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Why We Were Soft On Boko Haram – Counter-terrorism Chief

Boko Haram terrorists

The Coordinator of Counter-terrorism in the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Zaki Yaki Bello, has explained why the federal government chose to employ a new strategy in its anti-terror campaign against Boko Haram insurgency.

In an interview with Arise Television, a sister organisation of ThisDay, Bello said this was necessary because the government had come to the understanding that it needed “a whole societal approach” to be able to contain the scourge of terrorism.

“The programme, which is the practice all over the world, in all the countries of the world that are encountering terrorism, is what we call the soft approach to countering terrorism. Most people think Nigeria is only doing the hard core one, that is, the military and the law enforcement aspect of counter-terrorism,” he said.

“But we have the understanding that we need a whole societal approach for us to be able to really contain the scourge of terrorism. Countering terrorism is actually an aspect of our present stream of counter-terrorism strategy.

“This entails: How do we stop people from getting recruited into Boko Haram ideology? How do we counter the narrative of Boko Haram that they use in recruiting people? The various precursors that gave rise and support to terrorism, how do we counter them? How do we improve the economic empowerment of or the economic situation of the states that are ravaged by the scourge of terrorism? How do we revive nationalism?

“So all aspects that have not got anything to do with fighting or the operational aspects of terrorism are packaged under countering violent extremism – how do we strategically communicate with communities? How do we have community-based programmes that will really make terrorism unattractive to young people? How do we provide employment to the teeming unemployed youths so that they do not take to terrorism?

“The programme that we have rolled out is addressing all of these issues. To counter terrorism involves many things. We are revamping the criminal justice system and we are revamping the prison system. We are even improving on our techniques of even investigating IED attacks to find out the precursors of the IEDs, so we can counter them and we’ve being successful to a large extent.”

Bello also spoke on efforts being made by the government to get Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroun to give Nigeria more support to defeat the terrorists.

He described the insurgents as a sect, which draws its membership from the Kanuri tribe that is found in Niger, Chad and Cameroun, adding that that is why the federal government needed the support of the nation’s neighbours to end the insurgency which has been confined so far to the North-east.

Bello therefore called for more support from Nigeria’s neighbours, particularly Cameroun, for the federal government to end the insurgency.

“Boko Haram has established bases in Cameroun. There are citizens of Cameroun who are members of Boko Haram. The far north of Cameroun has also been the corridor where arms and ammunition for the sect are coming from southern Libya.

“We will need more cooperation; we will need Cameroun to enter into an agreement with Nigeria to support efforts to dismantle Boko Haram camps in its territory – to say no, an attack on Nigeria is an attack on Cameroun. This is what we are calling for. We need more cooperation. We are getting part of it now from Cameroun, but we need more; we can do with more,” he added.

He disagreed with the suggestion that the Boko Haram crisis has unleashed on Nigeria a humanitarian crisis that has displaced millions of people, saying the figure of the internally displaced people is in tens of thousands.

According to him, even if the number of those that have been forced to become refugees in neighbouring countries is added to that of the internally displaced people, it will not be in the millions.

Bello also denied allegations that the military has been engaged in human rights abuse in its operations in the North-east, saying that human rights observance has been a cardinal aspect of the expedition against the terrorists.

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