President Donald Trump has trumpeted the American stand – ISIS has been defeated as such, he is pulling out American troops from Syria, all together, 2000 strong forces.
But wait a minute. Is ISIS defeated or these terrorists have been scattered? Without sounding alarmist, many of these terrorists must have been killed in Syria and Iraq by America and other militaries of different countries but many more have moved to Africa and the destination is the Sahel region cutting across many countries of North and West Africa and beyond.
These remnants of ISIS have found very conducive abodes in many portions of southern parts of desert boundaries of countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Sudan linking northern Mauritanian, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad. That line passes up to Sudan and Eritrea. What a very big map!
But why is the Sahel the choice by the terrorists? Many people will say most of the areas are conducive because they appear virtually not occupied by constituted authorities because they are at the extreme edges of these countries either to the north or south of these countries. Where there is a presence of authority, it appears powerless to start dealing with the situation effectively.
The desert areas give the extremists training grounds without being checkmated after all, the governments of these countries have not been able to curtail human and arms trafficking across this region.
President Buhari of Nigeria said sometimes in June this year that most of the arms armed bandits and boko haram terrorists use come from Libya. “These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with boko haram”, the president said in London recently.
This is no joke. Not once has the government said boko haram has been technically defeated. The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant Tukur Buratai has always said boko haram has been degraded and made powerless. When I had an interview with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, he also emphasized it. These officers are key in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria and her contiguous nations.
Of recent, The Army Chief told members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors in Maiduguri that Surely, boko haram has been defeated but what the Nigerian military is fighting is Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA. General Buratai went further to say that ISWA members now disguise as boko haram.
Well, the general knows better what he is saying and in this case, the warning signals are already very clear for the political leadership in Africa to start taking prompt action. These warning signals are palpable as in discernable.
I was discussing with a General and he said there is still a big war ahead not just for Nigeria, but for the whole West Africa and beyond. He had great posers like. The Nigerian military is fighting against boko haram are Nigerians supporting their military to end the war? ISIS is regrouping in the Sahel which political leadership is at the forefront to nip this in the bud?
The military option, the war is always the last thing and the military comes in when all option to prevent wars have failed. Are the leaders aware of this? In terms of the economy of the war, some wicked people smile to the banks from the misfortunes vulnerable people suffer, as it is said “they fish in troubled water”.
Do you know many of the arms used by boko haram are brand new? Who supplies them and where do they get the money from? Who has been tried or is being tried for terrorism sponsorship?
This means the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Finance Intelligence Unit and the Central Bank are not doing enough to blocking leakages. Why do we have Bank Verification Numbers? Which country is at war and NGOs like Amnesty International will be interfering and wants to tele-guide how the war is fought?
“There is a very big war ahead, my brother”, he said finally and walked away.
In terms of prevention, this is where the National Intelligence Agency comes on board. The agency through its boss, Ahmed Rufa’I, should join hands with similar agencies of other countries in terms of countering plots and plans of Nigeria’s enemies abroad even before they come into Nigeria. There should be information sharing not one country going it all alone to spite or outdo the other. There should be water tight security and the best action this intelligence agency will do it to help push the enemy away from Nigeria. It is its core mandate apart from knowing who is who in the terrorism world, source of arms, supply routes and alerting security agencies back home to be on alert as to what and who is coming into the country with what.
And good a thing, Nigeria hosted the Ministers of Defence of member countries of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in June this year. The countries of CEN-SAD are Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the Sudan, Togo and Tunisia. The Abuja meeting saw the creation of the CEN-SAD Counter Terrorism Center to be headed by a Director General. The center by now, should be working in terms of intelligence gathering, and ensuring conflict resolutions as it is expected, experts in peace mechanism and negotiations would be up and doing.
Since the warning signals are loud enough, the Economic Community of West African States should work together with international bodies like the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union and the United nations and engage some powerful countries to take the war to these terrorists when it is still at its infant stage. For when it starts and spreads, the blame games comes in and those who would want to make money especially those who have invented latest technologies in war weapons will now be selling to Nigeria, West Africa and the rest, even with very stiff conditionality.
One other thing state and federal governments and even individuals can do for Nigeria is to check some of the schools Nigerian youths are attending abroad. Some do not get scholarships paid as at when due and therefore beg in streets to survive thus, they become recruits of hardliners. Nigeria should learn to say no to some countries and their universities when it comes to sending students abroad for studies just as hate preaching is also on the increase.
As for Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog should take it softly-softly because like the Army Chief posits, “there are several instances of unprofessional and negative conduct of the Amnesty International members of staff in Nigeria such as collaboration with the Islamic State In West Africa ISWA”. General Buratai told the editors. “And that is why they are losing credibility”, Army Spokesman, Brigadier Sani Kukashka Usman says.
With human rights desks set up by the military in every formation in the country, the army boss also wants the media in Nigeria to support it in the fight against terrorism with a promise that their doors are open, check ask confirm and reconfirm facts and publish as the media remains the link between security agencies and the public.
Shemang is Deputy Director, News, Voice of Nigeria, Radio House, Abuja