African Security Blog

Boko Haram capable of using female suicide bombers, chemical weapons- Counter Terrorism Expert

Posted by Temitope Olodo on January 7, 2013 at 1:45 PM

In an exclusive interview with African Searchlight, the London-born Preventive Counter Terrorism Expert, Temitope Olodo, provides a unique insight into Nigeria ongoing terrorism challenges and strategic solutions to the complex Socio-political religious issue from a diaspora perspective


ASL: How did you develop your interest in terrorism in Nigeria?


My interest in Nigeria terrorism stem from my work-related and practical knowledge of violent extremism acquired over the years. I was born into a Muslim family but grew up living with a devoted Christian grandmother so I have basic understanding of the fundamentals principles of both religions. I grew up in Northern Nigeria where I went through secondary and university education before returning to the United Kingdom where I worked in sensitive security roles including UK Office for Security and Counter Terrorism managing terrorism projects. I also worked for a while as Special Police Constable for Kent Police where I learnt about policing in the community. So my interest, motivation and experience in terrorism stems from my understanding of the socio-political and religious atmosphere in Nigeria and my work experience in the area of terrorism.


ASL: What have you done to assist Nigeria on the subject of counter terrorism?


I have been invited to Nigeria on more than two occasions to assist in the quest to reduce terrorism and I have worked with some organisations such as Christian leaders. Following the bomb attack in December 2011 in Niger State, I went to Minna to deliver training for over 300 pastors and since that training, the Churches have enjoyed congregational increase and better security.


ASL: Nigeria politicians says that terrorism is alien to our culture, what is your opinion?


I normally ignore or most times pity Nigerian politicians or public office holders when they say things like this because they don’t do their homework before they speak on national issues to the media. The truth is that we as a nation have suffered all sort of terrorism from independence to date but the dynamics of the terrorism we are confronted with now differs depending on how you are assessing it.


The best way to assess terrorism in a Nigeria context is to start by agreeing on what terrorism actually means, which is simply violent acts which are intended to create fear and it is perpetrated for a religious, political or, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians. If this is the case then the Yan Izala crisis in Zaria and Kaduna in the 1960s; the Maitatsine crisis in the 80s; the Jos crisis, Ife/Modakeke Crisis to mention but a few are examples of terrorism in Nigeria. What we have not witness in the past and which we are witnessing now is the advancement of the group involved in violent extremism or terrorism and this is not surprising especially now that we are aware of the increasing influence of Al Qaeda in Sub-Sahara Africa.


ASL: Nigeria government accuses journalists and analysts like yourself, as responsible for overrating the Boko Haram situation and giving them too much credit, what do you say to that criticism?


It is totally unfair to blame journalists and analysts for Boko Haram atrocity considering that publishing houses were attacked by this group and in response to the Nigeria’s assertion about overrating terrorism issue in Nigeria.


The fact is clear that since the terrorist attacks in Nigeria as claimed over 3,000 lives, lost of properties running into millions and destruction of economy revenue in billions of Naira and it will be unwise to suggest that Boko Haram is overrated.


In fact, what is becoming apparent is that whilst Boko Haram Sect does not have the firepower of Nigeria Security Services or the monetary muscles to match the state; yet they have increase their ability to hit government infrastructure and tell their story of terror effectively.


The level of Boko Haram sophistication and co-ordination has improved because it started in a little town and proceeded to the state capital. It started with shooting at drinking joints and proceeded to throwing bombs into churches and burning it down. It started with shooting at police men to attacking police check points and finally attacking Police HQ in Abuja. It started with attacking a place of interest like October 1 celebration to attacking the UN Building in Abuja. It started with uncoordinated attacks on individual police officers to multiple co-ordinated attacks on security agencies infrastructures.


It is wrong for Nigeria government to state that the country is okay because only 3 states in North East of Nigeria is really affected by the crisis. In the United Kingdom, only London was attacked in the 7th July 2005 attack which was targeted at transportation system and yet the country developed a counter terrorism strategy for the whole country. In the United States, the significant attack of 11th September 2001 was World Trade Centre, New York and Pentagon; yet the Department for Homeland Security was established. If Nigeria government is proactive on her approach to tackling terrorism 100% then I am confident Nigerian journalists are patriotic enough to highlight it.


ASL: Do we have a counter terrorism strategy in Nigeria?


No, there is no visible evidence that we have a documented, coordinated and inclusive counter terrorism strategy that is people driven similar to what is available in other countries around the world like the United State, Australia, United Kingdom to mention but a few. Late General Owoye Andrew Azazi prior to his exit from office as head of National Security Adviser promised to publish Nigeria’s first Counter Terrorism Strategy but it never materialized and the rumors is that there is a draft document circulating within Nigeria Security Service circle presently in Abuja.


