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Inside the pages of White Paper on Boko Haram

As Ambassador Usman G. Galtimari, the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East zone submitted the report of the eight-man body…

As Ambassador Usman G. Galtimari, the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East zone submitted the report of the eight-man body to the Presidency last August, he did not fail to add a clause, specifically paragraph 95, perhaps, because of the fate that might befall his own report. In the paragraph, the report said, “The committee was inundated with series of complaints that the increasing state of insecurity in the country is due to the failure of the Federal Government and some State Governments to implement White Paper Reports of various committees that we constituted and had submitted useful recommendations, in the past.”

As the White Paper on his own committee was published in May, 2012, a document that is loaded with shocking findings and fearless recommendations, one question that arises is, ‘will government implement them?’ That the  23-page White Paper, which was meant to tackle the most bloody crisis in the North in decades, had to linger on desks of the Presidency for 10 months before it was released became a thing of concern to many Nigerians. Though the committee, which had as members Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, Chief Joe-Kyeri Gadzama, Col Musa Shehu (rtd), Senator Bala Mohammed, Dr Bello H. Mohammed, Chief Emeka Wogu, Alhaji A.B. Shehu, promptly submitted its report after four weeks, there was a kind of lull between the period of its submission and the period in which the White Paper committee, headed by the Minister of the Interior, Comrade Patrick Abba Moro, completed and submitted its report. Then, there was a longer lull before the White Paper was published.

There were five terms of reference for the Galtimari committee. They include the following:

(a)    To review all the issues of security challenges in the zone and proffer solutions/recommendations which would bring a speedy resolution of the crisis.

(b)    To serve as a liaison between the Federal Government and State Governments, where necessary

(c)    To liaise with the National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure that the Security Services discharge their respective assignments with optimal professionalism.

(d)    To consult with stakeholders from time to time for suggestions and to ascertain the true state of affairs.

(e)    To consider any other initiative that will serve to engender enduring peace and security in the area.

POLITICS AND BOKO HARAM

According to the White Paper, the committee went to all the states of the North-East geopolitical zone, met with stakeholders, produced its findings and made its recommendations to government. As a major finding, the panel traced the insecurity in the North-East to politicians. It explained this finding thus: “The report traced the origin of private militias in Borno State in particular, of which Boko Haram is an offshoot, to politicians who set them up in the run-up to the 2003 general elections. The militias were allegedly armed and used extensively as political thugs. After the elections and having achieved their primary purpose, the politicians left the militias to their fate since they could not continue funding and keeping them employed. With no visible means of sustenance, some of the militias gravitated towards religious extremism, the type offered by Mohammed Yusuf.”

Closely related to this is the finding of the committee in Paragraph 40(b) which says, “Politicians in the country have employed the services of thugs and other groups and associations with large youth membership to intimidate their political opponents during electioneering activities. The roots of terrorism, especially in Borno, Gombe, Yobe and Bauchi States could be traced to groups or associations such as ‘ECOMOG’, ‘Yan Kalare’ and ‘Sara Suka’ which have links to prominent politicians in these States. However, similar to the militant groups in the Niger Delta area, the groups usually grow out of control and become a threat to the politicians that supported and financed them.”

This finding is in consonance with the popular belief that the insecurity in the country has political undertone, especially because of the desperation of politicians to get hold of power by all means. In its recommendation, therefore, the committee told government “to direct the security agencies to beam their search light on some politicians who sponsored, funded and used the militia groups that later metamorphosed into Boko Haram and bring them to justice.” In its comment, government said it accepted this recommendation and directed the National Security Adviser to coordinate the investigation of the kingpins and sponsors to unravel the individuals and groups that are involved. In the last few months, reports from security agencies had it that the NSA would ‘soon’ roll out the list of such politicians, but this is yet to happen.


HOW GROUP GAINS ACCESS TO LETHAL WEAPONS

In spite of the above, the committee wanted government to dialogue with the sect, on the condition that its leaders emerge from their hideouts and renounce violence. As dialogue is explored, the committee recommended that efforts should be made to curtail the influx of weapons into the country because, from its findings, the porous nature of the Nigerian borders makes it very easy to bring in arms for the use of militia and sects like Boko Haram.

Its finding is put this way: “The Committee observed that there is uncontrolled proliferation and circulation of illicit firearms, ammunition and explosives in the country. More worrisome is the availability of local expertise in the assemblage of explosive materials. The country is presently awash with illicit arms procured from crisis-torn contiguous countries which usually find their way into the country due to porous and poorly manned borders arising from the underfunding of the para-military agencies. Some of the firearms were also believed to be sourced illegally from unpatriotic members of the security forces while some explosives were sourced from the magazines of quarry companies.”

Closely related to this finding is the influx of illegal aliens from neighbouring countries into Nigeria and beyond. The committee recommended a tighter control at the border and called on government to identify foreigners with criminal or extremists records to be repatriated to their home countries. Government, in its comment, asked the Minister of Interior to execute this recommendation.

THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IN ENCOURAGING BOKO HARAM

Perhaps, one of the most revealing findings of the committees is the role of the Judiciary in the crisis. The committee said, “The Judiciary was identified as one of the major obstacles in the effort to check the activities of the sect. Oftentimes, suspects arraigned before the Courts were set free on technical grounds. Such suspects are usually re-cycled back into the society to continue to unleash mayhem. The action of the Courts in discharging leaders of the sect or granting them bails contributed in emboldening them to continue with their negative activities. For instance, the discharge of Mohammed Yusuf on two occasions by an Abuja Court made a hero out of him, as the reception accorded him upon his return to Maiduguri attracted a mammoth crowd that temporarily undermined State authority, and served as an avenue for him to attract additional membership into the sect.” In its recommendation on this matter, the committee called for the sensitization of the Judiciary to be mindful of the security implications of granting bails to terror suspects, and in its comments, government said it will take steps to review the relevant laws to address this challenge.

On the killing of Mohammed Yusuf while in police custody, the committee called for the trial of police personnel responsible for the extra-judicial killing. The report, raising issues with the activities of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri, asked government to set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to look into the alleged atrocities. According to its findings, the JTF cannot win “the hearts and minds of the people” under the “present poisoned atmosphere.” It called for the replacement of the current JTF with a new set who understand the cultural values of the people. Government said steps were being taken by the Defence Headquarters to investigate the allegations and deal with them appropriately. Some of the accusations against the JTF included the following: “rape; extortion of motorists; commanding elders to crawl on the tarred road in the presence of their children; extra-judicial killing of Boko Haram sect suspects and even innocent members of the public; destruction of property after looting its contents; illegal detention and other forms of humiliation; and making political statements that reveal partisanship.”

BOKO HARAM CAN BE DECEPTIVE

The committee further expressed the fears that the sect could evolve in five different ways in future if government is not careful.  Paragraph 49 of the report said, “the following projections are likely to materialise in future: (a) more desperate efforts by the sect to acquire weapons and funds to boost its arms and ammunition holding and financial status respectively; (b) any period of lull in the sect’s activities would likely be used to re-strategise on how to launch more successful and devastating attacks; (c) support from Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) will become more obvious; (d) the use of IEDs will become pronounced in terrorists operations; and (e) there might be a spill-over of the acts of terror to States contiguous to Borno due to the tight security situation in Maiduguri.”

It is apparent that between the periods this report was submitted to government and when the White Paper was published, some of the above predictions have come to pass. For instance, the activities of the group has spread from North-East to North-West and parts of North-Central. In order to tackle the situation, the committee made 10 recommendations, which include the following: “the deployment of the JTF should be sustained; improved synergy among security agencies to combat the menace of the sect; the regulation of religious preaching and activities by recognised religious bodies at State levels; the arrest and prosecution of suspects and sponsors of political militia; and the prosecution of indicted terrorist groups and security agents.” Others include: “banning of all political groups used as thugs by politicians; paying compensation to orphans and widows of the victims of the crisis; considering the security implications of incidents being reported by the press before publication; deporting illegal aliens; and initiating multilateral discussions between the Nigerian government and neighbouring countries on the presence of illegal aliens and circulation of illicit firearms, ammunition and IEDs.” The above are what the committee considered as ‘short term’ measures. It added ‘long term’ measures to include the rehabilitation of arrested Boko Haram members, job creation and the modernisation of the Almajiri school system. Government accepted the recommendations, except that, instead of paying compensation to families of victims, it said government would rather give them assistance.

Apart from the link between Boko Haram and the Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, the committee associate the teachings of the sect to another London-based Islamic scholar, one Sheik Faisal, who is popular for condemning western education. To tackle this issue, the committee recommended several measures in paragraph 66,  which include the following: (a) Federal and affected State Governments should evolve means of engaging renowned Islamic scholars and jurists that could rationally challenge the doctrines of Jama’atui Ahlus Sunna Lid Da’awatis Jihad (Boko Haram) and convince them to renounce their beliefs; (b) Borno State Government and other affected States should take urgent appropriate measures, in liaison with the Ulamas/Imams/Traditional Rulers, to ban provocative and inciting preaching of malams/clerics; (c) the Federal Government should encourage all northern states, including the FCT to adopt the Niger State model by: (i) uprooting any suspected unconventional sect to their States of origin or countries; (ii) formally register Islamic schools, mosques and other religious places; (iii) strictly supervising the preaching and enforcement of necessary sanctions against unconventional and provocative preaching; and (iv) the Federal Government and State Governments should make adequate arrangement/provision to send school drop-outs back to school while adequate arrangements are made for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.” In its comments, government said it would encourage “states to check the presence of unconventional sect in their territories.” In Niger State, about 500 members of the Darul Islam sect were uprooted and taken to their states of origin, bringing an end to the activities of this sect in that state.


