ENUGU—Tension is brewing in Owa community in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State where a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Aniako Celestine, priest in charge of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Ukana, Udi Local Government Area was kidnapped by suspected Fulani herdsmen Saturday evening on his way from his home town, Ezeagu.
Saudi Arabia announced that it was forming a new “Islamic military alliance" devoted to fighting global terrorism. The plan stemmed from the "keenness of the Muslim world to fight this disease, which affected the Islamic world first, before the international community as a whole," Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman told reporters during a rare news conference.
In many ways, this alliance seems designed to calm Western critics who have frequently complained that the Muslim world isn't doing enough to combat terrorism and extremism. However, the details of the planned alliance are more than a little unclear and have left some scratching their heads, unsure who exactly is in the alliance and what it is actually designed to do.
Elders drawn from the three major tribes in Benue state have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare Fulani herdsmen’s invasion of the state as well as the gruesome massacre of villagers by the armed herders as act of insurgency and label the perpetrators as terrorists to be routed by the military.
They made this call in a communiqué issued at the end of a unity meeting held in Makurdi and attended by the leaders of Tiv, Idoma and Igede.
AFRICA, HEADLINES BY NEWSRESCUE MARCH 25, 2016
A video of retirement by Daesh Nigeria affiliate, Boko Haram’s notorious leader has raised many questions. In March of 2015 Boko Haram leader, its Shekau swore the Bay’ah oath of allegiance to the ISIS or better put, Daesh, the Iraq-centred global terror network.
Swearing a Bay’ah-oath in Islam is hefty, it’s not a joke. The word comes from “sell” or “transaction.” By pledging you have sold yourself to that Imam, guide or spiritual leader.
The swearing of allegiance to Daesh by Boko Haram’s Shekau split ranks in the terror organisation with a new faction leader, Muhammad Daud veering off in open rejection.
The implication of the oath was simple: from then on, Shekau acted on orders from above and was no longer in command of his network. He was now a worker for Iraq’s Abu Baghdadi.
While the losses Boko Haram has faced in recent months are important, the Thursday video of Shekau’s retirement with an ISIS flag prominently behind him, spread shocks through the world.
It will be the first time in history, perhaps, that a group leader will retire openly and in public announcement while not under duress (with no gun to his head). David Otto, CEO of UK-based global security provider TGS Intelligence Consultants, told IBTimes UK, “The goal and ideology of groups like Iswap or Isil [the Islamic State] is beyond one man and definitely beyond Shakau.”
Most terror or other rebellion leaders hide for as long as they can and never surrender. The United States took over Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden never surrendered or quit his mission. In Nigeria and larger West and Central Africa, and then most juicy north Africa with Daesh’s luxury second command capital based comfortably in Libya, there are simply too many places to hide and live large without a need to retire.
Terror is not a particular mission that requires its leaders quitting until or unless their mission is accomplished.
Unhappy Shekau And A Mission Accomplished/Being Accomplished?
While inexperienced analysts interpreted Shekau’s depressed body language and tone in the video as his being sick, our analysts saw something totally different.
Boko Haram’s Shekau was sad and not sick. He, known for his maniacal narcism was depressed and frustrated beyond his limits that he was forced to make such a pathetic recorded retirement speech. Aminu Abubakar writing for AFP used the words, “dejected.”
There were certain words of note: “I got your message and so I am making this public statement,” Shekau said, “I am telling the world my/the end has come.”
It was clear: Shekau had been ordered to retire and he did so.
Again, the peculiarity of such order is hard to reconcile. It is more suspicious that the commander of Daesh’s wing in Nigeria would be instructed by a far off command centre to retire. If at all Shekau was facing pressures, what pressure was Abu Baghdadi facing to not sacrifice his last men in Nigeria or tell them to quietly hide, but rather he tells his able captain in West Africa to shamefully make a public surrender which would de-motivate and retire all other men under him?
A Dream Come True
There are two possible reasons why Shekau was ordered by Daesh in Iraq to retire:
1. The first possibility is that Muhammad Daud, Barnawi or some other faction head had taken over. But this reason still does not satisfy the conditions and implications of a public Shekau retirement speech. A retirement speech is not personal but organizational. It affects the entire group. By retiring publicly, Shekau was destroying the fabric of whatever was left of the terror network that whoever was to take over was going to inherit. Power exchanges are private affairs and not done by retiring the whole group.
