In early February, Department of State Service reported that it had arrested a recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Mr. Abdussalam Enesi Yinusa. The said individual was arrested in Kano State, where he intended to recruit Nigerian youth. According to the report, Yunusa had already successfully recruited two other individuals and had begun making plans to travel to an ISIS training camp in Libya.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been successfully carrying out attacks in North East Nigeria, threatening to reverse any progress the military has made in the past few months. These renewed attacks highlight the fact that regardless of the murder and destruction the group has carried out within the region, they still appear to garner support among the locals. In other words, something about the Nigerian society encourages support for terrorist networks and as part of an effective counter insurgency strategy, the country needs to implement a stronger counter-narrative as part of its national strategic communication agenda.
There was an article this week which highlighted the successes Indonesia was experiencing in its fight against terrorism. In the early 2000s, Indonesia was dealing with several terrorist attacks in its homeland. But today, the world’s largest Muslim nation has been able to tackle the threat of terrorist attacks and maintain a low level of public support for terrorist organizations.
One of the first things that Indonesia did was to have a strong counter-narrative which was being preached by all political, religious, social, familial leaders across the country. In essence, the risks and dire consequences of terrorism are constantly being shared with members of the public. The country sponsored television and radio programs where victims and survivors of terrorist attacks were interviewed. This strategy has proven effective as a November Pew research poll indicated that about 80 percent of Indonesians held an unfavorable view of ISIS which is a much higher figure than in Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan.
Why Attacks are Still Happening
Boko Haram may still have a lot of public support within their area of operation for two reasons: first they comprise of locals and second Boko Haram provides more protection than the military. So for instance in a village, members of Boko Haram may be cousins, brothers, uncles and close relatives. It is hard to rat out a close relative to security officials who may be here today for a few hours and gone for the rest of the day. One possible remedy for this is to increase the number of troops who are able to patrol the villages as well as provide emergency response.
Expanding the Police Counterterrorism Role
Another thing Indonesia did to tackle the wave of terrorist attacks they were experiencing, was to create an anti-terrorism unit apart from the military which was experiencing low public support. This unit was part of a special police unit which had effective intelligence gathering capabilities and viewed more favorably among the public.
The military may be stretched too thin as it is and may be unable to deploy more troops to patrol the Boko Haram region, but that is where having additional support from the police come in. But unfortunately, the country is still dealing with “maladministration”. A case in point is a recent article that came out this week alleging that Policemen on counter-insurgency operations in the north-east region had not been paid their allowances for about three months and those who had concluded their rotation had been underpaid. It will be difficult by any measure to have an effective counter-insurgency operation when individuals who are sacrificing their lives for the country are not even being compensated for it. The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, is aware of this issue and is working to resolve this.
MNJTF Funding Issues
There is no doubt that lack of funding is having an effect on defeating the insurgency. Just this week, there were reports that the Multi National Joint Task Force had fallen short of the funding needed to effectively deploy. Donors had pledged $250 million out of the $700 million needed to effectively combat Boko Haram as a regional force.
This lack of concerted regional counter-terrorism strategy is one of the reasons Boko Haram has been able to resume attacks in North East Nigeria and the surrounding border towns. The insurgents simply flee the country putting the most pressure on them and seek refuge on the other side of the border where they are able to resupply and come back across the border to carry out renewed attacks.
A couple of years back, there was a never ending increasing spike in sea piracy in the Western Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia. Nation after nation fell victim to these criminals who were taking advantage of what they thought was nobody’s territory. It wasn’t long before the international community said enough was enough, and begun cracking down on sea piracy through joint Naval operations. Last year 2015, there was almost no recorded sea piracy incidents recorded at sea. This success was as a result of strategic international and regional counter-piracy efforts.
The importance of a regional coordinated response cannot be overstated and until this unchecked border crossing issue is actively dealt with, we may keep seeing any efforts made by the military, being reversed by the cat and mouse chase across the borders.
Tackling the Migration Threat
Recently, a truck load of individuals migrating from the troubled areas of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa arrived into Taraba, spurring rumors that “Boko Haram” insurgents had flooded the states. The Taraba police has since clarified this issue saying the individuals were seeking jobs and greener pastures. Also in mid January 2016, there were reports that 150 “Boko Haram” members were arrested in Ondo State, imparting fear among the residents of the state. Once again the suspects denied the allegations stating that they were farmers coming from Benin-Kebbi to seek greener pastures in the southern part of Nigeria.
Security and government officials need to make sure they start putting strategies in place to mitigate the risks associated with these migrations. One of such risks is the possibility of real Boko Haram insurgents using this cover as a means of penetrating the south and setting up a decentralized sleeper cell. Therefore, the government needs to ensure there is adequate biometric data capture for these individuals, as this will make it harder for individuals to operate unnoticed.