential minority who live with and claims to be Muslims, but through their activities bring harm and ridicule to Muslims and their religion of Islam.”

He added that: “The ideology of terrorism will be defeated through mainstream Muslims in Nigeria. Our approach seeks to enlist and build capacity for counter-terrorism cooperation among Muslims by exposing the true intent of and form of government that the terrorist groups seek to impose”

While noting that the goal of the terrorists is to ignite Christian-Muslim war in Nigeria to create a war scenario that will be conducive for their activities, the NSA said his office would soon launch an aggressive inter-faith interface between adherent of both faiths to create awareness on terrorism.

The goal, he said is to unite Muslims and Christians against terrorism.

He added that government will also build an inter-party collaboration for counter terrorism to ensure party affiliation is not a hindrance to contributions against to efforts to counter terrorism.

He added that the office of the NSA was equally developing a monitoring and evaluation framework that would track implementation of each stream of the CVE programme as well as publicise the reports and share best practices learnt.

The NSA also assured Nigerians that the government was doing everything to protect lives and property.

“We have developed a programme that is inclusive and our doors are open to new ideas or inputs that the public may have,” Dasuki said.

Mohammed Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice described the initiative as timely and useful in the counter-terrorism efforts.

He added that as a follow up to the soft approach to counter-terrorism, he had decided to draw attention to the imperatives of combating terrorism within the confines of the law.

“As the Attorney-General of the Federation, I have to ensure that those involved in combating terrorism adhere strictly to the rules of engagement and human rights norms.

“Let me assure you of this administration’s commitment to the observance of these existing norms in our counter terrorism efforts,” said Adoke.

He added that it is only through strict compliance to these norms that confidence and support of the citizens, especially in the communities affected by terrorism can be assured.