2. The second and more plausible explanation of Abubakar, Boko Haram’s Shekau’s public retirement is that the mission was accomplished in Nigeria. This is the more favoured explanation according to most of our analysts and security experts consulted.
The question was: why would Abu Bakr Baghdadi decide the need to cancel his mission in Nigeria? This would mean Nigeria no longer needed a mission. The follow-up question is: to whose benefit is such a public retirement speech? The only answer to that is the current Nigerian leadership. It seemed to positively advertise and speak tremendously well of the success of Nigeria’s campaign against the terrorists and not surprisingly, Nigeria quickly discredited the statements.
Analysts suggest that it is possible that when Abu Bakr Baghdadi saw the way the Nigerian government smashed Shia Muslims in Nigeria he was so impressed that he decided a terror mission will only disturb a government working in tandem with it (ISIS).
As many as 1000 Shia Muslims were massacred or otherwise rendered missing in a robust, described as extra-judicious “honour killing” military action against them in Nigeria’s northern city of Zaria last December.
The world renowned leader of Shia millions in West Africa (at least 10 million in Nigeria alone) and the Islamic movement in Nigeria was shot six times, his wife was also shot severally, three of his sons were killed in front of his eyes; his home was demolished and burned to the ground with everyone in it as well as all other of the movement buildings. Shia graves were even exhumed. He and his wife were beaten severely before being incarcerated and have both since been detained incommunicado by the Nigerian government. This would be a dream come true for ISIS; known to be an operation against Shia Muslims more than anything else.
Why would Daesh want to continue financing Boko Haram to pester a Nigerian administration that achieves the same objectives but ever so much better than Daesh, Boko Haram and other anti-Shia terror organisations have ever been able to? It would be counter-intuitive.
Nigeria’s alliance with the so-called Saudi-led anti terror coalition further impressed ISIS. It is recalled that Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Washington and a very prominent Prince and the Kingdom’s Intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush confided with the MI6 head with the following remarks of note as presented by the Independent:
Prince Bandar Bin Sultan had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.
In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.
There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.
The Boko Haram Bomb Attack Of A Shia Procession Two-Weeks Before The Military Massacre
Two weeks before the Nigerian military cracked down on the Nigerian Islamic Shia-
predominant movement in the December massacre, Boko Haram had just bombed a procession of the same predominant movement, killing 26 of its members in the very same Kaduna.
Boko Haram killed 26 in a bombing of a Shia procession in kaduna on November 26th 2015
The movement leader, now in detention or perhaps killed, had to his peril perhaps, exonerated Boko Haram, accusing members of Nigeria’s security offices and foreign agents as being behind the bomb attacks on the minority Muslims (12% of Nigeria’s Muslim population). It would be his last public statement.
Abubakar Shekau has been told to retire. That’s the good news.
The leader of TEKAN/ECWA Bloc of CAN, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Dziggau, was today (Monday 21st March) kidnapped by unknown persons in Kaduna state.
It is believed that the kidnap is not unconnected with subterranean moves being made by some forces in the country to influence the election of the next President of Christian Association of Nigeria. The incumbent President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, is expected to leave office in July 2016.
Rev. Dr. Dziggau, according to people close to him, has consistently resisted pressures to support undue interference in the election process to produce the next President of CAN, a stand which has drawn the anger of some influential Christians in government. He has been heard to express his neutrality openly.
Please pray for the safety and release of Rev. Dr. Dzzigau. The Church is facing perilous times.
People think Islamism is the Conquest of Istanbul and turning old Catholic churches to Mosques. People think it is ISIS beheading Christians. That is the most extreme. Like viruses and bacteria, attacks like that on a host hardly makes for epidemic. NO. For epidemic, the virus and or bacteria must have an incubation period where it would ensure it is able to multiply and multiply without the host showing symptoms. It is when it has gotten a desired load that it begin to take out tissues and metastasize.
