Boko Haram: Foreign Terror Via Nigeria’s Porous Borders, the Urgent Matter of National Security
Apr. 12, 2013, Updated 21st
by Lekan Abayomi
Nigeria’s shares 773km border stretch with Benin Republic, 87km with Chad and then an entire stretch of 1,049km with Niger republic and 1,690km with Cameroon. The Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS announced there are about 1,487 illegal routes to Nigeria through these porous borders.
The level of border insecurity recently cost the Comptroller-General of the NIS her job and the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, expressed the seriousness of the crises. Unfortunately, not much has been done about it, and certainly, whatever is being done is not nearly fast enough or with little of the tenacity needed for this problem with high implications in an honest battle with terrorism.
At the onset of the conversion of Boko Haram the philosophy group into a terror organization, United States cables as reported by Wikileaks, were following a certain Abu-Mahjin (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, TIDE number 24350378), a Chadian national with ties to al Qaeda, who the US detected was on mission to organize some sort of terror operation in Nigeria. It is doubtful that Nigeria paid any attention and initiated preemptive measures to this foreign hatched mission to destabilize the nation, taking advantage of Nigeria’s porous borders and lax in security.
Since then, there has been in inflow of extremists from Nigeria’s neighbors, many with dire economic situations. These hired agents are recruited and sent in to Nigeria to conduct varying level terrorist activities. It is suspected that “Abubakar Shekau,” himself is a foreigner, and when he was allegedly shot, he easily, simply “escaped to Mali.”
From Intelligence, there are hundreds of training camps in Chad, Niger and Cameroon, being run by foreigners from as far as the Middle East and Israel regions, where recruits from these nations are hired and brainwashed into thinking they are going to fight for some “greater cause,” and then they are sent into Nigeria to conduct ops.
Niger is a major haven for these camps, due to the level of insecurity, poverty and derelict government in the nation ravaged by famine.
Jean Herskovits, an author with the CFR had said January 2nd on the New York Times, that Boko Haram is a franchise, hired by Northerner and Southerner alike for perpetration of terror. This franchise makes use of outsourcing, getting most of its work force – hired assassins, from Nigeria’s poverty riddled neighboring nations.
“The May 21 suicide attack on a police station in Taraba state, on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, illustrates the growing level of insecurity at this border post.” Uyo Salifu a Researcher with the Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, Institute for Security Studies Pretoria said. “Niger has been identified as fertile ground for terrorist activity due to its weak government, socio-economic challenges and the marginalisation of certain components of society. Furthermore, the existence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) suggests the presence of Salafist ideology, which Boko Haram is also rooted in, and adds to Niger’s fragile security situation. The spread of Boko Haram into Niger would therefore create further national and regional insecurity. While Cameroon’s vulnerability to terrorism is not as substantial as Niger’s, socio-economic malaise and dissatisfaction with the government do exist.” Hence Boko Haram terror has a two-way implication in Cameroon as well, due to porous borders.
The abduction and murder of a family of foreigners in Cameroon is just another example of the consequence of non-tendered borders and the regional nature of the threat.
June last year, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, the commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Command, disclosed that nationals of Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republics are responsible for most of the terrorism acts in the North. Continuing that many such nationals had been arrested in relation to terrorism across the region.
In March this year, a raid by the SSS in Lagos, captured nine Boko Haram suspects, including Ibrahim Musa who occupied a 5-bedroom Bayelsa government house in a Bayelsa state house at 24 Aromire Street in Ijora, Baida, Lagos state. Ibrahim Musa was an illegal alien who hailed from Chad. Weapons were found and a bomb was in a cooler in a ceiling. A second raid in Lagos arrested over 100 Chadians and Nigerien suspects, Colonel Kingsley Umoh, spokesman for the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army reported that these were handed over to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Lagos for prosecution and possible deportation.
Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, the president of Chad, during the Lake Chad Basin commission meeting in Libreville, last April, called for a regional force to defeat Boko Haram, the CAR president Francois Bozize supported this call. Nigeria, Niger, Libya were in attendance. Sadly, such regional force is yet to be constituted and the borders remain free for all.
According to Salifu, efforts towards border security include the agreement to create a Nigeria-Cameroon trans-border security committee. The committee’s establishment should, however, be matched with immediate and precise action to prevent wide-scale terrorist movements across borders. Action is required to redouble efforts to secure the countries’ vast borders.
Borno’s Border Region
While some Boko Haram members have come from the parts of Niger, Chad and Cameroon that border Borno State and where the three main languages of Borno—Hausa, Kanuri and Arabic—are spoken, few members are reported to have come from outside of those three countries or Nigeria. According to one of Boko Haram founder Muhammad Yusuf’s relatives, 40% of Boko Haram’s funding comes from outside of Nigeria, and as many as one-third of its members fled Nigeria following major clashes with the government in July 2009.
