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On ISIS’s infiltration of Nigeria

On ISIS’s infiltration of Nigeria -

With the worsening state of secu­rity challenges in Nigeria, the recent report credited to the Sun of London that the Islamic State has infiltrated the country and is about rais­ing a new crop of terrorists and militants did not come as a surprise. Although the Defence Headquarters has gone to great length to discountenance it, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, has tacitly ac­knowledged the probability.

Against the backdrop of recent devel­opments, there is cause to take the re­port serious. In the course of the military campaign against Boko Haram terrorists, hundreds of captured fighters were said to have undergone “deradicalisation” and subsequently released by the federal gov­ernment. About two weeks ago, the pres­ident of the Christian Association of Nige­ria (CAN), Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, alleged that the federal government had directed that some of the “deradicalised” Boko Haram militants be absorbed into the country’s security agencies, including the military and Police. Remarkably, the CAN allegation has not been denied by the federal government.

Since the government introduced the “deradicalisation” programme for former Boko Haram militants, there has been no information on the nature, content and effectiveness of the programme neither has it been subjected to any independent evaluation. All that Nigerians have had to rely on are sparsely worded press releas­es from the Presidency stating that un­specified number of militants have been “deradicalised” and released. The pro­gramme is being conducted in an opaque manner and does not elicit confidence in the integrity of the exercise.

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The report by Sun and allegation by CAN’s president have served to highlight the incongruities in the approach or game plan for combating insecurity by the Mu­hammadu Buhari administration. The level of atrocities carried out by Boko Ha­ram fighters on civilian and defenceless population is well documented. Having pledged loyalty to the Islamic State, the organisation was inspired by the grue­some way of executing their victims and remains committed to the doctrine of vi­olent enthronement of Islam and Sharia. Trying to surreptitiously incorporate the “deradicalised” rump of the group into the core of Nigeria’s security architecture at a time that the war is far from being won is illogical and troubling.

Equally disconcerting is the Presidency’s discordant response to the report of infil­tration of Nigeria by elements of ISIS. While Dan-Ali admitted that it is a strong prop­osition, the Defence Headquarter tended to be dismissive of it. A more reassuring response would have been a comprehen­sive plan of action to rejig the security ap­paratus given the peculiar nature of Nige­ria’s security challenge. So much has been made of the command and control leader­ship of the security agencies. Apart from a few salutary positions, the headship of vir­tually all the security agencies, including the military, Police and the internal affairs agencies are concentrated in a particular section of the country with the same reli­gious persuasion. Such composition denies plurality in perception, evaluation and ap­peal that are essential ingredients for ef­fective security operations. This has been amply demonstrated by the outcome of security council meetings on armed cattle herders’ attacks on farming communities where government remained fixated on preserving so-called cattle grazing routes at a time that common sense and mas­sive urbanisation dictated the adoption of ranching to boost yield, protect the envi­ronment, create employment and respect the rights of other farmers.

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The time has come for the federal gov­ernment to evaluate its modus operandi for securing the country. It should begin with a review of the leadership of the var­ious agencies to introduce plurality in line with Nigeria’s federal structure. It will im­pact on the quality of ideas and options for effective policing. In addition, there should devolution of powers to enable states lower rungs of the command struc­ture order deployment of personnel in re­sponse to emergencies.

These will be just the first step on the long road to re-engineering not just the nation’s security system but also the nature of our federation to meet emerging challenges in an increasingly competitive world.

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