Speaking of metastasis, Obasanjo assured us "Sharia will die a natural death". Today all core Northern states practice Sharia. ALL. So the many 'mumu' elders I read then who said "it is unconstitutional. It will die. America will oppose it. Nigerians are too enlightened to allow Sharia. We have the Penal Code that the North uses. The literate ones will not allow the primitive Sharia be the operative law". Today ALL core Northern states and a few more practice Sharia law.
What it is yet to do is full implementation. Like the Human immune virus, it is waiting to take out the thymus gland before it swings fully into action, after all it is the law. Actions like death to whomever converts from Islam to Christianity, death to those who proselytize. Death to a woman is pregnant without marriage etc etc. Yes death to Christian preachers who try to convert any muslim.
Now the real 'mumus' are still saying "no one can force anyone to be a Muslim". They think that is Islamization. That is not what it is. In IRAN, IRAQ, EGYPT,etc there are Christians. Until ISIS, the conversions Paul made in Damascus remained Christians, yet Iran had Ayatollah Khomeini as leader and introduced the harshest Shiite School of Islam.
1. Enshrining the Sharia law and making sure it affects all including Christians and Ogun worshippers who cannot no buy alcohol to serve Ogun as Sharia bans alcohol. It is the inability of a pig farmer to grow his pig and sell to those who want to buy pig meat because of Sharia law that ought not affect them.
2. It is the placement of mostly Muslims in very strategic positions to affect policy. Iran and Iraq have a few Christian ministers every now and then. However, Islamization is slowly ensuring more and more Muslims take over these positions.
3. Islamism is ensuring that people know that to align with Islam is the only way to wealth and success. It is rewarding people of other religions who become loyal and fight their people so as to ensure Muslims stay boss. The Afonjas of Ilorin then and the Rochas and Amaechis of now will fit this description.
4. Islamism is the use of the python hold on the diaphram of other religions. That is, ensuring other religions are choked so at the least, they do not proliferate or grow. The python wraps around a prey's diaphram (chest) and once the creature breathes out, it ensures there is no space to breathe air in and so slowly the prey dies. El Rufai's law on preaching with license is the clearest modern day example. But note, this has been a law in existence but not activated. So when a church building is demolished here, or burnt there, there is no giving of C of O to rebuild except it is a major church in an urban area. All the smaller churches in the hinterlands are demolished, burnt etc etc, so like the python does, the church is unable to get oxygen for cellular respiration and slowly the outer limbs begin to die of as all its energy is reserved for the head and vital organs ... which too will die after a much longer strangle-hold.
Including the years of Goodluck Jonathan (even though mightily reduced) churches that have been burnt or closed in the North are over 3 thousand. In Kaduna, many are being demolished including big brand names like Winners, Redeemed etc. Of course a Mosque or two is thrown in so the idiotic Christians - the one demons possess and use as insiders can say "do they have C of O? Is it original? They built on animal reserve area. They built on GRA (Government Reserved Area). They built on drainage etc. How the government of 20 years ago gave out C of O's for drainage area and it is only now El Rufai is seeing it is drainage or grass reserve is no cause of worry to them. So like the python, it squeezes away at growth, at giving out literature including free tracts, something no democratic government has ever banned in the whole world ... FREE TRACTS. It matters not what is in it in a democracy, whether religious information or political meeting invites... the tract/bill/handouts is the major means of communication and reaching out. El Rufai says you need a license. All the Christian lawyer activists who were so vociferous under Goodluck Jonathan are suddenly under the unction of the devil and see nothing wrong with a man ordering that fundamental right of freedom of expression and expression and practice of religion needs a license. The Python takes one of the sheep and the other sheep look on.
In looking on, that is how cancer or virus metastasize, which simply means move to another location, aka spread. As Sharia metastasized from Zamfara to every part of the North which culminated in INNOCENT BOTTLES OF BEER BEING DESTROYED IN KANO by Kwankwaso, so will El Rufai laws including: "No microphone in church after 8 pm" while his Muezzin (those beautiful voiced rhythmic crooners that scream "Allah ohh Akbar ohhhh Aaahhh Allah ohhh Akbar" and wake you up from your beautiful sleep at 4 a.m or 5 a.m." ) can disturb sleep but not the church. That is how it will go round and round.