This is indeed a bad omen and it further buttress the general perception within the Counter Terrorism (CT) World that Nigeria lacks the competency to deliver such a high level and critical document.


To date, what we have received from this current government of President Goodluck Jonathan are statements about his administration’s positions on what/how Boko Haram and other violent extremism activities are dealt with but there is currently no clear strategy on how we intend to move from point A to point B which anyone could point too.


ASL: How difficult is it to write a counter terrorism strategy from your viewpoint?


It is not difficult at all because no one can claim monopoly of knowledge and the way to write a strategy is to brainstorm on key issues, speak to key stakeholders, look at what others have done differently and localize some initiatives to suit your socio-political and religious sensitivity, and run with it. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not have a workable or proactive Civil Service and we are not utilizing the greatest human resources that we have – the diaspora to actualize what we want.


ASL: Do you know we have lots of Nigerians dotted around the world especially in developed countries working on counter terrorism issues?


If Nigeria Government honestly believe these countries will call President Jonathan to say ‘Hello Mr. President, there is one of your experts in our country that can help you sort out your mess’, then we are jokers. Nigerians working in security related work can’t talk about their job publicly and it is the role of the state to search for them.


In my opinion, most of Nigeria High Commissioners in key countries overseas should be identifying key individuals that should help Nigeria through this mess but they are just irrelevant and a complete waste of space. When Nigeria needed to sort out our economy challenges, we went in search of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from the World Bank – so why can’t be adopt the same methodology to deal with this present national security issue and is capable of causing serious damage.


I have said it before and I will say it now again, with a team of 5 to 10 Nigeria policy writers and experts in the field of violent extremism; I can put together a formidable counter terrorism strategy that will be acceptable to everyone across the political divide in 2 months that will satisfy international standard. I will say one more thing, we can’t rely on western powers to write our counter terrorism strategy because it will not achieve our personal goal but rather it would service their own strategic plans.


The fact that a Nigerian Security Agent attend a two day training in Israel or the United Kingdom does not make them a counter terrorism expert and the fact that a senior security agent studied in the United Kingdom in the 80s does not make them all knowledgeable on matters of terrorism – because it is a modern form of terrorism and we need a mixture of both the old and new experience to deal with it.


ASL: Can the government’s fight on terrorism be won without a strategy?


Never! However, the government will continue to arrest and kill members of the Boko Haram Sect in ‘alleged’ intelligent driven operations with some Nigerians killed in the crossfire and Boko Haram members will continue to attack varieties of targets; this vicious circle will continue


One thing is guaranteed, if Nigeria does not have a viable Counter Terrorism Strategy with the community ownership then Boko Haram and other AQ’s associates will win the battles for the wins and souls of affected Nigerians whether directly or indirectly.


There are no examples of any country in the world today that is addressing the challenges of terrorism without a clear strategy. Let us explore the approach adopted by two close allies of Nigeria, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.


Following the 11th of September 2001 attacks in America, it was clearly identified that the various agencies were not working coherently together and there was need to create a synergy. A National Strategy for Counterterrorism was produced aimed at a multi-departmental and multinational effort that goes beyond traditional intelligence, military, and law enforcement functions. The strategy was geared towards a broad, sustained, and integrated campaign that harnesses every tool of American power—military, civilian, and the power of our values—together with the concerted efforts of allies, partners, and multilateral institutions which was embedded and complemented by broader capabilities, such as diplomacy, development, strategic communications, and the power of the private sector.


Just Eleven days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was appointed as the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security in the White House. The office oversaw and coordinated a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism and respond to any future attacks. That was how the Department for Homeland Security was established. If you visit their website, there is clear strategy on how they deal with all counter terrorism matters and the US policy on terrorism is straight forward. DHS consolidated 22 separate agencies of the federal government, including the Coast Guard, the US Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration and the Secret Service. However, it should be noted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were, after some debate, excluded from DHS.


Two years after The 7 July 2005 London bombings in the United Kingdom, in March 2007, various elements of the Government’s counter-terrorism apparatus were consolidated in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT). This organisation was created to provide advice to ministers and develop policy and security measures to combat the threat of terrorism, and was placed under the control of the Home Secretary, to whom the Director-General of OSCT reports. The OSCT is responsible for the establishment of the Counter Terrorism Strategy called CONTEST which aims to reduce the risk to the United Kingdom and its interests overseas from terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. The Strategy is underpinned by four principal workstreams called Pursue, which is to stop terrorist attacks; Prevent which is to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism; Protect which to strengthen our protection against terrorist attack and finally, Prepare which works on the basis that where an attack cannot be stopped, to mitigate its impact.