The architect of those clashes was a Nigerien, Abubakar Kilakam. While Kilakam was arrested and deported to Niger, several other Nigerien Boko Haram leaders are still in Nigeria, including Ali Jalingo, who masterminded bombings in Borno State and escaped an attempt to capture him in Benue State on January 7, 2013. Other Boko Haram leaders are reportedly still hiding in Diffa, Niger, and Boko Haram cells were uncovered in Zinder, Niger in September 2012 and Diffa in December 2011 and February 2012. Similarly, in 2012, Boko Haram members have been reported in several primarily Baggara Arabic-speaking cities of Far North Province, Cameroon, including Fotokol, Kousseri, Mora and the border town of Banki-Amchide, where on December 19, 2012, Cameroonian security forces arrested 31 suspected Boko Haram members, including two Nigeriens, and confirmed that a Boko Haram logistics network facilitates “trans-border operations” and that Boko Haram uses the border area to “regroup after attacks in Nigeria, preparing for the next attacks.” Cameroon’s similar characteristics to Nigeria, such as a relatively poor majority Muslim north, which has seen trade reduced because of Boko Haram attacks on border markets and stricter border monitoring, and a wealthier majority Christian south, also make it an ideal recruiting ground for the group.
In terms of geography, Niger’s vast desert provides an ideal training ground and refuge for Boko Haram, while the Mandara Mountains along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, where state authority is weak and smuggling is pervasive, provides an ideal supply route, hideout and staging ground. The recent upsurge in Boko Haram attacks in rural towns at the foothills of the Mandara Mountains in Adamawa State, where in 2004 Muhammad Yusuf’s followers had their first major battles with the Nigerian security forces, support the claims made by high-level Nigerian and Cameroonian officials that Boko Haram is operating from bases in Cameroon. Some of these attacks include: a December 13, 2012, burning of a police station in Madagali, five miles from the border; a December 28 night raid on a prison, customs office, education administration complex and Divisional Police Headquarters in Maiha, three miles from the border, which killed 21 people, and a separate attack on Fufore, five miles from the border; a December 31 attack on the Divisional Police Headquarters in Hong, 25 miles from the border; and a January 3, 2013, attack involving rocket-propelled grenades fired at government buildings and a police station in Song, 20 miles from the border.
Boko Haram takes advantage of Niger, Chad and Cameroon for refuge, training, transit, attack planning and recruitment. Boko Haram does not, however, carry out attacks in those countries, possibly to prevent those governments from cracking down on the group and because Boko Haram’s grievances are rooted in Nigeria. The porosity of the border region is one reason why the first Boko Haram base called “Afghanistan” in 2003 was situated only two miles from Nigeria’s border with Niger. As reports of Boko Haram in Niger and Cameroon have shown, the border region still serves similar purposes for Boko Haram as it did in 2003.
Boko Haram Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia and Senegal
Boko Haram appears to have a “diplomatic” presence in Saudi Arabia, in addition to other militant connections. In August 2012, a Boko Haram faction led by Abu Muhammed negotiated in Mecca with a Nigerian government team led by National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki and advised by General Muhammed Shuwa. President Jonathan has rejected new talks with this faction, however, on the grounds that “there can be no dialogue” with Boko Haram because it is “faceless.” Abu Muhammed’s proposed negotiating team included, among others, the Cameroonian Mamman Nur, who lost a power struggle with Shekau to lead what became the main Boko Haram faction after Muhammad Yusuf’s death in July 2009.Therefore, Abu Muhammed’s claim to represent Shekau’s faction is likely false, and Shekau’s spokesman called Abu Muhammed a “fake” in August 2012.
Boko Haram also has a deeper history of involvement in Saudi Arabia: Muhammad Yusuf found refuge in Saudi Arabia to escape a Nigerian security forces crackdown in 2004; Boko Haram has reportedly received funding with the help of AQIM from organizations in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia; and Boko Haram’s spokesman claimed that Boko Haram leaders met with al-Qa`ida in Saudi Arabia during the lesser hajj (umra) in August 2011. More recently, the leader of a Boko Haram cell that was responsible for the November 25, 2012, attack on a church inside a military barracks in Jaji, Kaduna, was in Saudi Arabia during the months prior to the attack.