5. Islamism is the ability to kill others without consequence. Agatu is just a little example in one that has been on and on. Now note that Islamism has been on, Whether GEJ or OBJ is ruler. At best, especially with GEJ, one can reduce policies that promote it. One can elevate Christian pilgrimage, balance appointment between Muslims and Christians, ensure Christians too have access to factors of wealth creation including oil contracts, MOU's,Fuel importation, support for SME's and businesses, ensuring they find dollars to trade and innovative ideas like Innoson are able to breathe. However, like a behemoth, like a juganaut, Islamism continues to be the strongest force. Even OBJ could not stop Sharia. GEJ battled Boko Haram and Fulani massacres through out. Today Buhari is acting like nothing happened in Agatu. One dead in Rivers state is an issue. But 300 killed and buried so as to be manure for grass of cattle does not get a mention.
6. Islamism is when a president tells you they do not mind a 'Muslim-Muslim' ticket in a constitution that is mindful of balance.
I will pause here for now having told you that Islamism is not forcing a Qoran in your hand. NO. Islamism is the slow but steady approach of Muslim way of life affecting yours and spreading while conscious efforts are being made to shackle other religions and to avoid its spread. Islamism is positioning mostly muslim in positions that can affect policies.
The attention of members of Oganiru Ndigbo Foundation aka Igboville, has been drawn to the continuing targeting and killing of Ndi-igbo and other Nigerians in our communities by armed Fulani Herdsmen. Our members drawn from the 5 South East states, Delta State, Rivers State and minorities of Benue state wish to express our deep discomfort and anger at the persisting acts of terror unleashed on our people and others by this new terror group loosely called "Fulani herdsmen".
For some time now, armed Fulani cattle rearers have been in the news because of their tendency to unleash terror on communities where they carry out their unauthorized cattle breeding. Chief amongst the area where they have committed abominable acts are Benue State, Enugu State and other parts of Southern Nigeria. Recently, these herdsmen killed and maimed over 80 people at Uzo-uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State and gory pictures of these dastardly acts which we have investigated and found to be real have flooded the Internet. The Uzo-uwani incident came on the heels of the Agatu Benue State massacre, carried out by these herdsmen. More than 300 lives were lost at Agatu village and acres of farmlands were destroyed by the marauding armed terrorists. Just yesterday, another attack was launched in Benue state by the herdsmen with more than 10 lives confirmed lost.
The Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government's response to the danger posed by this group is at best tepid, if not out rightly condoning. Since the escalation of these killings we have not read of arrests by the security forces or compensation for the victims. There has not been any concerted attempt to disarm these terrorists and their sponsors. The attitude of the government appears defined by the recent half-hearted pronouncement by the Minister of Agriculture to the effect that the Federal Government will import breeding grasses from Brazil as well as establish ranches all of the country for the herdsmen. We are totally against carving out portions of our land as "safe havens" for those recently described by the Inspector General of Police as "foreigners from neighboring countries". We view the "grazing land" proposal as a veiled attempt to take over our land and plant violent terrorists to execute an age old jihadist plot of "dipping the Koran in the Atlantic Ocean" as espoused by Ahmadu Bello.
It is important to note that the insurgency in the northeast spearheaded by Islamic terrorists has been partly about forceful conversion of Christians living in those areas to Islam. Chibok girls abduction is still unresolved and Boko Haram spokesman recently claimed all the girls have been (forcefully) converted to Islam by their abductors and married off. We are also aware of the recent spate of abduction of minors from the south and their forced conversion to Islam and marriage without the consent or approval of their parents.Added to the above is the recent revelation from the Nigerian Senate to the effect that fleeing Boko Haram fighters have transmuted to "Fulani herdsmen" and were responsible for the blood chilling Agatu massacres in Benue State. We view the treatment of the marauding terrorists by the federal government as nothing short of criminal negligence and the planned allocation of grazing fields in the South as compensation to the terrorists. Coming at a period when unarmed IPOB members were shot and killed by security agents while they were praying within a school compound, the cuddly treatment of the murderous herdsmen by the Federal Government smirks of compensation for mass murder of innocent citizens including women and children. It will also be difficult not to suspect collusion between the murderous herdsmen and people in government to promote a sinister agenda. We hereby call on all south east governments and others affected by the terrorist activities of the herdsmen to immediately enact laws through their state legislature to outlaw the negative activities of these merchants of death and sorrow. Such action is in line with our federal constitution and we cannot see why the concerned states should not take necessary legal measures in fulfilment of their sworn obligation to protect lives and properties of the citizens of their states. It is sad to note that the President, whom the opposition parties, during the 2015 election campaigns, accused of being a sectional leader seems to be working "very hard" to prove them right.
