By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
On 30th October 2020, the United States Navy Seal Team 6 was reported to have rescued an American citizen somewhere in “Northern Nigeria”.
Philipe Nathan Walton was taken from his farm in Massalata village in southern Niger days earlier by armed men who demanded ransom from his father.
“The United States is committed to the safe return of all U.S. citizens taken captive. We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria, where some of our bravest and most skilled warriors rescued a U.S. citizen after a group of armed men took him hostage across the border in Niger”, said US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo.
“Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our military, the support of our intelligence professionals, and our diplomatic efforts, the hostage will be reunited with his family. We will never abandon any American taken hostage”, he added.
While many saw the development as a failure on the part of the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS for not adequately patrolling the borders, others wondered how the Americans could carry out such an operation in a foreign land.
However, Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi has said the federal government actually worked with the Americans to rescue the hostage.
Days after the incident reports emerged that six Nigerians had been convicted in the United Arab Emirates UAE for financing terrorism in Nigeria.
A court in Abu Dhabi had reportedly sentenced Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saleh Yusuf Adamu to life in prison. Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, AbdurRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa were each given a 10-year sentence.
According to reports, between 2015 and 2016, the accused transferred $782,000 from Dubai to Nigeria to support Boko Haram.
Two Nigerians who were said to be top government officials in Nigeria were also reported to be working for the terrorist sect.
SSS, EFCC, NIA, NFIU should go after suspects ― Ejiofor, retd SSS Director
A retired Director in the State Security Service SSS, Barr. Mike Ejiofor has however advised the spy agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit NFIU and the Nigeria Intelligence Agency NIA to collaborate towards tracking terrorist’s financiers in the country.
He said; “It is very worrisome especially because we have not been able to secure such convictions here. We must also commend the UAE for the effort. But, like in that report where it was clearly stated that two top government functionaries in Nigeria are working with the convicts, the Nigeria government should in the same light collaborate with the UAE so that this will now serve as a lead to identify, arrest and possibly prosecute these two suspects who are in Nigeria because nobody is sure now that they are still not active and operating.
“In the fight against terrorism, you must follow the money. By following the money, I expect the NFIU, EFCC, SSS and NIA to collaborate and see how these people can be identified. You know one of the challenges we have in Nigeria is that nobody seems to be fully responsible for the fight against this insurgency. Everybody is doing his thing his own way. The Police is there, the Army is in the lead fighting physically, the SSS is providing intelligence but we need to have, like in the US, a Fusion Centre where policies are formulated and then there is proper implementation of such policies.
“As it is now, nobody seem to be in charge. Everybody seems to be doing his own thing and because of political considerations, one agency will be seeking to outdo the other to show that it is superior. The politicians and other government functionaries who have no business in security matters will be issuing statements that Boko Haram has been defeated. Today you will hear the Army saying that an enclave of the terrorists has been destroyed and their leaders killed; then you will hear the Air Force telling you that it located and bombed a terrorist cell and killed a thousand. Then you would ask, with these numbers they are killing every day, are they not depleted? Every day you hear the terrorists are killed. Don’t they get finished? The terrorists are still coming out stronger. So, it gives cause to really worry.
“The National Security Adviser NSA is supposed to be coordinating the activities of the agency but what we have is the Multi-National Joint Task Force MNJTF which is not in charge of formulating policies but ensuring that the fight is brought to an end. But we need policy and guidance. We need the policy to say that this is how the fight would be, this is how it will be funded and if it fails, you know who to hold responsible. But, who are you holding responsible now? Nobody. There is no proper coordination of operations”.
On the rescue of an American hostage in Nigeria, Ejiofor said the Nigerian government actually provided the needed intelligence while the United States provided the requisite technology for the operation.
“I wouldn’t see it as a failure on the part of the agencies because our borders are very porous. So, you don’t know which route the victim was taken through. Most of the perpetrators of these crimes are not Nigerians. How do they come in? It is because of the porous nature of our borders. On the rescue of the American, it shows the premium the American Government places on its citizens but they can’t also do that without the collaborative efforts of the Nigerian government.
So, the impression people are having that the Americans came to breach our territorial integrity is not correct. The fact is that the global trend of terrorism or insurgency is fought jointly between countries and stakeholders with the support of other countries. So, Nigeria provided the intelligence required and they (US) probably gave the technology, because we might have the intelligence but without having the necessary technical support to get to the root of all these things. So, that is our problem.
“Also let the agencies be more committed to the fight against this scourge. They kidnapped one person in another country and then took him to another country”, the retired SSS director added.
.Don’t sweep the lead under the carpet ― Alobi, retd CP
On his part, a retired Commissioner of Police, Barr. Lawrence Alobi said the UAE has provided a lead to the Nigerian government to work on and trace the two suspects reported to be working for terrorists in Nigeria.
Alobi said; “Constitutionally, the primary duty of government is the security and wellbeing of the people. If a nation was able to track, arrest, prosecute and secure the conviction of some people for sponsoring Boko Haram and they give us a lead that there are some persons in Nigeria who are linked to that, then it is incumbent on the Nigerian security formation to follow up on that information to trace the people.
That is how to detect and prevent crime. They must see how such persons can be identified and questioned. It is not good to sweep it under the carpet. The international community will be looking at how we handle the development. So, there is a need to track the suspects, interrogate them and see if they are culpable so that they can be prosecuted.
“Recently, America came and rescued its citizen. But like the Minister of Defence said, they authorised that action. Our borders are very porous. So, the immigration cannot be at all points because they have challenges of manpower, equipment and logistics. We can continue to blame the agencies, but the truth is that most agencies are not adequately empowered to discharge their mandate”.