Boko Haram may also have had dialogue with the Nigerian government in Senegal, where in August 2012 the imam of the Grand Mosque in Bignona, southern Senegal, claimed that Boko Haram was recruiting local youths. In December 2012, Nigerian media reported that President Jonathan’s adviser and minister of Niger Delta affairs, Godsday Orubebe, held secret negotiations with Boko Haram commanders in Senegal arranged by the Malian and Senegalese secret services. Based on Orubebe’s credentials as the “author” of the government’s arms-for-amnesty peace program with Niger Delta militants in 2009, he may have discussed the release of Boko Haram members from prison and “compensation” for the destruction of mosques and Boko Haram members’ homes, which are demands shared by all Boko Haram factions.
The anti terror Islamic group, Muslims Against Terror (MUSLIMAG.com) in August last year, declared Abubakar Shekau wanted. In their poster released, they described his current location as being anywhere between Chad, Mali, Niger and Cameroon. Their poster served an important strategic feature in maturely dealing with security — multi-national approach. Up till this time, the Nigerian government had not declared any of the terrorists it knew, wanted. Till today there are no posters and flyers in Nigeria and neighboring countries, or even public lists of wanted persons. Without such multi-national control, the governments insincerity or lack of wherewithal in dealing with terror is obvious. People and security agents in Niger or Chad may know many of these terrorists by name and face. But these terrorists are not declared wanted and as such, they live freely in these countries.
The government of Niger has insisted on cooperating with Nigeria on joint border patrol. Last October, during the Sixth session of the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Corporation in Niamey, Nigeria and Niger agreed to patrol the borders together. How soon, how serious and how reliable is the question to be asked.
United States drones, which reports say, are already patrolling the border to Niger, are highly infective and potentially disastrous to all local nations involved. Drones are highly inaccurate and serve Washington’s interests. Niger, already in poverty and famine, buys most of its food from Nigeria. legal trade and business will be hampered as drones target and kill as many innocent people as they do suspects. Nigeria needs its security agents, its security equipment and team.
Nigeria’s borders from the Western side are also of grave concern. Our Seme-Togo border needs serious attention as a matter of urgent National security. Ghanaian border agents have caught several gun-runners transporting ammo for terrorism, to Nigeria. It is not surprising that they only get caught on the Ghanian Aflao border side. Once they pass there, it’s home safe to Nigeria. May last year, Kweku Buffuor (30); Amusu Samuel Taiwo (35) from Ogun State; Sunday Eze (35) from Anambra State; Kofi Aboagye (52); and Kwesi Asamoah (35) were captured by Ghana security agents while driving a truck loaded with 65 pump-action guns and other ammunition, and headed for Nigeria. This was the second time Taiwo Samuel was being caught for the same crime. He was caught gun running and released in 2009 by Nigerian and Ghanaian authorities.
Why a local “Amnesty,” will be meaningless: Nigeria must control its borders and neighbors
As Nigerians stay willingly and intentionally distracted with ethnicism and a ridiculous debate about a meaningless amnesty, foreigners continue to plot and penetrate our borders with weapons from Libya and plans from half-way across the globe, to seed terror and death in Nigeria. Unless such “amnesty” will be accorded to citizens of Niger republic, Chad, Cameroon and all the way to the grand masters in al Qaeda control centers who are currently taking advantage of our insecurity, lack of national cohesiveness, government and security agent greed — which of course, will hamper any serious attempts at border control — and the ever porous borders.
It is time for the government of Nigeria to focus on our borders. Serious investment must be made in this regard, with recruitment of staff and even volunteers, and the purchase of sophisticated equipment. This is a matter of urgency. Together with our neighbors, our borders need to be sealed and our neighbors must be compelled to crack down on terror cells and camps in their countries. This urgent matter of national security is the prime action in any serious attempt to abate Boko Haram.
Border Security, Arms Proliferation And Terrorism In Nigeria By Lt Col Sagir Musa
Proliferation of small arms and light weapons is increasingly and dangerously becoming a transnational organized crime in Nigeria with Boko Haram’s insurgency, reemerging Niger Delta crisis and escalating kidnappings, communal crisis and armed robbery in the South East serving as hubs or impetus for arms trafficking. Some border towns particularly in the North Eastern flank serve as locus for trafficking of arms as well as centers for stolen goods, drugs and hostages perpetrated by criminals, terrorists and their collaborators.
The recent kidnap of a French family at a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon is an example. Similarly, many arms and ammunition of various types, sizes and caliber have been intercepted and confiscated by security agencies. The recurrent detection and recovery of cache of arms, ammunition and Improvised Explosive Device Materials by the JTF further buttressed the point. So also is the occasional recovery of stolen goods and hard drugs from criminals and terrorists’ camps or hideouts. Despite efforts of security agencies, the “merchants of Death” continues to engage in arms trafficking/ trading through covert and deceptive use of porous Nigerian borders of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Recently, the Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Services stated that the Service has discovered hundreds of illegal routes in Nigeria that link or lead to some neighboring African countries. Nigeria’s borders are massive with hundreds of footpaths crisscrossing to neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger with links to Mali, Libya and Sudan.