To date we have not seen any attempt by the Federal government to disarm the herdsmen or bring them and their sponsors to justice. Are the herdsmen and owners of the cattle above the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? It is obvious that the herdsmen were armed with sophisticated assault weapons such as AK47 riffles by the privileged owners of the cattle they rear. The same owners appear to be using their leverage with our security establishment to deploy our security forces to aid the herdsmen when they are challenged by vigilant citizens of the communities they invade. We have a list of major cattle breeders in Nigeria and will willingly offer same to security agents if they claim not to know.
The international community should urgently intervene to compel the Nigerian government to check the murderous activities of the Fulani herdsmen before it leads to large scale breakdown of law and order in the affected communities. While we wait for the necessary response from the authorities, we call on all Igbo communities to organize themselves and take all necessary measures to protect their people and farmlands. Further massacre of our people by the herdsmen and their collaborators must be decisively responded to until the Federal Government wakes up to her responsibility of protecting lives and properties of all Nigerians.
Signed on behalf of the members of Igboville/Oganiru Ndigbo Foundation:
Barr Emeka Maduewesi (USA)
Barr Ifeyinwa China Onyeabor (SA)
Mr Marleek Onyekaba (USA)
Mr Eche Chidume (Ireland)
Dr Benjamin Udodigbo (Nigeria)
Dr Innocent Uzuh (Nigeria)
Mr Paul Kalu (Nigeria)
Mrs Nelda Okafor (Nigeria)
Ms Lilian Ngozi (Nigeria)
Mr Jude Duke Anago (UK)
Barr Eresi Grace Oko (Ireland)
I’m posting the final report from a dear friend who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Benue State, following the recent Fulani massacre. This is not the first time atrocities will be committed by Fulani militants, but hopefully, the last.
1. Our convoy doubled to 10 cars plus soldiers, police and bikers. We had two-three minute stops. At one, I ventured ahead of the security perimeter and discovered our first decomposing body. A first even for me. I usually count tombstones.
2. Our convoy ran into the Fulani herdsmen and droves of cattle on multiple occasions. Sometimes we stopped to let them cross not knowing if it was an ambush. They were right outside our windows. No one wanted to engage because the outcome was unpredictable. I have never seen free range killers walking free before.
However our security escort did engage when they saw several armed Fulanis on a bike trying to flee. They abandoned one man who was injured and he was taken into our custody. Our captured killer didn’t survive the rough terrain drive.
3. In the only village where we saw human survivors, we were told these people had just been attacked and were alerted we were coming so they bolted and ran into us.
(Fulani militants claim local residents killed 10,000 of their cattle).
It is simply inconceivable and logistically improbable to kill 10,000 cows without a major military operation utilizing rocked propelled grenades, attack helicopters etc. such a mass slaughter would take weeks and the skeletal remains of the cows would completely dot the landscape of Agatu and the stench would permeate the air.
What I saw in Agatu:
1. Dead human bodies still on the ground and in homes – decomposed.
2. Cows roaming through empty villages and in one case walking up to a dead human body. We left before the sacrilege of them desecrating the poor dead boy.
3. Thousands and thousands of cattle grazing on people’s farms – well over 10,000 live cattle. Several times we had to stop our cars to let the cattle pass. I have never seen that many cattle in my entire life.
4. Burnt crops farmers had harvested and set aside for replanting. They were in charred heaps on the farms.
5. Fulani herdsmen accompanying the cattle. Some ran when they saw us but some just continued as if we didn’t exist.
6. Grains of farmers, peppers etc scattered on the ground in the towns and also along the way between the villages. The likely belonged to people on their way back from farms or markets or people fleeing with some food who were ambushed as they ran.
