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Treat Boko Haram As Global Challenge – Nigerian Dons

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BEVERLY HILLS, January 28, (THEWILL) – World leaders have been told not to see the growing Boko Haram insurgency in the country as a local problem. Instead they have been advised to treat the insurgency as a global challenge in order to end the five-year-old crisis in time.

This advice was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of a Roundtable on Boko Haram organised by the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada and signed by three Nigerian scholars.

They are Dr. Pius Adesanmi, a Professor of English at Carleton and winner of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing; Dr. Nduka Otiono, an Assistant Professor at Carleton's Institute of African Studies, award-winning writer, and Fellow of the William Joiner Centre for War and Social Consequences, University of Massachusetts, Boston; and a criminologist and Governor General of Canada Academic Gold Medalist, Dr. Temitope Oriola, from the University of Alberta, whose current research focuses on Boko Haram.

Titled “Boko Haram in Nigeria — A Critical Roundtable”, the event was part of the Institute's Umeme African Flashpoints Series, a new public talk series aimed at providing informed insights into major challenges which confront Africans in different locations on the continent, and which demand the mobilisation of a range of resources and energies on an international scale.

The three Nigerian scholars led the robust conversation on Boko Haram at the event that was moderated by Dr. Blair Rutherford, Director of the Institute.

Drawing attention to startling statistical data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) at the roundtable, the analysis indicated that between 2004 and 2013, Nigeria ranked fifth globally in terms of casualties from terrorist attacks. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India ranked first to fourth respectively.

Terrorist attacks in Nigeria, according to statistics, increased by 252 percent between 2012 and 2013.

The roundtable also featured findings indicating that approximately 3 percent of terrorist attacks in the world in 2013 took place in Nigeria.

“Terrorism in Nigeria is growing at a faster rate than in Iraq and Pakistan, the two leading countries in global terrorism. Nigeria now compares with Afghanistan in terms of rate of terrorist attacks. Boko Haram accounted for approximately 70 percent of all terrorist attacks in Nigeria from 2010 to 2013,” it was disclosed at the event.

This is as Dr. Oriola pointed out that the 2014 numbers might be higher since the declaration of an Islamic state by Boko Haram on August 24, 2014.

The roundtable also considered evidence from GTD that Boko Haram only claimed responsibility for 17 percent of the attacks attributed to the group between 2009 and 2013. This, according to the discussants, raises an important question: Has Boko Haram become a terrorist franchise in Nigeria and across the West African sub-region? As the panelists concluded that the fact that 49 percent of Boko Haram attacks were carried out with firearms also necessitates focusing on stopping the flow of arms to the group.

The roundtable adopted a historically nuanced perspective that drew on public attitudes to the Civil War, and Niger Delta insurgency. It was noted that each of those moments were perceived by other parts of the country and the international community as not “our problem” but “their problem”. On a similar thread, the Boko Haram crisis is currently viewed by many people in Southern Nigeria as “a Northern problem,” while the international community pays occasional “lip service” to the calamity.

However, the difference, it seems, is that unlike the Civil War and the Niger Delta crisis, there is no precious natural resource such as crude oil to protect. The absence of a collective “national will” is reflected in the lack of political will to combat Boko Haram by the Nigerian leadership—from the Presidency to the National Assembly. The roundtable noted that the inability of the Nigerian state to craft a national identity for its citizens creates room for inertia as people view the issue as other people's problem.

The roundtable also highlighted the Anglophone/Francophone divide in West Africa as hampering cooperation among ECOWAS members (Economic Community of West African States) that are being ravaged by Boko Haram.

The roundtable drew attention to the dangerous popular culture dimension of Boko Haram's campaign, comparing some its media and operational tactics to the playbook of other terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. But more disturbingly, the speech acts of Boko Haram leader, Mohamed Shekau, and the indiscriminate mass murders instigated by him, reveal the mentality of someone with no clear ideological vision—no matter how abominable.

Drawing on social media imprints, such as YouTube clips, the roundtable expressed great concern that Shekau's incoherent philosophy of “kill, kill, kill, kill” no matter the faith, ethnicity, gender or age of its victims, portends graver danger than the rest of the world currently assumes.

The roundtable therefore warned that Boko Haram's increasing confidence has wider implications for the group's ability to export terror across Nigeria and internationally.

They therefore recommended the following panaceas to the growing Boko Haram insurgency:

That Boko Haram must be increasingly treated as a global challenge, with the three focal countries—Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon—working harder to reinforce regional collaboration and efforts above and beyond the Anglophone/Francophone political divide.

However, they said Nigeria and Nigerians must lead by demonstrating greater commitment to degrading and crushing the insurgency.

The roundtable noted that Boko Haram fighters are Nigerians with families, and so community policing is vital to public safety by providing intelligence necessary for staying ahead of Boko Haram's guerilla tactics and scorched earth strategy.

They also advised that the Boko Haram tragedy should not be politicised in light of the upcoming elections as it is a threat both to collective local and international peace.

Stressing the need for a united front against Boko Haram, the roundtable called for intensification of efforts to combat Boko Haram before the group becomes more efficient and sophisticated than it is at present.

It also called on the Nigerian electorate, with just a few weeks to the presidential election, to put national security top on the agenda for the candidates.

According to the roundtable, so far, the campaigns have not addressed their plans for combating the growing insecurity that has left Nigerians living in fear, and paralysed educational and economic activities in large swaths of Northeastern Nigeria.

The roundtable also pointed to the neglect of such disturbing facts as the displacement of more than 1.5 million citizens, the abduction and killing thousands of citizens—most of them women and children, some of whom are being to deployed as suicide bombers—as campaign issues.

The panelists advised the Nigerian leadership to demonstrate visible commitment to eradicating corruption which has impeded the fight against Boko Haram.

It noted that media interviews with Nigerian troops fighting the insurgents point to wholesale corruption which stymies the morale and logistical capabilities of an otherwise tested Nigerian army that had excelled in peacekeeping operations across Africa and other parts of the world.

According to them, it is not surprising, therefore, that some of the soldiers are reluctant to fight the better equipped and motivated insurgents; much so that 54 Nigerian troops were charged with “mutiny, assault and cowardice,” and have been condemned to execution by firing squad for refusing to fight Boko Haram.

The roundtable noted a poignant report by The Economist which concludes that, “Only if the government tackles misrule and endemic corruption will the jihadist group be beaten.”

Maintaining that misrule and endemic corruption fuel youth unemployment in Nigeria which has become a ticking time bomb that violent groups such as Boko Haram are exploiting, the roundtable noted that this is particularly the case in Northern Nigeria where throngs of street urchins and talakawas constitute a fertile pool of disenfranchised youth that are soft, vulnerable targets of radicalisation by Islamists.

It noted that the urgency of the Boko Haram terror has further been defined by the attempt to take the largest city in Northeastern Nigeria, Maiduguri, while launching simultaneous attacks on Monguno, Kodunga and Gubio, on Sunday, January 25, lamenting that the brazen attacks were launched two days after the roundtable, and as this communique was being finalised.

The roundtable concluded that the brazen attacks underline Boko Haram's growing confidence and points to the sect's advances which require concerted global effort to combat, saying now is the time to act before the situation degenerates further.