US: Nige­rian Mil­i­tary Lack Ca­pac­ity to Hold Cap­tured Ter­ri­to­ries in N’East

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Tobi Soniyi and Omololu Ogun­made in Abuja

In spite the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s claim that the mil­i­tary had de­feated the Boko Haram ter­ror­ists and was busy re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing dis­placed per­sons in the North-east, the United States' Bureau of Coun­tert­er­ror­ism has said that the Nige­rian mil­i­tary is un­able to hold and re­build civil­ian struc­tures and in­sti­tu­tions in ar­eas cleared by it in the re­gion.

This and many more shock­ing rev­e­la­tions are con­tained in the 2016 Coun­try Re­ports on Ter­ror­ism re­leased by the United States Depart­ment of State on July 19, 2017, but ob­tained by THISDAY yes­ter­day.

The re­port came to light on the day Act­ing Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo con­demned last Tues­day’s am­bush of the Chad Basin oil ex­plo­ration team by the Boko Haram, lead­ing to the deaths and ab­duc­tion of mem­bers of the ill-fated team.

The re­port of the Bureau, a unit in the Depart­ment of State, be­lied the claim by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that it was on top of the sit­u­a­tion in the North-east.

While di­rect­ing mil­i­tary chiefs to re­lo­cate to the North-east last week, Os­in­bajo had said that the gov­ern­ment was on top of the cri­sis de­spite the resur­gence of ter­ror­ists' at­tacks in the trou­bled re­gion, the most re­cent of which was the am­bush of the ex­plo­ration team.

But the re­port by the US Bureau, which tracks ter­ror­ism and counter ter­ror­ism mea­sures across the world found that Nige­ria was not on top of the sit­u­a­tion.

The re­port states: "De­spite gains made by the Multi-Na­tional Joint Task Force (MNJTF), much of its re­ported progress was merely du­pli­ca­tion of failed ef­forts car­ried over from the end of last dry/ fight­ing sea­son,” adding: "The Nige­rian mil­i­tary was un­able to hold and re­build civil­ian struc­tures and In­sti­tu­tions in those ar­eas it had cleared."

It also faulted the de­ci­sion of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­turn in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple to their orig­i­nal place of abode, say­ing that this was be­ing done with­out ad­e­quate se­cu­rity.

"The Nige­rian gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons to their home com­mu­ni­ties, al­though some­times with­out pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate se­cu­rity and be­fore ap­pro­pri­ate con­di­tions were in place for safe, in­formed, vol­un­tary re­turns," it said.

The re­port also said that Nige­ria did not show any ev­i­dence that it would im­ple­ment a co­or­di­nated plan to re­store civil­ian se­cu­rity in re­cap­tured ter­ri­to­ries.

An­other weak­ness in the Nige­ria's ap­proach to dis-lodg­ing Boko Haram as shown by the US re­port is the lack of co­or­di­na­tion among in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing agen­cies.

"The level of in­ter­a­gency co­op­er­a­tion and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing was lim­ited and at times hin­dered over­all ef­fec­tive­ness,' the re­port ex­plained and casted a se­ri­ous doubt on the abil­ity of the se­cu­rity agen­cies to prop­erly in­ves­ti­gate ter­ror­ism cases.

It said: "The Depart­ment of State Se­cu­rity (DSS) is the pri­mary in­ves­ti­gat­ing agency for ter­ror­ism cases, but there have been long­stand­ing sus­tained con­cerns about its ca­pac­ity to in­ves­ti­gate ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing as it does not share case in­for­ma­tion with other agen­cies that also have the man­date to con­duct ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions and prose­cu­tions, such as the EFCC.

“Th­ese con­cerns con­tin­ued in 2016. There were no known ef­forts on the part of the EFCC or the Min­istry of Jus­tice to pros­e­cute ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing cases.

