The bomb attacks in the cities of Kaduna and Zaria on Sunday, June 17, 2012 and the subsequent claim of responsibility by the deadly Boko Haram sect which led to reprisal attacks against Muslims in the cities are some in the series of terrorist attacks against churches in the north of Nigeria. The incidences of reprisals are not new to the religious flashpoint State of Kaduna.
This may not be unconnected to the fact that Kaduna State is located at the boundary between the predominantly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south of Nigeria. As such, the city of Kaduna has a history of religious sensitivity in the form of attacks and reprisals. According to reports, death casualties due to reprisals exceeded casualties due to initial attacks.
This means that if the situation is not brought immediately under control, the result may be more reprisals which may get out of control as the religious environment in the country is becoming increasingly tensed. What does the recent attacks and reprisals in Kaduna State - the meeting point of the Muslim north and the Christian south portends for Nigeria? One thing leads to another.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) which is already overwhelmed by the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists will now be confronted with new threats of reprisals. This will further lead to delay in justice and when true justice is delayed people resort to “jungle justice”, taking the law into their own hands. This is because as the saying goes “justice delayed is justice denied “, where there is no justice, an enduring peace is unable to abide. It is a valid statement that the justice system in the country is one of the worse in the world.
A case in point is that of the former governor of Delta State, Mr James Ibori, who after being absorbed of charges of corruption and money laundering by a Nigerian court, pleaded guilty to the same charges in a London court and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Another example is the trial of Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume against whom the State Secret Service (SSS) had built a case of being in contact with Boko Haram members, which is still pending without meaningful progress.
What appears to be a general consensus is that reprisal attacks would not stop the present spate of bombings neither would it bring about peace and justice in the country. Instead, it will lead to more killings and worsen the already bad situation of insecurity. It should be noted that an eye witness of the Kaduna bombing reported that some of the Boko Haramists who detonated bombs and may have escaped arrest, were caught by a mob and killed as an act of reprisal. This brings to the fore the question of whether reprisal is avoidable in a situation where justice has been clearly avoidable?
Another issue for serious reflection is the internationalisation of the Boko Haram operations. It is obvious that the sect has become increasingly radicalised and formed strong ties with other extremists particularly, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), that is, the North African branch of Al-Qaeda, in spite of all the efforts of the Joint Task force (JTF) to stop them. This development is beginning to generate fresh fears and the international community is increasingly becoming concerned about the state of insecurity in Nigeria.
The government must, therefore, be proactive in its approach to addressing the new dimension of reprisal attacks. Justice must be served promptly and be seen to be so served with the urgency it deserves if Nigeria is ever going to win the war against terrorism. The National Assembly should re-appraise its role in assisting the security agencies to unravel the mysteries of security challenges in the country. Let there be less talk and more productive actions. The challenge of insecurity is not something to be taken lightly and to which lip service should be paid because the death toll is rising.
The National Assembly must be proactive and begin to take drastic steps in effective engagement of the phenomenon of terrorism in the country. It will be recalled that it took a great deal of outcry by the public especially the civil society groups and the occurrence of Independence Day bomb attack, before the anti-terrorism bill was passed into law. This shows a lack of proactivity on the part of the National Assembly. Sadly, the recent event making waves in the lower legislative chamber is the bribery scandal over oil subsidy probe which is believed to be a national embarrassment. This has greatly eroded the moral capacity of the legislators in addressing the challenges of terrorism meanwhile the Boko Haram sect is growing in radicalism and building international ties with other world class terrorist groups.
What is wrong if the National Assembly, by way of exercising the principle of separation of powers which they often invoke when it comes to revenue sharing with the Executive, leads a discussion with the Boko Haram sect in the interest of the people they represent? As risky as the move may be, the National Assembly should show more courage in helping to bring the Boko Haram group to the table for discussion. By this, the legislators will again earn the confidence of Nigerians and redeem their image.
The United States Congress is currently debating a motion to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation and it is gaining supports. Meanwhile, The State Department has identified and labelled three alleged Boko Haram leaders, namely, Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid Al-Barnawi as terrorists. This is considered as a drastic move in addressing this extreme situation of terrorism in Nigeria by legislators from another country.
Even though the underlying motivations may be unclear, at least, they are doing something serious enough in addressing Nigeria’s insecurity situation. The politics in favour of and against this move is another matter entirely.
Considering the seriousness of the challenges of terrorism, it is expected that the National Assembly would take a cue from the actions of the US Congress and come up with more drastic and practical approaches to address the security challenges facing the country. The legislators are representatives of the Nigerian people including members of Boko Haram. They should also find a way of dialoguing with this class of people they claim to represent with a view to finding an enduring solution.
Finally, in the face of the nation’s security challenges, one cannot but ask the question: does Nigeria have a future as an indivisible and indissoluble nation? It will not be incorrect to conclude that there is no simple answer to this question. Although, the Federal Government of Nigeria had insisted that the nation will never disintegrate, at this very tensed and delicate period in Nigeria’s history which is full of sad tales of terrorism and bloodshed, Nigeria is in dire need of a government that will commit itself to good governance, pursuit of justice and equity.
The political elite including those in government must be sincerely committed to building a nation where the constituent groups would be given a fair share of the nation’s resources irrespective of their ethnicity and religion. Until this is achieved, the future of the country remains unclear.
The faceless people who are nurturing a terror monster should remember the valid saying that “he who nurses a monster to maturity will eventually be devoured by the same monster”. Although the monster they have reared may be doing their bidding now. It will be for a while because they will end up in the ruthless claws of their own invention. This will eventually be the fate of the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria.