An analysis of factors that have helped Boko Haram fester and recruit must come to grips with issues of poor socio-economic environment and access to justice in Nigeria’s north-east, the United States has said.
The U.S. issued the position in a new law, S. 1632 – ‘An Act to require a regional strategy to address the threat posed by Boko Haram’ – signed into law by outgoing American President, Barack Obama, last week.
“It is the sense of the Congress that lack of economic opportunity and access to education, justice and other social services contribute to the ability of Boko Haram to radicalize and recruit individuals,” said the U.S. in the new law obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
Nigeria’s north-east is the worst among the country’s regions affected by development concerns caused by years of mismanagement and corruption.
The north-east has the highest poverty rate in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the region’s poverty rate is above the national average of 60.9 per cent.
The region consists of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe states. It has a history of chronic underdevelopment in terms of illiteracy, poverty, widespread drug abuse and joblessness.
Coming into its ninth year of active insurgency, Boko Haram has killed thousands of people, devastated infrastructure and displaced millions of people who now face acute humanitarian crisis.
According to the United Nations in September, “49,000 of the 244,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno State would die over the coming 12 months, translating to about 134 every day (if nothing is done).
“Some 65,000 people are in famine-like conditions, the worst level of food insecurity, and facing starving to death for lack of food. It is a very unique situation in the world.”
But Nigeria’s government said the UN was exaggerating the situation in the North-east.
To address the problems provoked by Boko Haram and combat the terrorism with lasting measures, Nigeria’s government and the country’s neighbours must “accept and address the legitimate grievances of vulnerable populations affected by Boko Haram,” said the U.S., in evolving strategies to help Nigeria combat the terrorist group through the new law.
According to the law, the counter-terrorism strategy must follow “a means for assisting Nigeria, and as appropriate, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to combat Boko Haram, to counter violent extremism, including efforts to address the underlying factors shown to contribute to the ability of Boko Haram to radicalize and recruit individuals.”
The law also provides for plans to enhance the capacity of Nigeria’s MNJTF partner nations to investigate and prosecute human right abuses by security forces; promote respect for the rule of law within the military; and prevent corruption.
Former military and security chiefs, including former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, are under investigation and prosecution for allegedly misappropriating funds meant to purchase arms and cater for welfare of soldiers deployed to combat Boko Haram. And there have been accusations of rights violations – though denied – made against Nigeria’s military.
The U.S. law also provides that the American government should, “pursuant to existing authorities and restrictions”, help enhance the military capacity of Nigeria and partner nations, including Chad, Niger and Cameroon, to combat Boko Haram.
It also provides that Nigeria should be helped in terms of “long-term capacity to enhance security for schools such that children are safer and girls seeking education are protected, and to combat gender-based violence and inequality.”
The strategies, the law provides, should form elements of a five-year plan to be submitted to U.S. Congress within 180 days by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.
Then, the Director of the US National Intelligence should assess “the willingness and capacity” of Nigeria and regional partners to implement the plan and submit a report on the assessment to Congress, the law further provides.
Specifically, the law seeks assessment of Nigeria’s readiness to address socio-economic factors that help Boko Haram fester and “legitimate grievances” of populations affected by the group.
Although the law provides that the U.S. should militarily assist Nigeria and her regional partners, there is no specific provision to sell arms to Nigeria.