Barring a last-minute change of mind, the Federal Government will soon begin a comprehensive investigation of politicians suspected to be behind terrorism, especially in the Northeast – hotbed of the deadly Islamist group, Boko Haram.
This development follows the acceptance of the recommendation of the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the Northeast.
Also, the committee, headed by Amb. Usman G. Galtimari, has identified some routes in the Northeast where arms and explosives are allegedly being imported into the country for terror attacks.
Besides confirming the involvement of aliens in terror attacks, the panel urged the Federal Government to deport illegal foreigners.
It traced the Boko Haram crisis to the extra-judicial killing of the sect’s leader and his followers in 2009 and the failure of the police to bring the culprits to justice.
On the whole, the committee endorsed dialogue with Boko Haram if the sect leaders are ready to renounce violence.
The panel made 10 short-term recommendations and three long-term options.
The findings and recommendations of the panel are contained in the White Paper on Galtimari Committee which has just been released by the Federal Government.
The committee was inaugurated by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, on August 2, last year.
Members of the committee are: Amb. Usman G. Galtimari(Chairman); Senator Ali Ndume; Chief Joe-Kyeri Gadzama(SAN); Col. Musa Shehu(rtd); Senator Bala Mohammed; Dr. Bello Mohammed; Chief Emeka Wogu; and Alhaji A.B. Shehu.
Following the submission of a final report by the panel in September last year, the SGF raised a seven-man White Paper Drafting Committee, which was headed by Comrade A. Mora.
Other members of the committee are: Alh. Bukar Tijani; Esther G. Gonda; Alh. Abdullahi Yola; Mr. Usman Abubakar; Mr. Jubril Adeniji; Mr. L.E. Njoku; and Mr. U. Onwuanuokwu.
The report reads in part: “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.
“It recommended that the Federal Government should 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.
“Government accepts this recommendation and directs the national Security Adviser to co-ordinate the investigation of the kingpins and sponsors to unravel the individuals and groups that are involved.”
“It was reported that members of the sect have transformed themselves into dreaded criminal groups recently and were now known by various pious sounding Islamic names.
“The groups, which had hitherto employed the use of crude and locally made arms with few automatic weapons, are now linked to highly sophisticated weaponry and explosives imported or smuggled into the country.
“Equally, their modus operandi had drastically changed from mere confrontation with security agents to modern day terrorism with a high precision rate.
“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 Sura 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.
“States where sect members thrive should exercise the necessary political will to deal with this problem, notwithstanding the perceived implications to their sponsors.
“Government accepts this recommendation and directs the security agencies to work with the state governments to deal with this matter.”
On the rise of the Boko Haram menace, the panel attributed it to the killing of Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and many members of the sect in 2009.
The White Paper added: “The immediate cause of the escalation of the sect’s violent activities is the extra-judicial killing of the sect’s leader and his followers in 2009 and the failure of Police authorities to bring the culprits to justice. The killing of Mohammed Yusuf, which was captured and circulated by video clips, was described as horrific, barbaric and unprofessional.
“Although late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua later ordered an inquiry into Police handling of the case, no Government White Paper was issued on the outcome of the enquiry. The Boko Haram sect members believed that their leader and members were unjustifiably killed.
“It recommended that the trial of the Police personnel responsible for the extra-judicial murder of Mohammed Yusuf and some of his followers should be expedited and publicised.
“Government notes that the late President Yar’Adua did not order any enquiry into this matter, rather he directed the Police to investigate the matter and the result of that investigation had led to the on-going trial of the suspects.”
The panel also demanded the review of Explosives Act of 1964 to prevent easy access to deadly substances by terror groups.
It said: “The report expressed concerns over the easy availability of explosive materials through illegal dealers conniving with staff of registered explosives companies.
“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 under-funding 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.
“The Explosives Act of 1964 should be reviewed in order to tighten the procedures for licensing as well as monitoring of companies dealing in explosives.
“Government notes this recommendation and notes the further steps already taken to control the manufacture, importation, transportation and storage of explosive and accessories used for producing Improvised Explosive Devices(IEDs).”
The Galtimari panel confirmed the involvement of aliens in terrorism and recommended mass deportation of those suspected to be identifying with terror groups.