In Nigeria everything is done backwards (laughs). In March this year, The Federal Executive Council (FEC) reviewed the report of the Abba Moro Committee, which was set up to review the report of the Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari-led Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the Northeast. It was submitted on September 26, 2011. As I speak to you, ordinary Nigerians don’t know anything about the Presidential Committee recommendations apart from what they read in the newspaper. Around the world, White Papers on tackling terrorism are produced by government and published on websites or available for public consumption but not in Nigeria. We boast of running a democracy but we still operate like a totalitarian government when it comes to sharing information which every Nigeria is entitled to know to enable them holds the government accountable for their lives and security.


Personally, I will challenge the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, President Good luck Ebele Jonathan GCFR to ensure the public release of the Presidential Committee report on Boko Haram and ensure general publication of Nigeria Counter Terrorism Strategy if it exist or he should stand in front of Aso Rock and burn the Freedom of Information Act 2011 which he signed into law because he is talking the talk but not walking the walk – I love Mr. President but I believe he is misled on the way to handle Nigeria terrorism challenges and The Presidency is not doing the right in releasing information to the public.


ASL: Don’t you think you are too harsh on Mr. President on this matter of terrorism, maybe this is the Nigeria way of solving this matter?


I totally disagree that I am harsh on Mr. President and I personally admire his approaches on varieties of issues and the leadership he is demonstrating on the handling of Nigeria economy and the transformation agenda is exemplary. I also love the character of Mr. President which is really encouraging.


However, he needs to adopt the same methodology on security and tackling terrorism. I was in Nigeria over a year ago and I was asked my opinion on a TV live interview about security in Abuja especially with all the fantastic CCTV littering the capital and I asked the presenter if he was referring to the ‘mushroom CCTV’ system that is not linked to a command and control centre neither linked to a Vehicle Recognition System popularly called Automatic number plate recognition. So far, you can steal a car in Kano or Jos and drive straight into Abuja or any other major cities in Nigeria without detection. We can’t be gambling with peoples live and there is no Nigeria way to solving our security problem.


We don’t have to burn people alive because we suspect them to be Boko Haram members or shoot them summarily because we believe they are involved in atrocity. The international approach on managing terrorism is to design and create a strategy working with the community/stakeholders to tackle it.


ASL: Are Nigeria security operatives up to the task in dealing with Boko Haram?


They are trying and losing good officers in the quest to keep us safe. The government has the firepower but it is completely useless if not deployed effectively and strategically. Currently, it is evident that Nigeria security operatives are not 100 percent coordinated and they are fire-fighting most of the time…


Yes, they are up to task but they need to carry along different stakeholders in order to achieve their strategic goal to eradicate the growth of terrorism and reduce radicalization in the affected areas.


ASL: Can we stop the Boko Haram attacks and how?


Yes, we can stop the Boko Haram attacks by changing our tactics and approach. I believe Nigeria Police and not the military could be giving the leading role in tackle the growth of violent extremism in Nigeria. Whilst, I understand that they need resources and experience, I believe if empowered and supported; Nigeria police will do a great job but considering that we are in the crisis now, we need a co-ordinated body to manage terrorism instead of every agency doing what they need is right to reduce terrorism which is not co-ordinated.


ASL: What should the President be doing differently?


If I was advising Mr. President on how to solve this problem, I will draw his attention to success story around the world and suggest that we emanate that methodology. I believe Nigeria Police, SSS and NSA cannot singlehandedly deal with the terrorism problem. I will suggest the establishment of Nigeria Office for Security and Counter Terrorism will be responsible for developing the Counter Terrorism Strategy and monitoring the effective delivery of the strategy. In this way, the office will ensure that all agencies have tasks to do in the fight to tackle terrorism from Nigeria Immigration Service to NSA to NSCDC etc.


This is what USA, Australia, United Kingdom and other countries winning the war of terrorism have done rightly which is working but we are not adopting.


ASL: Should Mr. President agree to amnesty?


Yes, I believe Mr. President should agree to amnesty but it is not about just declaring amnesty only. There must be immunity for the spokesperson of the Boko Haram Sect to ensure that there is trust that it is a genuine dialogue. You can’t talk about dialogue and plan killing the people you want to dialogue with on their way to the meeting. I have heard Nigeria government officials say that they can’t negotiate with Boko Haram because it is an unknown enemy but the same principle apply to IRA because the fighting group of IRA was not known but we might create an atmosphere that would encourage the political wing of Boko Haram to come out and talk to the Federal Government.


ASL: Do we have the appropriate infrastructure to address and tackle the growth of terrorism or Boko Haram?


I will say that the current structure is not good enough to address and tackle the growth of terrorism because it is not flexible enough to cope with the complexity of terrorism and also dealing with counter narrative. I believe the military and other security agencies are doing what they could to manage the growth of terrorism such as SSS, NSA etc


However, we need an infrastructure that could adapt to the different changes. We need a structure that allows us to be able to link extremism in educational institutions to bomb injury treatment in hospital to detention of terror suspect in Prison.


