On 22 January, President Goodluck Jonathan paid a visit to Kano city, the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, following multiple bomb attacks on the city two days earlier which killed over 180 people. A spokesman for the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram had said his group was responsible for the attacks.
During his two hour visit, the President stopped at the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the bombed headquarters of the Police Zone 1 (covering Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States) and the military hospital where some victims of the bombing were being treated.
In his speech at the Emir’s palace, Jonathan vowed that the Federal Government will not relent in its fight against terrorism, until the terrorists are defeated. He said those behind the bombings were not invisible spirits but “people that live with us”, and urged greater security consciousness and vigilance by citizens, in order to fish them out.
The Kano monarch, in an unprecedented show of emotion, broke down in tears repeatedly, as he reviewed the human loss caused by the bomb attacks on his city.
He expressed deep appreciation for the President’s visit, but regretted that Kano, a sprawling city with a population of over 9 million, was under-policed with only 8,000 law officers. He appealed to the President to boost police presence in the city, as a step towards preventing further attacks.
President Jonathan was accompanied on the visit by the National Security Adviser, retired General Andrew Azazi; Defense Minister, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed; Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin; and several other top government and security officials.
On 31 December, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in troubled areas stretching through 15 local government areas in four states, namely Borno, Yobe, Niger and Plateau.
In a televised broadcast, Jonathan said the declaration had become necessary due to “the security challenges which the activities of the Boko Haram sect have foisted on the country”. Boko Haram, a militant Islamic sect demanding the installation of Islamic government under Sharia law in the predominantly Muslim north of the country, has carried out a sustained campaign of assassinations and bomb attacks, including suicide attacks on the national police headquarters on 16 June and on the United Nations office complex in Abuja on 26 August.
Jonathan said the declaration of emergency was in accordance with the provisions of Section 305(1) of the Constitution. He said details of the proclamation will be transmitted to the National Assembly for necessary action, as soon as the federal legislators reconvene from their current recess.
The states and local government areas affected by the declaration are as follows:
BORNO STATE: Maidugiri Metropolitan, Gamboru Ngala, Banki Bama, Biu and Jere.
YOBE STATE: Damaturu, Geidam, Potiskum, Buniyadi-Gujba, and Gasua-Bade.
PLATEAU STATE: Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi, and Riyom.
NIGER STATE: Suleja.
President Jonathan ordered an interim closure of those stretches of the nation’s land borders “contiguous to the affected Local Government Areas so as to control incidences of cross border terrorist activities”. He also directed the Chief of Defence Staff and Inspector-General of Police to work out appropriate measures that would ensure the protection of lives and property of residents in the affected states and local government areas. He urged political leaders in the affected areas to give maximum cooperation to the law enforcement officials deployed to their communities, in order to bring the situation under control within the shortest possible time.
The President further disclosed that: “The Chief of Defence Staff, in collaboration with other Service Chiefs, has also been directed to set up a special force unit within the Armed Forces, with dedicated counter terrorism responsibilities”.
Later elaborating on the President’s declaration, the National Security Adviser, retired General Andrew Azazi, said democratic institutions in the affected areas would not be suspended. But he said the security forces being deployed to the affected local governments would have extra powers to conduct stop-and-search procedures and arrest persons.
Apart from the affected areas, the NSA said security agents are also working hard to monitor places where reports of possible threat have been recorded, including Lagos State.
1. Fellow Nigerians, it has become necessary to address you on recent events in some parts of the country that have threatened our collective security and shaken the foundations of our corporate existence as a nation.
2. You are all aware of the security challenges which the activities of the Boko Haram sect have foisted on the country. What began as sectarian crises in the North Eastern parts of the country has gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security.
3. Government, in an effort to find a lasting solution to the security threats occasioned by the activities of the Boko Haram sect, constituted a Presidential Committee under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the crises. While efforts are being made to implement the recommendations of the Committee, the crises have assumed a terrorist dimension with vital institutions of government including the United Nations Building and places of worship becoming targets of terrorist attacks.