It explained how Boko Haram members were trained and the routes through which they bring arms and ammunition into the country.
It said: “The committee reported that leaders of the sect visited the Sahara Desert where their members were trained and provided assorted equipment.
In addition, there were reports of transportation routes from Chad to Nigeria through Gamboru/Ngala border where trucks destined for Nigeria were loaded with goods and weapons possibly meant for terrorists and other criminals.
“Some other identified routes include Tetewa from Cameroon through Bosso and Tudun Mota into Saga.
“Also in Chad , it was found that the Banki border was a notable hub of smugglers. Others were Duji and Gashigar in Mobbar LGA, New Marte and Mafa, all of which link up in Maiduguri .
“The report observed that there is massive influx of illegal aliens from neighbouring countries into Nigeria and beyond. Past enquiries on religious crises in the country have pointed out the involvement of illegal aliens in prosecuting sectarian crises. Most of them are unskilled and have no visible handwork which makes it easy for them to be mobilized for violent activities.
“It was recommended that the Nigeria Immigration Service should reinforce security in the border areas to ensure that illegal aliens suspected of contributing to the prevailing insecurity in the zone are quietly eased out of the country.
“Notwithstanding, the provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Goods and Persons as well as any cultural affinities existing between Nigeria border communities and their kith and kin in contiguous countries.
“Secondly, it was recommended that foreigners identified to have been staying illegally or have possible links with criminals or extremists should be profiled and repatriated to their countries.
“If the insecurity arising from the activities of illegal aliens persists, government is advised to consider temporary closure of Nigeria ’s Northeast border and organising a summit with the affected countries to find a way out of the situation.”
Notwithstanding, the panel implored the government to engage in dialogue with Boko Haram leaders upon renunciation of violence.
It said: “The Committee observed that there have been no attempts by the Government and the security services to understand the ideology and motives of the Boko Haram sect by engaging sect members in dialogue.
“The Committee recommended the urgent need to constructively engage and dialogue with the leadership of the sect as an essential strategy in bringing them on board. However, it advised that government should negotiate from a position of strength by allowing the security forces dominate the environment.
“In addition, dialogue with the sect should be contingent upon their renunciation of violence and surrender of arms.
“Government accepts this recommendation and encourages the intermediaries who have access to them to initiate this dialogue.”
The White Paper also X-rayed the operation of the Joint Task Force in Borno State.
It added: “The Joint Task Force (JTF) currently deployed to Maiduguri , Borno State , was in response to the breakdown of law and order in the city.
“The JTF had somewhat succeeded in bringing the situation under control. Schools and markets that had closed at the height of the crisis have started re-opening.
“Many of the sect’s kingpins have relocated to neighbouring countries due to sustained pressure exerted on them by the ongoing security operation.
“However, there were allegations of high –handedness against the JTF, bordering on rape, destruction of property belonging to sect members, extrajudicial killing and harassment and intimidation of Maiduguri residents.
“The Report recommended that a judicial Commission of Enquiry should be set up to look into the alleged atrocities committed by some members of the JTF while the Rules of Engagement (RoE) should be reviewed to reflect the low intensity nature of the military operations not only in Maiduguri, but in all similar operations.
“The Report further recommended that the JTF should Endeavour to win the hearts and minds of the people but that in the present poisoned atmosphere, this would be difficult, if not impossible to achieve, since relative peace had to be attained before the JTF personnel could feel free to mix with the people in the State.
“The Report recommended the replacement of the present troops with new ones from other unties, preferably with those who are familiar with the terrain and the peoples’ socio-political and cultural values.
“The security agencies were also urged to commence immediate de-radicalization of the sect members who are found to be willing to renounce violence and embrace the Federal Government’s olive branch.
“Government notes recommendations and the steps being taken by the DHQ to investigate the allegation and deal with it appropriately.
The White Paper committee asked the government to act swiftly on its recommendations.
The committee said: “The White Paper Committee wishes to underscore the Presidential Committee’s recommendation for a prompt implementation of the Report.
“The timely implementation will, inevitably, serve as a lasting solution to the security challenges thrown up by the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
“It is therefore recommended that the Federal Government should circulate the report to all levels of authority, the security agencies as well as sensitize the generality of Nigerians to the necessity of supporting the security forces in safeguarding the nation’s security.”