Boko Haram, which wants an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has been linked to hundreds of killings over the last 18 months. Its enemies accuse it of links to al Qaeda.
However, the Defence Minister, Bello Mohammed opposed this move yesterday. “We are looking at a dialogue to establish the grievances of the Boko Haram. I think the attempt to declare them an international terrorist organization will not be helpful.”
Similarly, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Prof. Ade Adefuye said the government was opposed to such a designation because it might subject Nigerian travellers to the kind of intensive search and scrutiny around the world, especially in western capitals and cities after the Farouk Abdulmutallab incident in December 2009.
Ambassador Adefuye in his defence of government’s action, said he feared the likelihood of Nigerians being opened to all kinds of harassments at international airports once such a designation comes from the U.S., including intensive and intrusive body searches.
The envoy said the government would on its own contain the Boko Haram menace as it did in quelling the militancy in the Niger Delta.
Boko Haram, which means “western education is sinful”, has claimed responsibility for months of attacks in northern Nigeria. Its attacks have mainly targeted the police, churches, outdoor drinking areas and more recently, higher institutions and media houses.
“Boko Haram is not operating in America and America is not operating in Nigeria,” said Mohammed. “They are not involved in our internal security operations, so I don’t think it would be of much significance really in that respect. But we don’t support it.”
In the past few days, the U.S. media and western news wire has been reporting on plans by some American federal lawmakers to ensure that Boko Haram is designated as a terrorist organization.
The lawmakers argued that the U.S. and global interests had been attacked by the group, citing the suicide bombing of the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja as evidence of the armed group’s intent to harm American interests.
However, some American scholars have opposed the plan by the U.S saying if it goes ahead to designate Boko Haram as a FTO, it would “internationalise the group’s standing and enhance its status among radical organisations elsewhere.”
Besides, the American intellectuals noted that “should Boko Haram be designated an FTO through this regime, it would be illegal for non-governmental organisations to interact with members of the terror gang – even if the purpose of such contact was to persuade them to renounce violence.”
Reading both sides of the argument, it can be understood that they both have salient points. To brand it as Foreign Terrorist Organisation may internationalise its standing and give it more relevance. Also, it may prevent other parties from having dialogue with them with the purpose of bringing peace. On the other hand, the Nigerian government has really underestimated the power of this group several times in the past which has led to them gaining power and taking the country by surprise with its deadly attacks.
So if branding the group as a FTO is not the way out, what then is? I beg to differ with the Minister’s comparison of the Boko Haram’s deadly attacks with militancy in the Niger Delta.
But then I might be wrong. What is your view on this? Can Boko Haram attacks in the country be contained using the same strategies as the militancy in the Niger Delta? Should Boko Haram be branded as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation?
Please share your thoughts.
News Source: Reuters | Guardian