4. While the search for lasting solutions is ongoing, it has become imperative to take some decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country especially within the affected communities. Consequently, I have in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of Section 305(1) of the Constitution, declared a state of emergency in the following parts of the federation, namely:
(i) BORNO STATE
a) Maidugiri Metropolitan LGA
b) Gamboru Ngala LGA
c) Banki Bama LGA
d) Biu LGA
e) Jere LGA
(ii) YOBE STATE
a) Damaturu LGA
b) Geidam LGA
c) Potiskum LGA
d) Buniyadi-Gujba LGA
e) Gasua-Bade LGA
(iii) PLATEAU STATE
a) Jos North LGA
b) Jos South LGA
c) Barkin-Ladi LGA
d) Riyom LGA
(iv) NIGER STATE
a) Suleja LGA
The details of this proclamation will be transmitted to the National Assembly as soon as they reconvene from their current recess, for their necessary action.
5. The Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector-General of Police have been directed to put appropriate measures in place to ensure the protection of lives and properties of residents in the affected parts of the country. I therefore urge the political leadership in the affected states and Local Government Areas to give maximum cooperation to the law enforcement agencies deployed to their respective communities to ensure that the situation is brought under control within the shortest possible time.
6. The Chief of Defence Staff, in collaboration with other Service Chiefs, has also been directed to set up a special force unit within the Armed Forces, with dedicated counter terrorism responsibilities.
7. As part of the overall strategy to overcome the current security challenges, I have directed the closure of the land borders contiguous to the affected Local Government Areas so as to control incidences of cross border terrorist activities as terrorists have taken advantage of the present situation to strike at targets in Nigeria and retreat beyond the reach of our law enforcement personnel.
8. Let me assure our neighbours, especially within the ECOWAS sub-region, of Nigeria’s commitment to its international obligations as provided by the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons. The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be reviewed as soon as normalcy is restored.
9. I commend the efforts of our political leaders at various levels as well as our traditional and religious leaders for their support for the various conflict resolution mechanisms and peace building measures that have been initiated by this administration. We call on the citizenry to continue to provide useful information to our law enforcement agencies to enable us arrest the situation.
10. Terrorism is a war against all of us. I call on all Nigerians to join hands with government to fight these terrorists.
11. I wish all Nigerians a very happy New Year.
12. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On 30 December, President Goodluck Jonathan declared the Nigerian government and people will fight the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram to the end.
The president made the declaration in Abuja while receiving the Deputy Prime Minister of neighbouring Niger Republic, Mr Mohame Bazoum, who brought a condolence and solidarity message from his country’s president, Issoufou Mahamadou, following the Christmas day bombings that killed at least 42 people. The declaration comes just six days after Jonathan’s widely criticized 25 December statement, in which he had said the Boko Haram challenge was a burden Nigerians would have to bear until it fizzles out.
Mr Bazoum had said President Issoufou was concerned about the recent loss of lives, but did not view the violence as a religious war. He assured Jonathan of the Nigerien president’s support to the Nigerian government and people, in their efforts to check the activities of Boko Haram.
Jonathan agreed with President Issoufou that Boko Haram’s campaign was not a religious war, as the group had targeted both Christians and Muslims. He stressed that “No religion asks its followers to throw bombs to kill people they don’t even know”.
The President said the federal government will fight Boko Haram, the “group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end”. He called for concerted efforts by all well-meaning Nigerians, and by the governments and peoples of neighbouring countries, in the campaign against the group.
Specifically soliciting the cooperation of neighbouring countries, Jonathan said: “The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region”.
Nigeria and the Republic of Niger, her neighbour to the north, share a common boundary running through about 1,500 km, and consisting of largely open, flat desert sands that are inadequately policed. In recent times, both countries have stepped up their cooperation on defence and security matters.
In May 2011, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Niger, Brig Gen Salou Souleymane, was in Nigeria for a five-day working visit.
On 18 November, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, announced that Nigeria had intensified cooperation with its Francophone neighbours and established a defence outpost manned by a Defence Attaché in Niamey, Niger, as part of its efforts to tackle the threats of terrorism, and to also contain the fall-outs of the violent overthrow of the late Libyan leader, Moumar Gadaffi.
