- Boko Haram capable of using female suicide bombers, chemical weapons- Counter-terrorism expert
In an exclusive interview with African Searchlight, the London-born Preventive Counter Terrorism Expert, Temitope Olodo, provides a unique insight into Nigeria ongoing terrorism challenges and strategic solutions to the complex Socio-political religious issue from a diaspora perspective
ASL: How did you develop your interest in terrorism in Nigeria?
My interest in Nigeria terrorism stem from my work-related and practical knowledge of violent extremism acquired over the years. I was born into a Muslim family but grew up living with a devoted Christian grandmother so I have basic understanding of the fundamentals principles of both religions. I grew up in Northern Nigeria where I went through secondary and university education before returning to the United Kingdom where I worked in sensitive security roles including UK Office for Security and Counter Terrorism managing terrorism projects. I also worked for a while as Special Police Constable for Kent Police where I learnt about policing in the community. So my interest, motivation and experience in terrorism stems from my understanding of the socio-political and religious atmosphere in Nigeria and my work experience in the area of terrorism.
ASL: What have you done to assist Nigeria on the subject of counter terrorism?
I have been invited to Nigeria on more than two occasions to assist in the quest to reduce terrorism and I have worked with some organisations such as Christian leaders. Following the bomb attack in December 2011 in Niger State, I went to Minna to deliver training for over 300 pastors and since that training, the Churches have enjoyed congregational increase and better security.
ASL: Nigeria politicians say that terrorism is alien to our culture, what is your opinion?
I normally ignore or most times pity Nigerian politicians or public office holders when they say things like this because they don’t do their homework before they speak on national issues to the media. The truth is that we as a nation have suffered all sort of terrorism from independence to date but the dynamics of the terrorism we are confronted with now differs depending on how you are assessing it. The best way to assess terrorism in a Nigeria context is to start by agreeing on what terrorism actually means, which is simply violent acts which are intended to create fear and it is perpetrated for a religious, political or, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians. If this is the case then the Yan Izala crisis in Zaria and Kaduna in the 1960s; the Maitatsine crisis in the 80s; the Jos crisis, Ife/Modakeke Crisis to mention but a few are examples of terrorism in Nigeria. What we have not witness in the past and which we are witnessing now is the advancement of the group involved in violent extremism or terrorism and this is not surprising especially now that we are aware of the increasing influence of Al Qaeda in Sub-Sahara Africa. Two years after the 7 July 2005 London bombings in the United Kingdom, in March 2007, various elements of the Government’s counter-terrorism apparatus were consolidated in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT). This organisation was created to provide advice to ministers and develop policy and security measures to combat the threat of terrorism, and was placed under the control of the Home Secretary, to whom the Director-General of OSCT reports. The OSCT is responsible for the establishment of the Counter Terrorism Strategy called CONTEST which aims to reduce the risk to the United Kingdom and its interests overseas from terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. The Strategy is underpinned by four principal workstreams called Pursue, which is to stop terrorist attacks; Prevent which is to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism; Protect which to strengthen our protection against terrorist attack and finally, Prepare which works on the basis that where an attack cannot be stopped, to mitigate its impact. In Nigeria everything is done backwards (laughs). In March this year, The Federal Executive Council (FEC) reviewed the report of the Abba Moro Committee, which was set up to review the report of the Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari-led Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the Northeast. It was submitted on September 26, 2011. As I speak to you, ordinary Nigerians don’t know anything about the Presidential Committee recommendations apart from what they read in the newspaper. Around the world, White Papers on tackling terrorism are produced by government and published on websites or available for public consumption but not in Nigeria. We boast of running a democracy but we still operate like a totalitarian government when it comes to sharing information which every Nigeria is entitled to know to enable them holds the government accountable for their lives and security. Personally, I will challenge the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, President Good luck Ebele Jonathan GCFR to ensure the public release of the Presidential Committee report on Boko Haram and ensure general publication of Nigeria Counter Terrorism Strategy if it exist or he should stand in front of Aso Rock and burn the Freedom of Information Act 2011 which he signed into law because he is talking the talk but not walking the walk – I love Mr. President but I believe he is misled on the way to handle Nigeria terrorism challenges and The Presidency is not doing the right in releasing information to the public.
ASL: Don’t you think you are too harsh on Mr. President on this matter of terrorism, maybe this is the Nigeria way of solving this matter?
I totally disagree that I am harsh on Mr. President and I personally admire his approaches on varieties of issues and the leadership he is demonstrating on the handling of Nigeria economy and the transformation agenda is exemplary. I also love the character of Mr. President which is really encouraging. However, he needs to adopt the same methodology on security and tackling terrorism. I was in Nigeria over a year ago and I was asked my opinion on a TV live interview about security in Abuja especially with all the fantastic CCTV littering the capital and I asked the presenter if he was referring to the ‘mushroom CCTV’ system that is not linked to a command and control centre neither linked to a Vehicle Recognition System popularly called Automatic number plate recognition. So far, you can steal a car in Kano or Jos and drive straight into Abuja or any other major cities in Nigeria without detection. We can’t be gambling with peoples live and there is no Nigeria way to solving our security problem. We don’t have to burn people alive because we suspect them to be Boko Haram members or shoot them summarily because we believe they are involved in atrocity. The international approach on managing terrorism is to design and create a strategy working with the community/stakeholders to tackle it.
