The United States tags that Boko Haram and Ansaru, the Nigerian-based terror groups as foreign terrorist organisations thereby giving its security forces the mandate to deal with them appropriately
| By Olu Ojewale | Nov. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
NIGERIA and the United States are now to join forces to hunt down Boko Haram and Ansaru, two Islamic fundamentalist terror groups based in Nigeria. On Wednesday, November 13, the US formally designated the Boko Haram and Ansaru, as Foreign Terrorist Organisations, FTO, under its immigration and nationality Act. It also classified the groups as Designated Global Terrorists, DGT, also under its laws.
The designations would allow the US government to freeze accounts and seize the assets of any person or group supporting the two terrorist groups. The US said it would also investigate and prosecute terrorism suspects associated with Boko Haram and Ansaru. The government decisions were contained in a statement by the spokesperson of the US Department of State, which was released to the press in Abuja, on Wednesday, November 13. The statement quoted Lisa Monaco, the adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism to President Barack Obama, as saying that the latest development had demonstrated the support of the White House for the war against the groups in Nigeria. It explained that with their designation as FTOs and SDGTs, financial institutions in the US had been empowered to freeze the assets of Boko Haram and Ansaru.
The statement said in part: “These designations will assist US and other law enforcement partners in efforts to investigate and prosecute terrorist suspects associated with Boko Haram and Ansaru… These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups through a combination of law enforcement, political, and development efforts, as well as military engagement, to help root out violent extremism while also addressing the legitimate concerns of the people of northern Nigeria.
“All of our assistance to Nigeria stresses the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring that human rights are respected. That assistance and these designations demonstrate US support for the Nigerian people’s fight against Boko Haram and Ansaru.” With the designation, both Boko Haram and Ansaru would be treated like other terrorist organisations like Hezbollah in the Middle East; Salafis movement or Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabbab in the Horn of Africa, Taliban in Afghanistan, Haqqani in Pakistan and Hamas in the Middle East, including Mujoa and Ansar Dine in Mali. These Islamic organisations have been terrorising the world to institute their Islamic tenets and doctrines in these states. They have been using all forms of criminal activities such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling and kidnapping to raise funds for their campaign of terror worldwide.
Mohammed Adoke, SAN, attorney-general of the Federation and minister of justice, said the US decision was a welcome development. He asked other advanced countries to emulate the US to check terrorism all over the world. According to the minister, it would also help Nigeria to partner with the US to rout terrorism. “This step will assist this nation to deal with these renegades. It will also help in strengthening the proscription of Boko Haram by the federal government. We urge other super powers to emulate the US government to check terrorism in any part of the world. A threat to any nation by the insurgents is a threat to global peace,” Adoke said.
Ade Adefuye, Nigerian ambassador to the US, while commending the US decision, said the action would not affect relations between the two countries negatively. He said “The embassy wishes to assure American investors and tourists that our country remains a favourite destination for investors and tourists. Every nation has its security challenges in one section of its geographical entity. The threat of Boko Haram exists in some parts of the 36 states of Nigeria.
According to the envoy, there are “many American investors who are presently in Nigeria and we have received firm assurances from the host authorities that the declaration is only to speed up the process of ending Boko Haram atrocities. The intensity of US-Nigeria relations will not in any way be adversely affected: The Nigeria-US Bi-National Commission will continue to be implemented with vigour. Our citizens will not be subjected to unnecessary harassment at immigration border posts. The economic, social and political ties with the United States will continue to wax stronger”.
Reacting to the US decision, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN, said the US had done the right thing. The Christian group with about 1000 local churches in the US, expressed gratitude and commended President Barack Obama and the State Department for the forthright decision. A statement issued by James Fadele, a pastor and president of the association, said: “since CANAN was formed in September last year, our major request to the American government is for the designation of these terror groups, especially Boko Haram, in the belief that at the very least such a designation would send a clear message to all concerned that the US government will not be handling these matters with kid gloves. We are delighted today that this has happened even if it took over a year of active advocacy.”
With such recognition, the group expressed the hope that a greater American involvement in the fight against the terror groups would ensue, “because there is still a lot more work to be done.” The Christian group specifically commended Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new assistant secretary of State for Africa in the State Department, and Lisa Monaco, a White House presidential assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, for their diligence and forthrightness. “We note that since both said officials took office, a certain change in perspective of the US government over the Boko Haram issue became noticeable.
“Ms. Thomas-Greenfield in one of her early press conferences immediately made it clear that the US considers Boko Haram a terror group, while Ms. Monaco had been supportive of the call for Boko Haram designation since she served at the Justice Department, even at a time the previous leadership of State Department balked at the idea of designation of this despicable terror group,” Fadele said.
At a gala night held in New York a few months ago, the CANAN vowed not rest until Boko Haram was designated a FTO. Speaking at the event which was a roll call of eminent Nigerians in the US, Fadele condemned the killings of Christians and innocent Nigerians by the terrorist sect, pointing out that it was time for all Christians to arise and fight as “we can no longer keep quiet.” At the event, the CANAN recognised the contribution of Peter King, a US congressman, by giving the Friend of Nigeria award, for joining the fight against Boko Haram sect.
In his speech, King reiterated his determination to ensure that Boko Haram was designated a FTO so as to get the US government deal with it. Both President Goodluck Jonathan and President Obama had discussed the situation when they met in September, in which Obama urged Jonathan to pursue a comprehensive counterterrorism approach that would effectively use law enforcement tools, create economic opportunity, and ensure that human rights were protected and respected.
On November 6, Jonathan extended the state of emergency in the terror-troubled states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. He informed the two chambers of the National Assembly of his decision. Without much ado, the Senate approved the president’s request. But the House of Representatives appeared unconvinced. It thus, summoned the three service chiefs to appear before it on Thursday, November 14, to brief lawmakers on the current security situation in the three states. Perhaps, with the US intervention, the lawmakers would see the exigency of allowing the president to have his way on the matter.