On 29 November, Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Dr Haliru Mohammed Bello, reported that Nigeria was working to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Republic of Niger as part of measures towards fighting terrorism and preventing an influx of arms from Libya.
On 11 August, the Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed directed the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, to investigate the excesses of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State. The minister especially ordered an inquiry into the killing of a woman, during the clash between soldiers and some members of the Boko Haram sect in Biu on 9 August.
In a statement issued from his office in Abuja, Mohammed said members of the Armed Forces were doing a very good job in protecting the lives and property of Nigerians in various theaters of internal security, and also representing the country in international peace-keeping operations. However, he also noted that some personnel may have been overzealous while performing their duties, thereby violating the rights of other citizens and bringing the name of the military into disrepute. He said the government was determined to ensure that the military conforms with global best practices in all of its interactions with the civil populace.
Mohammed said: “I have directed the Chief of Defence Staff to investigate all incidents of military misconduct against law-abiding citizens. In particular, I have directed that the incident at Biu, in which a woman was shot, following the arrest of some Boko Haram suspects as was widely reported in the newspapers, be thoroughly investigated”.
He said: “Our instruction to officers and men, during internal security operations, is to arrest all criminals, use minimum force (and) only when necessary and to be tactful with the civilian population”.
However, in a veiled warning to those who may seek to exploit the directives on restraint and use of minimum force by the military, the Minister also stressed that “the Federal Government is committed to maintaining peace and order, and will not allow any miscreants to thwart this effort under whatever guise.”
On 27 July, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, declared that the military Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to quell attacks by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, was making good progress on its mandate. He said the security situation around the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, was “better now than it used to be”.
Speaking to newsmen in Maiduguri, after addressing officers and men of the JTF at their Base in Pompomari Ward area of the city, the CDS made several significant statements regarding the objectives, challenges and progress of the operation.
He said the JTF was not waging a “religious war” but was conducting an operation to stop terrorism. He admitted that the operation met serious difficulties at the onset, but said it was now coming to grips with its challenge. He conceded that there had been some instances of misconduct by his soldiers, but stressed that those involved would be disciplined by military authorities.
The CDS rejected calls for dialogue with the Islamist group, saying the constitutional mandate of the armed forces was to do battle not dialogue. He also reiterated the Federal Government’s resolve that the military task force will not be withdrawn from Maiduguri and its environs until security and tranquility are restored to the state.
JTF operation not a “religious war”
Apparently trying to dispel misconceptions among some local residents, regarding the objective of the JTF operation, Marshal Petinrin said the the military was not executing a “religious war”, and that its operation in the state was targeted only at uprooting Boko Haram.
He said: “Let me state clearly that the government did not send us here to deal with any religious or tribal group. We are here to stamp out those shooting people and throwing explosives in market places. We are not here to fight a religious war; we are here to ensure the restoration of order and protect innocent citizens who are being terrorised by Boko Haram”.
Military coming to grips with terrorism
The CDS revealed that the operation had been difficult at the onset and that Boko Haram had some initial advantage as terrorism was new in the country; but he said security forces and agencies had learnt fast and were now ready to tackle the insurgents squarely.
He said: “The issue of terrorism is new in Nigeria and, when things are new, it takes time for people to get to the bottom. Now, we are gradually getting to its root and soon we will get over it and pull our soldiers back to their base”.
Dealing with the excesses of some military personnel
The CDS acknowledged operational lapses by some JTF personnel. He explained that “for an operation as massive as this”, there were bound to be mistakes and lapses. But he stressed that the military authority was doing everything possible to address such lapses.
He said: “The Defence Headquarters does not take the issue of misconduct lightly when it comes to any serving officer, because we abide by rules of engagement in all our operations. In line with this, the commander of the JTF has initiated the process of trial of five officers suspected to have committed acts of misconduct…Any officer found to have gone against our rules of engagement will be brought to book”.