7. Motor bikes and bicycles destroyed in the villages and on the road side in between. Again it appears people who were fleeing on bikes were ambushed as well.
8. Rows and rows of houses destroyed in at least 8 villages visited. It was complete and utter destruction.
9. Freshly lit fires still burning in a couple of villages indicating the arsonist had just left. We saw jerrycans along the way indicating fuel may have been utilized to fuel the fires.
10. Only in one out of 8 towns did we see any live humans – about 4 men.
What we didn’t see in Agatu this week:
1. Not a single dead cow
2. Not a single soldier or policeman in the affected communities.
3. Not a single burnt mosque where everything else was razed.
4. Not a single living Agatu person in 7 out of 8 villages.
Conclusion: even if it were true that cattle were killed by the Agatu (there was no supporting evidence of this) the farms, homes and people of Agatu were massacred as well-evidenced by our team.
1.If the claimed casualties of the Fulani are cows and the claimed casualties of the Agatu are humans, then this could not be rightly called an Ethnic conflict.
Cows are not people or an ethnic group.
2. If the loss claimed by the Fulani is livestock i.e. animals, this would be a criminal case of theft or destruction of property and not the basis for a massacre.
3. The Fulani are not indigenes of Benue and are not an ethnic group in Benue state. Their incursion from outside into Benue is more an invasion than an ethnic clash.
Finally, the statement attributed to the Fulani is an admission of guilt and a defense of provocation. The authorities should act accordingly and take the confessed perpetrators into custody for immediate prosecution.
Finally, I recall the State governor telling us the Fulani attacks are worse than Boko Haram – “BH occupies a town, kills some people and recruits some. The Fulanis destroy everything.”
This seems not to be an exaggeration. Last year, the Catholic Church reported 70 churches destroyed. This is happening in my home state – the most Christian State in Northern Nigeria!”
– Victor Oladokun
On 15 December, Saudi Arabia made a surprising announcement as it unveiled to the world what it said will be a 34-state “Islamic military alliance” to combat terrorism “all over the Islamic world”.
This ambitious initiative, said Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, “emanates from the keenness of the Muslim world to fight this disease, which has harmed the Islamic world’s standing in the international community”.
Little is known about how exactly this alliance will operate, but according official statements it seems there will be a military component which includes intelligence sharing, a messaging component to combat ideology, and a sanctions component focused on “stopping the flow of funds” to terror groups.
As for the countries involved, there are notable absentees such as Iran, Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, those said to be part of the alliance are drawn from across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It remains to be seen which countries will formally join the Saudi-led coalition, but one of those considering membership is Nigeria.
On 17 December, Presidential Spokesman Garba Shehu said that “Nigeria has been formally invited to be a member of the alliance”, but that the “decision to join has not been taken yet”.
If Nigeria were to join, it would signify a major step-change in relations with Saudi Arabia. Islam and membership of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have traditionally anchored the two country’s relationship. But adding security cooperation to that relationship could have real potential.
Boko Haram clearly has a transnational dimension – it is increasingly engaging in cross border attacks and has links to other Islamist militant groups beyond West Africa – and an international security platform for intelligence cooperation could be hugely useful to Nigerian security forces. Additionally, further support from the alliance in the form of funding or training could also significantly enhance counterterrorism efforts.
However, there are also potential perils from membership that the Nigerian government should consider seriously as it ponders the Saudi invitation.
What’s in a name?
The first possible danger comes from the name of the group – the Islamic Military Alliance – and how this could play in Nigeria’s fraught domestic scene.
Soon after news broke of Nigeria’s supposed membership of the Saudi-led initiative, the Christian Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body for the country’s Christian groups,registered its protest, saying membership harms “Nigeria’s pluralistic character [and] portends great danger to national unity and integration”.
Should President Muhammadu Buhari sign-off on Nigeria joining, informing the public early, being transparent about how the decision was reached, clearly articulating the advantages for Nigeria, and securing broad elite consensus will be essential to avoid the anti-terror alliance becoming a polarising factor in the country’s interreligious relations.
