May 22, 2024

North-East: Ending terrorism financing

Terrorism, Nigeria


When terrorists attacked several parts of the United States of America with commercial aircraft laden with passengers on September 11, 2001, little did those of us in Nigeria realise that our country would soon become one of the hottest terror spots in the world.

Following the murder in government custody of Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf, leader of an Islamic sect simply known as Boko Haram, in Maiduguri, Borno State in August 2009, suicide bombing, which used to sound like a fairy tale to our people, soon became almost a daily occurrence in many parts of the North-East, Abuja and environs, Kaduna and others. The Arab Spring and the fall of Libyan strongman, Muammar Ghaddafi, further fuelled violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin.

After about 15 years of grappling with the violence, over 50,000 have been killed, more than 2.5 million displaced and unquantifiable amounts of property destroyed. Our government has spent trillions of naira to combat the violence. In 2003, the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, rated Nigeria as the eighth most terrorised country on earth.

Terrorist networks have managed to establish strong contacts, collaborators, informants and financiers in our society in cahoots with the major jihadi terror networks such as Islamic State, Al Qaeda Network and others. In March this year, the Federal Government disclosed nine individuals and 15 entities actively involved in terrorism financing. This followed an earlier publication by the UAE government of the names of alleged terrorism financiers in Nigeria.

The financial system has been infiltrated, with the banks and bureaux de change exploited to launder funds for terror groups.

Unfortunately, some rogue elements in the armed forces, police and security agencies also benefit from the proceeds of this crime, which is a major reason that terrorism has become so intractable in Nigeria. A recent engagement by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, with the support of GIABA-West Africa, reported that infiltration by terrorism financiers is chiefly responsible for the observed unwillingness of our law enforcement agencies to work together to snuff out terrorism.

It also revealed that in spite of the huge sums invested by successive regimes in the fight against terrorism, our military and law enforcement agencies still lack adequate equipment and capacity to obliterate the highly mobile terrorist and bandit gangs.

We cannot continue to incubate terrorism, banditry and violent extremism in Nigeria, especially the North. The Federal Government must compel its organs to work together. All unit commands must be held accountable. It is time to converge our SIM Cards, National Identification Numbers, NINs, and Bank Verification Numbers, VBNs, into a unified database to help in fighting insecurity. All tiers of government must also strengthen ties with the local communities to root out financiers and collaborators.

For Nigeria to grow, terrorism must be defeated.