Military not in the business of dialogue
The Defence chief said the calls in some quarters, for dialogue with Boko Haram, would not stop the armed forces from performing its constitutionally-mandated internal security role. He said: “The military is not in the business of dialogue,” but was created “to battle those troubling Nigeria and Nigerians”.
He said: “Those who are calling for a dialogue between government and the sect could be doing so because our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the right to voice out their opinion”. He said such opinions would not stop the military from responding appropriately to any threats to national security.
No withdrawal of JTF till conditions improve
The CDS also reiterated the Federal Government’s resolve to retain JTF on ground, until security is restored in the state. He said most of those calling for JTF’s withdrawal were doing so from the comfort and security of their homes in the elite Government Reserved Area (GRA), well removed from the the impact of explosives that were being thrown at common people in their homes and market places.
He said: “The people in the GRA can afford to call for the withdrawal of soldiers because no bomb explosion had been recorded in the area. But the people living in densely populated areas have been cooperating with the JTF, because they have seen lots of security improvements since our men took over. In fact, while the advocates are calling for withdrawal, I am busy strengthening the JTF to make it easy for us to attain our goal of securing peace”.
On 23 June, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petirin, observed that terrorism is a relatively new challenge to security agencies in the country and expressed confidence that with time, the agencies, and indeed the Nigerian nation, will overcome the challenge.
Speaking at a conference on Cyber Information Security, the CDS said the bomb incident at the Police Force headquarters in Abuja on 16 June, as well as other terrorist attacks in some parts of the country in recent months, were posing temporary challenges. Marshal Petinrin said: “It (terrorism) is a temporary thing and we will overcome it just as we overcame all other issues of this nature in our country”.
In his own words, the Defence chief further stated as follows:
“Terrorism is a new thing to us. It is not new in other parts of the world. So many countries have suffered from it and are still suffering from it. But in Nigeria, it is relatively new.
Therefore, you discover that some of those agencies that are supposed to respond very effectively may have initial inertia in getting to grips with it and rising to the occasion. But they are already doing so and I assure you that it is a temporary phase and we will overcome it.”
“Let me say here and now that the issue of terrorism is something that must be combated by all the forces and all the systems at the disposal of government. It is not a matter for the military alone. As you all know, you are talking about enemies that you cannot pinpoint, as you cannot really say this is where they are.”
On 3 June, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, declared that clashes between soldiers and personnel of other security agencies, especially the Police, will no longer occur in the country.
Petinrin, who was in Lagos for activities winding up the 55th anniversary of the Nigerian Navy, told newsmen that a joint investigation by the Army and Police was already underway to establish the truth of the 24 May incident in Badagry, Lagos State, where some police officers were murdered, allegedly by soldiers.
The Chief of Defence Staff, who graced the occasion with other service chiefs, including the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, said the Badagry incident was unfortunate.
He added: “I can assure you that these clashes will not happen again…You can see that the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief of Army Staff have sat down together to look into the matter. No one knew what actually happened. Investigations are on. The investigation that is being conducted now is being done by a joint team of police and army personnel”.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ihejirika, also pledged to ensure better co-operation between his soldiers and the personnel of other agencies, in order to prevent any further clashes in future.
On 30 May, less than 24 hours after being sworn in for his first full term as the country’s chief executive, President Goodluck Jonathan named his first two appointees: Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate president now appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and General Owoye Andrew Azazi, who is re-appointed as National Security Adviser (NSA).
Azazi, a retired four-star general who had earlier risen to the peak of the country’s defence establishment as chief of defence staff, was first appointed NSA in October 2010, following the resignation of Gen Aliyu Mohammed.
Like other presidential advisers, his tenure formally ended with the end of the administration under which he was appointed. As it turned out, Azazi became the first presidential adviser to be re-appointed.
Azazi’s early retention signals the President’s confidence in him. Perhaps more importantly, it also suggests that the President may be placing a high premium on security and is seeking to ensure stability and continuity in that department of the government.
[ See detailed “PROFILE: General Owoye Andrew Azazi, National Security Adviser”, also on this website].
On 16 May, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, called for stronger partnership between the militaries of Nigeria and Niger Republic, towards countering the terrorist threats and other transnational security challenges facing their two countries, particularly in view of the uprisings in most North African countries.