The intense controversy that trailed Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1986 offers salutary lessons.
When “out of the blue” news broke in January 1986 that Nigeria had “secretly” become a member of the OIC the previous month, it sparked a political crisis. The non-transparent attainment of OIC membership exacerbated what in any case would have been a contentious issue, and the controversy it sparked effectively paralysed Nigeria’s participation in the organisation.
“In order to satisfy Muslims, [Nigeria] has not officially withdrawn its membership”, saidhistorian Toyin Falola, “and in order to satisfy Christians, it has refused to play an active role in the OIC”.
If Nigeria joins the Islamic Military Alliance, it will have to be careful as to how it presents this move to the public.
Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical motives
The second problem derives from Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical motives and regional ambitions.
Most responses to the new anti-terror alliance have expressed scepticism as to the real reasons behind the initiative. The exclusion of Iran in particular – a country with which Saudi Arabia is locked in an intense struggle for supremacy in the region – is seen by many as being indicative of Riyadh’s desire to galvanise the Sunni world against its rival.
Nigeria’s membership of the anti-terror alliance could entail, if not explicit support, then at least implicit endorsement of Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical objectives – objectives that are much broader than simply countering terrorism.
The sectarian undertones of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry could also have domestic repercussions for Nigeria given the unresolved tensions between the Nigerian state and its own restive Shia minority.
Linked to the question of Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical motives is a third problem: which militant groups will command the alliance’s focus?
Saudi Arabia says the new alliance will confront “any terrorist organisation that appears in front of us”. But it is clear that the alliance’s heavyweights will have different perceptions of who the main threats are.
For Turkey, for example, the role of Kurdish separatists looms large in its concerns. Ankara’s attention is focused on unseating Syria’s President Assad and preventing its nightmare scenario of an independent Kurdistan emerging amidst Syria’s wreckage. Defeating Islamic State comes an important but distant third in its list of priorities.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s view of what constitutes terrorism – as enshrined in its 2013 anti-terror law – is so broad as to practically include “any act of protest or criticism” against the monarchy. The law was recently used to execute a prominent Shia cleric and critic of the Saudi monarchy, further inflaming regional tensions and leading to thesevering of diplomatic ties with Iran.
A truism in international relations is that the heavyweights in any alliance generally define its objectives. The danger for Nigeria in joining Saudi Arabia’s initiative therefore is that it may find itself having to stand by the controversial, and sometimes reckless, policies of its powerful friends in the name of solidarity.
The fourth problem for Nigeria’s possible membership of the alliance is the absence of Algeria.
If one were to map the landscape of Nigeria’s security threats, a picture would emerge of three separate geographical levels of concern: stability in the Lake Chad region, where Boko Haram is concentrated, would constitute ‘vital’ interests; the broader Sahel, which potentially offers Boko Haram strategic depth and connects Nigeria to the chaos in Libya, would be of ‘strategic’ interest; and stability in the Levant, where the so-called Islamic State is based, and beyond would come under ‘peripheral’ interests.
This perspective illuminates Algeria’s importance to Nigeria’s priorities. Stability in the Sahel is crucial for Nigerian security, and Algeria is the regional power in that neighbourhood. Despite its reticence about using military force – its constitution explicitly forbids external military adventures – Algeria’s potential as a stabilising power is undeniable.
The Sahel is both a barrier and a highway straddling Nigeria and Libya, the latter of which is arguably home to Islamic State’s most important outpost. And Nigeria’s limited capability to project its power means close cooperation with Algeria is essential if the region is to push back against the further spread of IS.
Since March 2013, intelligence chiefs from eleven countries across the region – including Nigeria and Algeria – have met every two months, with foreign ministers meeting every three, as part of the Nouakchott Process to discuss Sahelian security. Diplomatic energy may well be better spent improving the performance this multilateral initiative, where matters affecting Nigeria’s direct strategic interests are concerned, than in the broader Saudi-led alliance.
In assessing whether to stay in or out of the Islamic Military Alliance, Nigeria should be careful to weigh the clear potential advantages against these equally formidable perils.
Muktar Usman-Janguza is a geopolitical and security analyst.