By Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
In spite of the federal government’s claim that the military had defeated the Boko Haram terrorists and was busy rehabilitating displaced persons in the North-east, the United States’ Bureau of Counter-terrorism has said that the Nigerian military is unable to hold and rebuild civilian structures and institutions in areas cleared by it in the region.
This and many more shocking revelations are contained in the 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism released by the United States Department of State on July 19, 2017, but obtained by THISDAY Sunday.
The report came to light on the day Acting President Yemi Osinbajo condemned last Tuesday’s ambush of the Chad Basin oil exploration team by the Boko Haram, leading to the deaths and abduction of members of the ill-fated team.
The report of the Bureau, a unit in the US Department of State, belied the claim by the federal government that it was on top of the situation in the North-east.
While directing military chiefs to relocate to the North-east last week, Osinbajo had said that the government was on top of the crisis despite the resurgence of terrorists’ attacks in the troubled region, the most recent of which was the ambush of the exploration team.
But the report by the US Bureau, which tracks terrorism and counter terrorism measures across the world found that Nigeria was not on top of the situation.
The report states: “Despite gains made by the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), much of its reported progress was merely duplication of failed efforts carried over from the end of last dry/fighting season,” adding: “The Nigerian military was unable to hold and rebuild civilian structures and institutions in those areas it had cleared.”
It also faulted the decision of the federal government to return internally displaced people to their original place of abode, saying that this was being done without adequate security.
“The Nigerian government continued to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons to their home communities, although sometimes without providing adequate security and before appropriate conditions were in place for safe, informed, voluntary returns,” it said.
The report also said that Nigeria did not show any evidence that it would implement a coordinated plan to restore civilian security in recaptured territories.
Another weakness in Nigeria’s approach to dislodging Boko Haram as shown by the US report is the lack of coordination among intelligence gathering agencies.
“The level of interagency cooperation and information sharing was limited and at times hindered overall effectiveness,” the report explained and cast a serious doubt on the ability of the security agencies to properly investigate terrorism cases.
It said: “The Department of State Security (DSS) is the primary investigating agency for terrorism cases, but there have been longstanding sustained concerns about its capacity to investigate terrorist financing as it does not share case information with other agencies that also have the mandate to conduct terrorist financing investigations and prosecutions, such as the EFCC.
“These concerns continued in 2016. There were no known efforts on the part of the EFCC or the Ministry of Justice to prosecute terrorist financing cases.
“The Government of Nigeria has the ability to freeze and confiscate terrorist assets as required by the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. While there is a political will to freeze assets, bureaucratic processes occasionally cause delays.”
The report also noted that despite touting multi-lateral approach to the fight against terrorism, Nigeria was unwilling to shoulder the responsibility of leading a multi-lateral team.
“Nigeria sought greater cooperation and coordination with neighbouring countries to counter the effects of Boko Haram, yet has resisted taking control of the regional response,” it said.
The report also listed some of the efforts made by the government to tackle Boko Haram, including the negotiation for the release of 21 Chibok Secondary School girls, but, however, highlighted the fact that Nigeria needed to do more to succeed in the fight against terrorism.
According to the report, “The Nigerian government has not invested significant resources or time enlisting regional organisations, such as the Economic Organisation of West African States and Economic Community of Central African States, to assist with the Boko Haram problem. Instead, the Government of Nigeria preferred to engage Boko Haram militants in direct, unilateral military action and through the MNJTF, which is headed by a Nigerian military officer.”
The Bureau was also critical of the federal government’s claim of success in the anti-corruption war, stating: “The present administration has made limited progress against corruption.”
Again, Osinbajo Meets Service Chiefs, Condemns Killing of Chad Basin Oil Explorers
Meanwhile, Acting President Osinbajo at the weekend condemned what he described as the appalling terrorists’ ambush, attack and abduction of soldiers and civilians who were on legitimate duties in the Lake Chad Basin Frontier Exploration.
Last Tuesday, the Boko Haram terrorist group in the North-east had ambushed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Frontier Exploration Services (FES) and Surface Geochemistry Sampling crew, comprising three consultants attached to FES and the Integrated Data external consultants from the University of Maiduguri; military personnel and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), while returning to Maiduguri after conducting survey mapping and geological study in the Chad Basin.
The exploration team suffered heavy casualties as THISDAY sources reported that the bodies of 18 soldiers, 15 Civilian JTF killed alongside five UNIMAID staff and four NNPC drivers had by last Thursday been deposited at the mortuary of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri.
Some members of the exploration team were also abducted by the terrorists.
In a statement issued Sunday by his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, Osinbajo, who said the objective of the exercise was to open up new areas for oil exploration for the good of all Nigerians, lamented that the attack resulted in a number of deaths of hardworking and innocent Nigerians, and the abduction of some.
Osinbajo commiserated with the families, relatives and associates of those who lost their lives in the onslaught and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
The statement recalled that the acting president, after an emergency meeting with the military chiefs on Thursday, issued fresh directives to the Nigerian military and all security agencies to immediately scale up efforts in Borno State in order to maintain a strong, effective control of the situation and secure lives and property.
He commended the military for the progress already recorded on the rescue of some of the abducted and also ordered the continuation of the search and rescue missions to locate and ensure the freedom of all the remaining abducted persons as soon as possible, using all available and expedient means in the circumstances.
He added that justice would be pursued for the victims and against those who engage in this kind of unacceptable, criminal and terrorist acts just as he praised security operatives for their bravery and resilience.
“Acting President Osinbajo pays tribute to the resilience, courage and bravery of officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces for their gallant endeavours and sacrifices for the peace, security and territorial integrity of our country. He eulogises the Nigerian soldiers who have paid the ultimate price in this mission and others linked to the current insurgency and gives a firm assurance that the welfare of the families of the soldiers will be prioritised.
“He also commends the diligence of the management and staff of the NNPC, and the lecturers and consultants from the University of Maiduguri in pursuing Federal Government’s resolve to grow our country’s current crude oil reserve base through potential exploration in the Lake Chad Basin,” he said, stressing that the government will by no means be dissuaded.
According to him, “Some of these extraordinarily selfless Nigerians from the NNPC and the University of Maiduguri put their lives on the line that we and generations to come will enjoy the resources of this land. We will never forget that sacrifice.
“Although pockets of terrorists have been launching attacks recently in Borno State, the Acting President assures the people of the state, the region and indeed all Nigerians, that the FGN is not only on top of the situation but will define the end of these atrocities by both winning the war and winning the peace in the North-east.”
The acting president again met with security chiefs and the Minister of State for Petroleum at the weekend.
The meeting, which was the second within two days, was attended by service chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar.
Also present at the meeting were the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura.
According to a tweet by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, on his Twitter handle, @akandeoj, the meeting was a continuation of the earlier meeting the acting president held with the service chiefs and the Minister of Defence, Col. Mansur Dan-Ali, in Aso Rock on Thursday.
“In continuation of his close monitoring of Borno situation, AgP Osinbajo met again last night (Saturdaynight) with service chiefs, IGP, DSS, Petroleum Minister of State and others. “Meeting reviewed progress on release and rescue (efforts) of abducted officials of UNIMAID & rescue (efforts) of abducted officials of UNIMAID & missing NNPC staff.
“AgP Osinbajo had earlier met Defence Minister and military service chiefs couple of days back in his office on Thursday on the situation,” he tweeted.