POVERTY AS FERTILE GROUND FOR SECT TO RECRUIT MEMBERS

The committee harped on the need for federal government presence in the North-East zone, saying that the poor economies of these states created the fertile avenue for sects like Boko Haram to recruit more members. In Paragraph 98, the committee stated its findings thus: “The sect draws the bulk of its membership from Okada riders and the vast army of unemployed youths, school drop-out, and drug addicts that abound in the affected areas.” In its recommendation it said, “the Federal, State and Local Governments should as a matter of priority, initiate and design appropriate measures for mass economic empowerment. To this end, the Federal and State Governments should immediately address the issue of unemployment in the face of large number of jobless youths in North-East zone. In the short term, youths can be usefully engaged in protecting oil pipelines, railways, and sensitive Government institutions/establishments, pending the availability of permanent job opportunities”. It said also that “the Federal and State Governments should work out Special Skills Acquisition Centres for carpentry, masonry, bricklaying, welding, etc to absorb a reasonable percentage of the unemployed youths.”

Closely related to this is the finding of the report as stated in paragraph 59. In this segment the report complained that there is poor federal presence in the affected states, with low supply of electricity and neglect of the Inland Container Deport (Dry Port). In its recommendation, the committee said, “the Federal Government should redress the poor federal presence in the affected states. The Federal Government should also rehabilitate the 30 Megawatts Power Plant at New Marte and construction and transmission lines to Maiduguri to hasten the completion of 330KV transmission line to Maiduguri; give support to the quick completion of the Inland Container Depot along Damaturu Road; and expedite action on the resuscitation of the Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA).”

Though government accepted this recommendation, it added that it would “encourage states/LGA to double their efforts in the provision of social infrastructure. Government further notes that the Nigerian government is working with other bilateral stakeholders to resuscitate the Chad Basin.”


WHY SECURITY AGENCIES ARE INEFFECTIVE IN INTELLIGENCE GATHERING

In several sections the report lamented the lack of cooperation among security agencies, the fact that some are ill-equipped, and the rivalries among them, saying this is responsible for the failure of intelligence. In paragraph 71, it said, “The failure to establish a central clearing institution with one line budgeting and reporting system for all intelligence/security agencies as it obtains in some advanced countries that would avoid inter-agency rivalry and conflict. It was observed that in Nigeria various security/intelligence agencies operate different/independent budgets and have/or compete for direct access to Mr President.”  In its recommendation, the committee called for a central clearing institution, and government, in its comment directed the NSA to work out the modalities for the implementation of uniform standards for joint operations.

REACTIONS TO THE REPORT

Though the report is seen to be comprehensive and dispassionate, reactions have trailed it, with some knocks and commendations. In a telephone interview with Sunday Trust last night, Malam Shehu Sani, a Kaduna-based human rights crusader who has written extensively on Boko Haram crisis faulted the recommended ‘Niger State treatment’ to unconventional sects in northern states.

In his remarks, he said, “It is unfortunate that the committee has recommended the Darul Islam treatment for sects that are not in the mainstream. This is because the use of force by the state against such groups has always been the basis behind religious violence in Nigeria.” Going down memory lane, Malam Sani said, “In the 1980s, the police tried to use force against the Maitatsine sect in Kano and that led to prolonged violence in Kano. Also, if you remember, the Boko Haram sect faced the same treatment, in which their headquarters was demolished and their leader, including many of their members were killed. It is that action that has led to the situation we are facing at the moment. I think it is not appropriate to recommend that such groups should be uprooted.”

Malam Sani added further that insisting that sects be registered may backfire if it is not handled properly. According to him, “There’s nothing wrong with registering religious groups with the government. The Jama’atul Nasril Islam (JNI) must be open to all other sects so that they can send their representatives to the body to ensure checks on all sects. If we say some are mainstream and others are unconventional and so must be eliminated, those ‘unconventional’ ones will seek relevance somehow, and that could lead to more problems.”

In the same vein, a constitutional lawyer, Barrister Festus Okoye said that it would be wrong to blame judges in Abuja courts who released, for example, Mohammed Yusuf and some other Boko Haram suspects after hearing their cases, because with the adversarial judicial system being practised in Nigeria, it would be difficult to hold suspects in custody or to pass judgement beyond the limits of the law.

Barrister Okoye said, “The evidential burden lies with the prosecution. If they carry out a shoddy investigation, there is no way anybody can secure conviction. The prosecution must provide evidence against a suspect before there can be prosecution. Secondly, the Nigerian constitution has a time-frame with which to charge a suspect to court, and you must conform to it. If the prosecution goes to court without evidence within the time-frame there is nothing the judiciary can do. What government should do before making arrests is to get sufficient evidence that can stand the strength of proper cross-examination. Shifting blame on the Judiciary is too simplistic. Government must do proper analyses on the issues and talk to stakeholders on this matter and find a way out. As at now, Nigerians can’t accept a constitutional amendment in which the onus for prove of innocence is on the suspect. If it is not so, then the prosecution has to provide evidence. There has to be a systematic and comprehensive review of our system to ensure that whatever we agree upon will stand the test of time.”

As it were, the White Paper provides a lot of insight into the activities of Boko Haram and gave vital recommendations. But the question is, will government allow it to go the way of many other White Papers? President Goodluck Jonathan’s action in the near future will determine the answer.