He made the call while exchanging views with the Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Niger, Brig Gen Salou Souleymane, who paid him a courtesy visit at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, as part of a five-day working visit to Nigeria.
“If we dont cooperate,terrorists will have a field day”
Marshal Petinrin said both countries must work to tackle terrorism, armed banditry and the influx of criminal elements across their borders. He warned that “If we don’t cooperate, terrorists will have a field day”.
Said Petinrin: “The world is changing. There has been a lot of instability in the northern part of Africa, and this problem is bound to affect us. We will feel the spill-over effect”.
“We need to discuss this because, if it is only good people that are coming down South as a result of the crisis in the North, that will be Ok. Unfortunately, some undesirable elements will come with them. We need to have a common strategy to guard against the effects of such criminal tendencies. Even the law-abiding citizens (moving South) will create their own problem in terms of settling them and the additional pressure they will put on our economies”.
Marshal Petinrin added that: “Terrorists are everywhere and it is only cooperation between the different governments that will stem the tide. There are also the problems of armed banditry, and the influx of small and light weapons within our borders. We are brothers and we will work together”.
A “Special, Incomparable” Relationship
The Nigerian Defence chief observed that, over the years, both countries “have been close in terms of training”. He assured his Niger Republic counterpart that: “We are ready to further cooperate with Niger in training its personnel. We are ready and quite committed to training together for our common good”. Affirming that the overall relationship between the two nations has been “very cordial”, he expressed the hope that Gen Souleymane’s visit will “further cement the relationship”.
Petinrin however noted that strengthening that relationship demands more serious work. He said: “There are serious issues to be discussed. The MOU, meant to have been ratified long ago, is still on the drawing board. We have to work to ratify it in order to have a legal basis for doing so many things we have been doing”.
Responding, Gen Souleymane commended Nigeria for playing “a brotherly role” among West African countries. He particularly extolled the “special relationship” between Nigeria and Niger Republic, saying “It is incomparable”. He observed that: “Officers and men of the Niger Republic Armed Forces had, through the existing relations, acquired more knowledge” which helped them to perform creditably in the service. Souleymane said his visit was aimed at further cementing that relationship: “We intend to collaborate more with the Nigerian military”.
Transnational Security Concerns
Nigeria and Niger Republic have a common border which stretches through 1,497 kilometres of arid land. Drawn largely arbitrarily by the British and French colonial powers, that boundary cuts through Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri communities. The strong language and cultural ties between people on both sides, and the poor development of infrastructure, have left that border as a porous frontier of informal trade, smuggling, illegal migration and human trafficking (through Niger into North Africa and Europe) over the years.
Security authorities in both countries had introduced joint trans-border patrols; but the length and porosity of the border continually overwhelms the limited manpower and inadequate logistics of the immigration and customs services.
Beyond the usual criminal activities, there are now more serious security concerns. There have been allegations that mercenaries from Niger Republic may have been joining Hausa-Fulani groups in Plateau and Bauchi States in their conflicts with Christian communities. Some Nigeriens are also believed to have joined the ranks of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, currently waging a campaign of assassinations and bombings, especially in Borno and some other northern states. For instance, on 17 April 2011, four youths from Niger Republic were among the seven persons paraded by the Kaduna State Police Command, as suspects in the twin bomb blasts in Kaduna city, which occurred on the night of 16 April.
There are fears that the terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which offered to help Nigerian Muslims fight Christians in January 2010, may be using Niger Republic’s territory as a forward post for supporting violent Islamist groups in northern Nigeria. There are suspicions that the gunmen who kidnapped two expatriate construction workers – British and Italian – in Kebbi State on 12 May 2011, may have come from Niger Republic; but this has not been confirmed.
Besides his meetings with Nigerian defence chiefs over these security concerns, Souleymane’s itinerary also includes a visit to the Minister of Defence, Prince Adekumbo Kayode, and to five major military training institutions, namely the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, National Defence College, Abuja, Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Kaduna, and the Nigerian Army Counter Terrorism School, Jaji.