Boko Haram Can Be Defeated – Efoziem [interview]

Dr. Chinye Bone Efoziem is a member of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), a prestigious body in private security both in Nigeria and overseas. A holder of Ph.D in International Security Control Management, Efoziem is the Managing Director of Strict Guard Security Company. In this interview, be blames the upsurge in terrorists activities on laxity on the part of security agencies. Excerpts:

Terrorist activities have become alarming despite the relocation of the military headquarters to the North-east. What do you think is responsible for this?

Ordinarily, a man who is not used to combat terrain, combat theories and combat reactions will tell you that things are getting worse, but what is happening is an indication of frustrations on the part of the terrorist. I will explain it. Before now, Boko Haram has been emboldened to a point to beginning to take territories. At a stage, they were hoisting flags. If things had continued in that manner, it would have come to a stage where they would say a place is their Headquarters: ‘this is our military post’, and ‘this is our installation’.

But if you noticed, what has been happening in recent times is that these terrorists have lost their original pattern and approach. Their approach in the past was to attack a certain area with their foot soldiers, conquering and capturing given territories, but at a time the average person in Nigeria will tell you that Boko Haram is stationed in Sambisa forest and Gwoza. But as at this moment, you cannot say Boko Haram is stationed in Sambisa forest; you cannot say it is stationed in Gwoza. Now, I will tell you what has happened, which was created by the past government.

Personally I praise the Jonathan administration for their action in the last eight weeks of their regime. But you don’t first negotiate with criminals. You fight them to the point that they will be the people to offer the olive branch and you give them conditions but if they fight you to the point where you now offer the olive branch, it means they will give you conditions, which was the mistake of Jonathan’s government. Don’t also forget the longer they were allowed to operate without constant fight the better plans they will be able to develop. Why are we experiencing constant bombing now?

These things happen because Boko Haram has been able to establish and maintain contact with all other dangerous terrorist groups who are helping them in trainings, technology and planning. Don’t forget that before now we were not hearing of suicide bombers, we were hearing of Boko Haran attacks. Any nation where that mentality of suicide bombers has been imbibed in people, that nation is in serious security situation.

That is the problem Nigeria is facing today. Let me make this clear about suicide bombings: Boko Haram is no longer a group, it is now a concept where people who believe in it can do anything in the name of Boko Haram. And the people who carry out the bombings may not have any link, any correlation with Boko Haram, you are doing it in the name of Boko Haram. That is where Nigeria has gotten in the fight with terrorism. This is the reason things seem to be very difficult for the security agencies. This is why the Nigeria defense sector needs proper reorganization.

If you design a reactionary security system to combat crime, you are bound to fail, but if you design a proactive security Network you may have the tendencies to be able to counter terrorism. Nigeria had from the colonial times depended on reactionary security and defense force, that is why when Boko Haram strikes in a particular area, Nigerian Armed Forces will send their soldiers there. That measure could have been able to take care of Boko Haram at the initial stage. Now you need to confront them headlong till they are routed completely.

People say President Buhari is not doing enough to stem the tide?

A lot of people feel he is failing but don’t forget that even as a General, you don’t go into a war without proper strategies of what your intentions are: How much do you intend to implement those things? What I think the president and his team are doing is to create multiple fronts attack against Boko haram. That means there is a formation coming from Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria having a central command unit, which is joint anti-terrorism force.

It means that when you are chasing Boko Haram from Yobe or Adamawa State the tendencies are that they are running towards Cameroon. Now that same task-force is blocking them. But because of porous borders, a lot of them may escape, but they are not going to escape as Boko Haram fighters, they will be escaping as mere young men who find their way between two countries. They could stroll into this country or stroll out of that country without weapons.

The important thing is that if you watch closely today, it seems that is what is happening. A lot of them have strolled back into Cameroon, a lot of them have strolled more into Nigeria because of the porous nature of our borders, finding themselves either in Yobe, Borno or Adamawa States. Now they come in clusters and they are beginning to engage in suicide bombing or drop-off bombings because they no longer have access to the heavy and light weapon they were fighting with. Access to these bombs by terrorists is worrisome? These problems are what are facing the world today.

It is not only a Nigeria problem, the technology of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’S) are our problem. Any nation where this is happening, that nation is in trouble because the technology looks very simple but it is very difficult and complex for government to take care of it. That is why government should have monopoly of violence, not individuals, because if individuals begin to design weapons of mass destruction, or have the access to that technology, which are very cheap, then we are in trouble.

IEDs can be packaged in different household items and dropped off somewhere and there will be an explosion. Nigeria has too many things they should look at and one of them is how to redesign our defense arrangement from the previous reactionary system to the proactive security system. Secondly, let the security agencies incorporate people with scientific technology know-how who will be able to Identify materials used to create IEDs that are easily accessible. This way, they can attack the supply sources of these IED materials, otherwise these bombings will not stop.

Can the command and control headquarters in Maiduguri do the job?

When people say command and control, they have not really looked at what the implementations are. I think the president gave the order without fully enforcing or implementing it. If we say that the command and the control, it is expected that even the service chiefs would have relocated their offices there, the fighting formations which have Units in the operational area should move their command headquarters there. But what they have done is that they have a division of the Nigerian Army having an annex in Maduguri.

This means possibly, that the Chief of the Army Staff would go to the office in Abuja, another day he is in Maiduguri. It does not signify that you have moved the command and control. So what should be done is that they should create a real command and control post in the operational area, where the service chiefs themselves should have their offices having every fighting and formation unit right under their supervision and until that is done, that order will not make impact.

Since Boko Haram have all these strategies, how can private security outfits like yours work with government and make impact?

The truth remains that Boko Haram is weakened but Nigerians do not understand the intrigues of the security theory. You never win battles in the war-front no matter how you suppress the enemy. If they all die, their children will rise up one day to fight you. You beat them to submission then you talk to them that is what the government needs to do.

They should not discuss with them until they subdue them to the point where they can own up and say, ‘we are the people, we are the sponsors, we are the foot soldiers’, before you can talk to them and negotiate with them. Now to achieve that, the Federal Government needs to truly utilize and reactivate Department of State Services (DSS). What is happening in the North-east is not the failure on the part of the military, it is actually not the failure of the police in the real sense, it is the failure of the DSS because the Army is trained to protect the territorial areas of Nigeria against external aggression.

The police is trained on internal security, crime prevention and combating crime. Now when it comes to terrorism, it has to do with a lot of espionage and counter espionage activities, meaning the State Department duty is to get the information before the incident occurs and disseminate this information to government agencies that can counter it. How many of these cases have you heard that the DSS have been able to gather information and pass to the army or police, instead they are even struggling with the Police on who should prosecute.

I see them parade suspects, which is not supposed to be so. I don’t think the law says the DSS should arrest and prosecute. There should be a re-orientation of the DSS, so that they will squarely face their duties of intelligence gathering including infiltration of the cells of Boko Haram and until this is done to combat Boko haram will remain a mirage.

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