ASL: Are Nigeria security operatives up to the task in dealing with Boko Haram?
They are trying and losing good officers in the quest to keep us safe. The government has the firepower but it is completely useless if not deployed effectively and strategically. Currently, it is evident that Nigeria security operatives are not 100 percent coordinated and they are fire-fighting most of the time…Yes, they are up to task but they need to carry along different stakeholders in order to achieve their strategic goal to eradicate the growth of terrorism and reduce radicalization in the affected areas.
ASL: Can we stop the Boko Haram attacks and how?
Yes, we can stop the Boko Haram attacks by changing our tactics and approach. I believe Nigeria Police and not the military could be giving the leading role in tackle the growth of violent extremism in Nigeria. Whilst, I understand that they need resources and experience, I believe if empowered and supported; Nigeria police will do a great job but considering that we are in the crisis now, we need a co-ordinated body to manage terrorism instead of every agency doing what they need is right to reduce terrorism which is not co-ordinated.
ASL: What should the President be doing differently?
If I was advising the President, I will be telling him to ensure that there is a visible and tangible policy adopted to discourage any form of human right abuse such as organising a workshop or training for JTF on human rights issues and providing a clear complaint procedure for members of the public to report their concerns. Some of the violation of human right levied against the JTF is not restricted to the activities of the men on the ground because it is revealed in the instruction given to the officers and men about how to quicken the elimination of Boko Haram. It is now fact that young men are picked up in their houses in Maiduguri and driven away for their fingerprints to be taken when it is clear that Section 305(1) of Nigeria Constitution that declare emergency law was no longer operational in the area. There is evidence that properties of landlord of suspected Boko Haram were destroyed though they are clearly not collaborators and this is definitely a breach of their right to property under Nigeria Constitution which is done through a competence court and also it is reported that some of the suspected Boko Haram members are giving information under duress. Thus, it is safe to infer that there some violation of human rights taking place.
ASL: What should Nigeria security operatives be doing to improve security?
There are lots of things that Nigeria security operatives could do to improve security which is currently not done. I believe it is important to highlight from a disturbing rank position of 16, four years ago, Nigeria has sank deeper into the deep hole of terrorism and is now the 7th most-terrorised country in the world, according to the latest ranking of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). From the 16th slot in 2008, Nigeria went down to 11 in 2009; 12 in 2010; and now seven with a GTI of 7.24. According to the report, Nigeria is worse than Sudan, which is ranked 11th and Mali which is ranked 34th. The reason for this ranking is lack of intensive groundwork with stakeholders at the grassroots to reduce radicalisation, root out extremism and ensure preventive/protective terrorism. I was in Minna to speak to religious leaders on preventive terrorism and I notice a lack of information was one of the greatest hurdles which led me to write my latest book entitled “Counter Terrorism Guidance For Nigerian Religious Leaders” which is to help them understand the security challenges. We need to do more to help different sectors to understand the challenges and how to help with it, this is the only way to reduce the perception on terrorism and keep people safe from educating people on hotel security to school security management etc. We have not done enough in this area and I hope we concentrate in that area.
ASL: Is Boko Haram insurgency squarely the role for the Federal Government to address?
Definitely No! I believe the Federal Government is doing quite a lot and we need to commend Mr. President for investing money in tackling terrorism. It is my hope that Executive Governors would also do their part in managing terrorism by having a counter terrorism strategy for their respective States and ensuring that resources given to security services from the State funds are used for that purposes. If London, Toronto, New York have counter terrorism strategy then there is nothing wrong in Lagos, Abuja, Kano have separate counter terrorism strategy linked to the overall federal government strategy when they manage to create one.
ASL: Are Nigeria opposition parties helpful in preventing terrorism?
I don’t think they are helping because they are not adding to the intellectual work to stop terrorism; I have not heard of any political party commissioning an independent report to identify ways to solve the problem and calling for all party conference on counter terrorism. Instead, most of the political parties are fuelling the crisis with baseless accusation.
ASL: How can you help Nigeria in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria?
I can help in many ways, I have written any articles and commentaries which are available on Nigeria forums on the way forward. My book on how to prevent terrorist attack in place of worship will be available by end of December in bookstores around the world. I provide consultancy services to private companies on protective and preventive terrorism including bespoke services on development of family emergency plan etc. As a Nigerian, I am happy to work with the Federal Government in counter terrorism mapping and the use of my skill set for the development of my fatherland when I am called upon.