"The Gov­ern­ment of Nige­ria has the abil­ity to freeze and con­fis­cate ter­ror­ist as­sets as re­quired by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanc­tions regime. While there is a po­lit­i­cal will to freeze as­sets, bu­reau­cratic pro­cesses oc­ca­sion­ally cause de­lays," it pointed out.

The re­port also noted that de­spite tout­ing multi-lat­eral ap­proach to the fight against ter­ror­ism, Nige­ria was un­will­ing to shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lead­ing a multi-lat­eral team.

"Nige­ria sought greater co­op­er­a­tion and co­or­di­na­tion with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries to counter the ef­fects of Boko Haram, yet has re­sisted tak­ing con­trol of the re­gional re­sponse," it said.

The re­port also listed some of the ef­forts made by the gov­ern­ment to tackle Boko Haram, including the ne­go­ti­a­tion for the re­lease of 21 Chi­bok Sec­ondary School girls, but, how­ever, high­lighted the fact that Nige­ria needed to do more to suc­ceed in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port: "The Nige­rian gov­ern­ment has not in­vested sig­nif­i­cant re­sources or time en­list­ing re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as the Eco­nomic Or­ga­ni­za­tion of West African States and Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of Cen­tral African States, to as­sist with the Boko Haram prob­lem. In­stead, the Gov­ern­ment of Nige­ria preferred to en­gage Boko Haram mil­i­tants in di­rect, uni­lat­eral mil­i­tary ac­tion and through the MNJTF, which is headed by a Nige­rian mil­i­tary of­fi­cer."

The Bureau was also crit­i­cal of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment's claim of suc­cess in the anti-cor­rup­tion war, stat­ing: “The present ad­min­is­tra­tion has made lim­ited progress against cor­rup­tion."

Again, Os­in­bajo meets service chiefs, con­demns killing of Chad Basin oil ex­plor­ers

Mean­while, Act­ing Pres­i­dent Os­in­bajo at the week­end con­demned what he de­scribed as the ap­palling ter­ror­ists' am­bush, at­tack and ab­duc­tion of sol­diers and civil­ians who were on le­git­i­mate du­ties in the Lake Chad Basin Fron­tier Ex­plo­ration.

Last Tues­day, the Boko Haram ter­ror­ist group in the North-east had am­bushed the Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion (NNPC) Fron­tier Ex­plo­ration

Ser­vices (FES) and Sur­face Geo­chem­istry Sam­pling crew, com­pris­ing of three con­sul­tants at­tached to FES and the In­te­grated Data ex­ter­nal con­sul­tants from the Univer­sity of Maiduguri; mil­i­tary per­son­nel and mem­bers of the Civil­ian Joint Task Force (JTF), while re­turn­ing to Maiduguri after con­duct­ing sur­vey map­ping and ge­o­log­i­cal study in the Chad Basin.

The ex­plo­ration team suf­fered heavy ca­su­al­ties as THISDAY sources re­ported that the bod­ies of 18 sol­diers, 15 Civil­ian JTF killed along­side five UNIMAID staff and four NNPC driv­ers had by last Thurs­day been de­posited at the mor­tu­ary of Univer­sity of Maiduguri Teach­ing Hospi­tal, Maiduguri.

Some mem­bers of the ex­plo­ration team were also ab­ducted by the ter­ror­ists.

In a state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day, by his me­dia aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, Os­in­bajo, who said the ob­jec­tive of the ex­er­cise was to open up new ar­eas for oil ex­plo­ration for the good of all Nige­ri­ans, lamented that the at­tack re­sulted in a num­ber of deaths of hard­work­ing and in­no­cent Nige­ri­ans, and the ab­duc­tion of some.

Os­in­bajo com­mis­er­ated with the fam­i­lies, rel­a­tives and as­so­ciates of those who lost their lives in the on­slaught and wished the in­jured a speedy re­cov­ery.

The state­ment re­called that the act­ing pres­i­dent, after an emer­gency meet­ing with the mil­i­tary chiefs on Thurs­day, is­sued fresh direc­tives to the Nige­rian mil­i­tary and all se­cu­rity agen­cies to im­me­di­ately scale-up ef­forts in Borno State in or­der to main­tain a strong, ef­fec­tive con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and se­cure lives and prop­erty.

