In spite of 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 Counter-terrorism 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.
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 US 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 Nigeria’s approach to dislodging 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 cast 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.”
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 organisations, such as the Economic Organisation 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.”