Let us make no mistake about it, Boko Haram is a security risk and some politicians have been playing down the damage the sect could do which is not the right thing to do especially when we do not have the appropriate infrastructure to tackle their advancement effectively. For instance, we don’t have an effective tension monitoring system in place neither do we have a good referral structure.


So far, there are lots of people have grievances that are yet to be addressed by the government and they could lead to more attacks which could include coordinated activities in places not affected in the past like railway, shopping centers and crusade grounds. Boko Haram could use female suicide bombers and even chemical attacks. That is why we need to move quickly to address the challenges ahead.


ASL: Are JTF violating human rights in North East Nigeria?


It is extremely difficult to complete state categorically that there is no violation of human rights in North East Nigeria because international organisations that are non-partisan have provided evidence to support their assertion about the violation of people’s right in the affected rights.


The Federal Government initial approach on the subject matter was complete denial which was wrong and a shamble but I am please that the Attorney General has promise to setup a committee to look into the allegation and with a recent video showing a JTF soldier shooting an unarmed citizen; it further demonstrate that something is definitely wrong.


If I was advising the President, I will be telling him to ensure that there is a visible and tangible policy adopted to discourage any form of human right abuse such as organising a workshop or training for JTF on human rights issues and providing a clear complaint procedure for members of the public to report their concerns.


Some of the violation of human right levied against the JTF is not restricted to the activities of the men on the ground because it is revealed in the instruction given to the officers and men about how to quicken the elimination of Boko Haram. It is now fact that young men are picked up in their houses in Maiduguri and driven away for their fingerprints to be taken when it is clear that Section 305(1) of Nigeria Constitution that declare emergency law was no longer operational in the area. There is evidence that properties of landlord of suspected Boko Haram were destroyed though they are clearly not collaborators and this is definitely a breach of their right to property under Nigeria Constitution which is done through a competence court and also it is reported that some of the suspected Boko Haram members are giving information under duress. Thus, it is safe to infer that there some violation of human rights taking place.


ASL: What should Nigeria security operatives be doing to improve security?


There are lots of things that Nigeria security operatives could do to improve security which is currently not done. I believe it is important to highlight from a disturbing rank position of 16, four years ago, Nigeria has sank deeper into the deep hole of terrorism and is now the 7th most-terrorised country in the world, according to the latest ranking of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). From the 16th slot in 2008, Nigeria went down to 11 in 2009; 12 in 2010; and now seven with a GTI of 7.24. According to the report, Nigeria is worse than Sudan, which is ranked 11th and Mali which is ranked 34th.


The reason for this ranking is lack of intensive groundwork with stakeholders at the grassroot to reduce radicalisation, root out extremism and ensure preventive/protective terrorism. I was in Minna to speak to religious leaders on preventive terrorism and I notice a lack of information was one of the greatest hurdles which led me to write my latest book entitled

“Counter Terrorism Guidance For Nigerian Religious Leaders” which is to help them understand the security challenges.

We need to do more to help different sectors to understand the challenges and how to help with it, this is the only way to reduce the perception on terrorism and keep people safe from educating people on hotel security to school security management etc. We have not done enough in this area and I hope we concentrate in that area.


ASL: Is Boko Haram insurgency squarely the role for the Federal Government to address?


Definitely No! I believe the Federal Government is doing quite a lot and we need to commend Mr. President for investing money in tackling terrorism. It is my hope that Executive Governors would also do their part in managing terrorism by having a counter terrorism strategy for their respective States and ensuring that resources given to security services from the State funds are used for that purposes. If London, Toronto, New York have counter terrorism strategy then there is nothing wrong in Lagos, Abuja, Kano have separate counter terrorism strategy linked to the overall federal government strategy when they manage to create one.


ASL: Are Nigeria opposition parties helpful in preventing terrorism?


I don’t think they are helping because they are not adding to the intellectual work to stop terrorism; I have not heard of any political party commissioning an independent report to identify ways to solve the problem and calling for all party conference on counter terrorism. Instead, most of the political parties are fuelling the crisis with baseless accusation.


ASL: How can you help Nigeria in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria?


I can help in many ways, I have written any articles and commentaries which are available on Nigeria forums on the way forward. My book on how to prevent terrorist attack in place of worship will be available by end of December in bookstores around the world. I provide consultancy services to private companies on protective and preventive terrorism including bespoke services on development of family emergency plan etc. As a Nigerian, I am happy to work with the Federal Government in counter terrorism mapping and the use of my skill set for the development of my fatherland when I am called upon. — with Afolabi Abiodun and 19 others.

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