By Our Reporters
ABUJA—DETERMINED to wage war against terrorism headlong, the Federal Government, yesterday proscribed two terrorist groups unleashing mayhem on the polity, describing their activities as illegal and acts of terrorism.
The outlawed groups are the Jamaatu Ahlis-Sunna Liddaawati Wal Jihad otherwise known as Boko Haram and the Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan also known as Ansaru.
In proscribing the sects, President Goodluck Jonathan authorized the gazetting of “an order declaring their activities illegal and acts of terrorism.”
This was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati.
The statement was entitled, “President Jonathan approves order proscribing Boko Haram and ANSARU; members, supporters, collaborators now face prosecution under terrorism prevention Act.”
Abati said that the order which had already been gazetted as the Terrorism (Prevention, Proscription Order) Notice 2013 was approved by President Jonathan pursuant to Section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 (as amended).
According to him, the notice, “officially brings the activities of both groups within the purview of the Terrorism Prevention Act and any persons associated with the two groups can now be legally prosecuted and sentenced to penalties specified in the Act.
“The proscription order warns the general public that any person participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the collective intentions of the said groups will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act.
“Section 5 (1) of the act prescribes a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years for any person who knowingly, in any manner, directly or indirectly, solicits or renders support for the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group.
“For the purposes of subsection (1) of the section, “support” include:
(a) incitement to commit a terrorist act through the internet, or any electronic means or through the use of printed materials or through the dissemination of terrorist information;
(b) receipt or provision of material assistance, weapons including biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, explosives, training, transportation, false documentation or identification to terrorists or terrorist groups;
(c) receipt or provision of information or moral assistance, including invitation to adhere to a terrorist or terrorist group;
(d) entering or remaining in a country for the benefit of, or at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group; or
(e) the provision of, or making available, such financial or other related services prohibited under this Act or as may be prescribed by regulations made pursuant to this Act.”
The order, yesterday, elicited mixed reactions in the polity with the Senate backing the decision but lamented that it was coming late.
Reactions trail Jonathan’s order
Among those who spoke on the move, which came a day after the United States of America offered $23 million (about N3.6bn) reward for information on the location of five leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram including Shekau include former governors of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Alhaji Lawal Kaita; and Arewa Youths.
This came as former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar urged members of the sect to embrace the channel of dialogue offered by the government to address their grievances and an official of the United States of America said Boko Haram leader, Shekau might be tried in the U.S.
Senate, Reps back Jonathan
The Senate threw its weight behind President Jonathan’s decision to proscribe Boko Haram, whose members have engaged in massive killings and wanton destruction of property.
Reacting to the development, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP Abia who noted that the decision was coming rather late, said that it was a welcome development, adding, “the senate supports the proscription of Boko Haram. It should have been done long ago. But it’s a welcome development.”
Members of the House of Representatives, who reacted to the decision, yesterday, said it was a welcome development though proscribing an illegal body does not really make sense.
Deputy Minority Whip of the House, Hon Garba Ahmed Datti said: “Though a welcome development, we do not need to proscribe an illegal body like Boko Haram. What is the essence of proscribing a body that is illegal when in the first place it was not registered in Nigeria as a legal body? This development does not really make any sense to me.”
In his contribution, Chairman House Committee on Anti-corruption and Ethics, Hon Abiodun Faleke simply said: ”I agree with the proscription. We are already in war with the group. I only hope that the same will apply to Niger Delta militants and all amnesty will be stopped.
Jonathan not sincere – Arewa Youths
Arewa Youths said that the proscription of Boko Haram by President Goodluck Jonathan indicated that he was not sincere in setting up the Boko Haram Dialogue Amnesty Committee.
The youths, who spoke under the aegis of the Arewa Youth Forum, noted that it was wrong and confusing for the President to set up a committee to seek dialogue with Boko Haram members only to turn round to disband the group that it claims to be discussing with.
There’ll be consequences –Balarabe Musa
On his part, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said though he welcomed the decision, Nigerians should be ready to face the consequences.
His words: “The proscription is expected because since security has been linked with the American and Israeli military, one can expect this. Just some few days ago, America announced a payment for any information leading to the capture of the so-called leader of Boko Haram.
One thing Nigerians should not make any mistake about is that Nigeria would now be subject to the same treatment by America that Pakistan is now subjected to. This means that American forces would be free to operate in Nigeria. We must know the consequences from the beginning so that we won’t deceive ourselves.”
It’s waste of time—Afenifere
The Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere described the decision by government as a waste of time.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard, Afenifere’s spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “Was it a registered organisation before? Were they registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, before? It is a waste of time. You have agreed that the group is faceless, you now say you want to outlaw it, they are outlaws already. Which law in Nigeria says you can bomb and kill people? I think the government should just do what needs to be done by flushing out the insurgents and ensuring that it addresses the question that led to insurgency in the first place. Outlawing Boko Haram is just waste of time.”
It’s commendable —Arewa Youth group
Commending the Federal Government for taking such steps, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum faulted the idea of negotiating with the group.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard, its National President, Alhaji Yerima Shetimma, said: “Sometimes, we need to tell ourselves the simple truth. We have never subscribed to the idea of negotiating with any terrorist group. The Federal Government has the muscle to address the issues but because they lack the political will, we have found ourselves in this mess.
It’s a belated decision – Kaita
Also throwing his weight behind the decision, former governor of KadunaState, Alhaji Lawal Kaita said: “It ought to have been outlawed long ago. They cannot just go on killing people”.
It won’t change anything – Junaid
SecondRepublic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed in his reaction said the proscription order on Boko Haram members would not change anything or add value to the campaign of genocide that is taking place in the North-East presently.
He said: “Relatively, Mr President has been giving selective treatment vendetta against the North or what could be called subterfuge to disenfranchise the North politically. I expect President Jonathan to also give a proscription order on Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and people like Asari Dokubo that has been giving various threats.
“We are looking for explanations because this proscription order on Boko Haram coincides with the announcement of the United States government putting a ransom on Shekau”.
Lay down your arms, Abdulsalami charges sect
Former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar has urged members of Boko Haram to lay down their arms and embrace dialogue as a means of resolving their grievances with the Nigerian state. General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who spoke yesterday while receiving the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North during a courtesy call at his residence in Minna, pleaded with the group in the name of Allah and their conscience to take the opportunity of dialogue offered by government to end the suffering of people caught up in the conflict in the North.
He expressed hope that with the committee peace would return to the North as its members comprised people of impeccable character.
Speaking earlier, chairman of the Presidential Committee, Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN), said the visit was to tap from Abubakar’s wealth of experience considering his position as ambassador of peace in Africa.
Shekau could be tried in U.S, says official
The US government said that Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, accused of terrorism activities in Nigeria, could be tried in the US when caught.
Kurt Rice, the US Acting Assistant Director of Diplomatic Security Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate, said this at a joint tele-news conference with David Gilmour, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the tele-conference was aired to audiences in Abuja, Accra, Dakar, Lagos and Niamey.
Rice’s comments came a day after the US offered $23 million (about N3.6bn) reward for information on the location of Shekau and leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
(AQIM) and Boko Haram.All the suspects named in the first U.S. Rewards for Justice Programme for the sub-region were accused of being the mastermind of different cases of kidnap of foreigners and terror activities in West Africa.
Rice said that Shekau when apprehended could be charged before a Nigerian court or “the courts of partner nations whether in Nigeria, North or West Africa.”
He hoped that the capture of the Boko Haram leader would “check” the deadly attacks in the country linked to the militant group in the past.
“Our intent is to bring him before a court. Our intent in offering this reward at this time is to work with our Nigeria partners to try and make (Nigeria) a more stable and secure area,” he added.
Rice said the U.S. rewards for Justice programme had a “track record” that had paid out 125 million dollars (about N19.8bn) to more than 80 people, who provided information leading to the arrest of terrorists, since 1984.
“The fact is that this is a shared fight against terrorism. This is one tool we have against terrorism and we find that overtime it has been enormously effective and it has saved a lot of lives and we want to continue doing that,” he said.
Also speaking, Gilmour ruled out suggestions that the seven million dollar (N1.1bn) bounty offered for the head of Shekau could be counter-productive to Nigeria government amnesty offer to the insurgents.
Gilmour reiterated the U.S. position that security-based solution was not the only way to address the current security challenges in Nigeria.
He said the U.S. recognised that among Northern Nigeria there were legitimate grievances such as social inequality and youth unemployment.
“We urge the Nigeria government to take seriously those grievances of the general population of Northern Nigeria,” he said.
He advised Nigeria security operatives, currently conducting military operations in three North Eastern states, under the state of emergency rule, to try and build the confidence of the population to keep them safe.
Aniebonam lauds U.S
Dr Boniface Aniebonam, the National Chairman, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), on Tuesday in Lagos lauded the U.S. for its efforts at ridding Nigeria of terrorism.
Aniebonam said such assistance, including placing rewards on the heads of five leaders of militant groups in West Africa, would help to track them down.
Aniebonam said:“Nothing is wrong in the U.S. wanting to assist Nigeria in the fight against terrorism.
“Terrorism is a worldwide evil that is condemnable. The U.S. bounty is part of its efforts to rid the world of terrorists because human life remains sacrosanct to all countries.”
The Lagos State Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr Ehi Omokhuale, said that Nigeria should cooperate more with the American Government and any other super powers willing to help to eradicate terrorism in the country.
“This is why we supported the state of emergency by the Federal Government. Terrorism is not something that should be handled with kid gloves,” he told NAN.
According to him, the only way to handle terrorism is to match force with force.
“Our mantra remains never to negotiate with terrorists.”
The CLO chairman also urged Nigerians to volunteer information on the Boko Haram sect.
“What is important is to rid the country and indeed the world of terrorists,” Omokhuale added.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu, said that what was important was an onslaught on terrorism.
“Every country has a right to choose how it wants to fight insurgency.
“Nigeria, therefore, should also develop a home-grown approach that will yield more results in the fight against insurgency,” he said.
A cleric, Femi Asiwaju, Vice President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), said that it was commendable for the U.S. to come to our rescue, saying that the new initiative against terrorism was a move in the right direction.
“The world is paying attention to what is happening in the country and we thank God for that. We appreciate the U.S. for coming out because what we have in our hands is not a domestic issue.
“Placing such a huge amount on them is to tell terrorist organisations worldwide that the U.S. is interested in what is going on in the country.
“Whatever steps they are taking to put a stop to the mess, the better for all of us.”
Another cleric, Monsignor Gabriel Osu, the Director of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, said the action was a signal that the U.S. meant business.
He noted that America’s move was part of their own strategy of fighting terrorism, adding that it was in their interest to stop terrorists.
“America is not a Father Christmas government and nothing goes for nothing; for them to place such amount of money on terrorists in our zone, they must know more than we know about them and they mean business too.
“They do it all over and often see beyond what we are seeing,” Osu said.
Osu added that the action was also a challenge for Nigeria to do more in the anti-terrorism fight.
In his own reaction, the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, Mr Taiwo Taiwo, said the ransom would help to track down Shekau and other leaders of Al-qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, spreading terror in Nigeria and other West African countries.
Taiwo said that rewarding informants on the whereabouts of the suspected terrorists could help in reducing their attacks across the world.”