He com­mended the mil­i­tary for the progress al­ready recorded on the res­cue of some of the ab­ducted and also or­dered the con­tin­u­a­tion of the search and res­cue mis­sions to lo­cate and en­sure the free­dom of all the re­main­ing ab­ducted per­sons as soon as pos­si­ble, us­ing all avail­able and ex­pe­di­ent means in the cir­cum­stances.

He added that jus­tice would be pur­sued for the vic­tims and against those who en­gage in this kind of un­ac­cept­able, crim­i­nal and ter­ror­ist acts just as he praised se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives for their brav­ery and re­silience.

"Act­ing Pres­i­dent Os­in­bajo pays tribute to the re­silience, courage and brav­ery of of­fi­cers and men of the Nige­rian Armed Forces for their gal­lant en­deav­ours and sac­ri­fices for the peace, se­cu­rity and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of our coun­try. He eu­lo­gises the Nige­rian sol­diers who have paid the ul­ti­mate price in this mis­sion and others linked to the cur­rent in­sur­gency and gives a firm as­sur­ance that the wel­fare of the fam­i­lies of the sol­diers will be pri­or­i­tized.

"He also com­mends the dili­gence of the man­age­ment and staff of the NNPC, and the lec­tur­ers and con­sul­tants from the Univer­sity of Maiduguri in pur­su­ing Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment's re­solve to grow our coun­try's cur­rent crude oil re­serve base through po­ten­tial ex­plo­ration in the Lake Chad Basin, stress­ing that the gov­ern­ment will by no means be dis­suaded.

Ac­cord­ing to him: “Some of th­ese ex­traor­di­nar­ily self­less Nige­ri­ans from the NNPC and the Univer­sity of Maiduguri put their lives on the line that we and gen­er­a­tions to come will en­joy the re­sources of this land. We will never for­get that sac­ri­fice.

"Al­though pock­ets of ter­ror­ists have been launch­ing at­tacks recently in Borno State, the Act­ing Pres­i­dent as­sures the peo­ple of the state, the re­gion and in­deed all Nige­ri­ans, that the FGN is not only on top of the sit­u­a­tion but will de­fine the end of th­ese atroc­i­ties by both win­ning the war and win­ning the peace in the North-east,"the state­ment as­sured.

The act­ing pres­i­dent again met with se­cu­rity chiefs and the Min­is­ter of State for Petroleum at the week­end.

The meet­ing which was the sec­ond within two days, was at­tended by service chiefs including the Chief of De­fence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Bu­ratai, Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Ad­mi­ral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Chief of Air Staff, Air Mar­shall Sadique Abubakar.

Also present at the meet­ing were the In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice, Mr. Ibrahim Idris and the Direc­tor-Gen­eral of the Depart­ment of State Ser­vices (DSS), Lawal Daura.

Ac­cord­ing to a tweet by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, on his Twit­ter han­dle, @akan­deoj, the meet­ing was a con­tin­u­a­tion of the ear­lier meet­ing the act­ing pres­i­dent had held with the service chiefs and the Min­is­ter of De­fence, Col. Mansur Dan-Ali, in Aso Rock on Thurs­day.

"In con­tin­u­a­tion of his close mon­i­tor­ing of Borno sit­u­a­tion, AgP Os­in­bajo met again last night (Satur­day night) with service chiefs, IGP, DSS, Petroleum Min­is­ter of State and others. "Meet­ing re­viewed progress on re­lease and res­cue (ef­forts) of ab­ducted of­fi­cials of UNIMAID & res­cue (ef­forts) of ab­ducted of­fi­cials of UNIMAID & miss­ing NNPC staff.

AgP Os­in­bajo had ear­lier met De­fence Min­is­ter and mil­i­tary service chiefs cou­ple of days back in his of­fice on Thurs­day on the sit­u­a­tion," he tweeted.

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