From conservative estimate by locals, there are well over 250 footpaths from Damaturu/Maiduguri axis that link or lead direct to Cameroon, Chad or Niger. These paths are mostly unknown by security agencies, are unmanned, unprotected and thus serve as leaky routes for arms and ammunitions trafficking in to Nigeria.
It is disheartening and unfortunate that the “merchants of death” have since devised methods use to beat security agencies at the borders and through the footpaths. These methods include the use of camels, donkeys and cows to traffic arms, ammunition and drugs, like cocaine into Nigeria. The fact that the weapons are small, light and collapsible makes it easy to be concealed and moved on camels and donkeys’ back in a specially crafted skin or thatched bags mainly meant for the illegal “expedition” unexpected, unsuspected and therefore undetected. Similarly, some cows and grains merchants in the North- East sub – region of the country, devices means of hiding cache of arms and ammunition in empty fuel tankers, under vehicles’ engines and inside bags of grains mostly undetected by security agencies at the affected border posts. The “grains” are transported in large number via trucks, trailers, Lorries and old model pickup vans and jeeps with little attention given to them by security agents.
The use of Jega type of tricycles ( Keke- Napep) as well as camels, donkeys, and cows (moving in flocks) to deceive, hide and conveniently traffic arms in some parts of the North are ways hitherto unknown, not well exposed or documented. Their capacity for arms trafficking is beginning to be uncovered and are been curtailed by security agencies. The security situation in JTF Operation RESTORE ORDER Area of Responsibility forced the Task Force to take on additional responsibility to trace sources of arms and ammunition to Boko Haram Insurgents, how the arms are trafficked and are also taking measures to block or curtail it. This is one way of effectively checkmating terrorism in Nigeria – destroy its centre of gravity! And this seems to be a task that has so far proved difficult but necessary to be accomplished if the war against insurgency is to be effective and successful.
Similarly, the Libyan and Malian rebels are desperate to exchange arms for money to Boko Haram Terrorists, their financiers and collaborators as the Sect has since been affiliated to Al-Qaida in the Maghreb. This has added to the overwhelming challenge of the influx of illegal aliens, arms, ammunitions and sophisticated IED materials into the country and an efficient and effective fight against terrorism. Additionally, the water ways/ seaports provide havens for arms trafficking through ships and speed boats on high sea and the use of canoes in the creeks. The exchange of stolen crude oil for arms/ ammunition is a well known “trading activity” nurtured and ferociously protected by militants or sea pirates and their financiers and collaborators with the possible connivance of unscrupulous law enforcement agents in the Niger Delta. This is one major source of arms and ammunition that strengthen militants’ arms and ammunition holding not only in the Niger Delta but also in the South East and South Western parts of the country.
Security agencies at the borders and seaports have severally complained of the porosity of the nation’s borders and water ways. The problem of porous borders is compounded by inadequate personnel, patrol vehicles, surveillance helicopters and equipments. Consequently, most of the borders are leaky and this makes effective control of intruders, smugglers and “merchants of death” a mirage. The vastness of the nation’s borders in the face of these challenges bring to the fore the need for a rethink on the management and security of the Nigeria’s borders and seaports – without which effective fight against insurgency, arms trafficking and proliferation will remain an optical illusion. There must be innovative technology; sound policies, proficient process that will help protect our borders. It is worrisome that the exact number of illegal routes and means through which illegal aliens, arms and ammunition are traffic in to the country is largely unknown by the nation’s security system.
The use of innovative technology – radars and alarm systems are major ways modern nations utilize to monitor and secure their borders. Some radar can be used as primary detection sensor for long range remote surveillance platforms. The ability to detect slow moving targets, even in complex mountainous, thickly forested terrains and large open areas make some radars such us Blighter Radar ideal for remote surveillance and detection of vehicles and people trying to cross borders illegally. In remote areas, it is common for intruders to follow natural routes across the land, valleys, mountain paths or animal tracks. In these instances, Mobile Surveillance System provides a cost effective way of monitoring key areas with limited resources. Similarly, Blighter Radar, unlike traditional Air Surveillance Radar can effectively survey both the land and low air zone simultaneously.
Correspondingly, the fundamental problem of border security, arms trafficking, efficient and effective fight against terrorism in Nigeria can be linked to what Mr Olusegun Adeniyi tersely identified as institutional fragmentation, intelligence and policy non coordination between and among security agencies. These challenges are real and must be addressed for the fight against terrorism; arms proliferation and border security to be effective.