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No ISIS presence in Nigeria, says govt


Mike Omeri

Mike Omeri

Abuja – CITING misinformation, the Federal Government Wednesday said there was no evidence of the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist rebel group in any part of Nigeria.

The Coordinator, National Information Centre (NIC), Mr. Mike Omeri disclosed this while briefing journalists on the security situation in the country.

Meanwhile, security agencies have expressed deep concern over Boko Haram’s alleged link with ISIS even as the possible outcomes have created seeming vacillation in the leadership of the Nigerian military.

In the wake of the last ditch effort to curry support from other terror groups, it is believed that Boko Haram will use the alliance and declaration to recruit more radicalised converts.

Omeri added: “The Centre has noted the latest audio recording posted online by the insurgent group, Boko Haram where they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). We wish to state that there is no evidence that the IS operates in Nigeria and the latest attempt by Boko Haram to identify with the group is an act of desperation aimed at seeking attention and possible assistance from outside in the face of the crushing defeat they are suffering in the hands of the Nigerian Armed Forces and other regional collaborators.’’

Omeri stressed: “The fact of the matter is that Nigeria and her neighbours are pushing the insurgents away from their strongholds, capturing many of them and destroying several of their facilities.

“The government, therefore, wishes to assure Nigerians that this tempo will be sustained until every presence of Boko Haram insurgency is totally obliterated in Nigeria. The only nation that will exist in Nigeria is a united Federal Republic of Nigeria which demands the co-operation, commitment and patriotism of all its citizens.”

The NIC coordinator stated that latest reports from Borno State indicate that about eight people were arrested on Wednesday around Custom Area in Maiduguri, Borno State by men of the Civilian JTF.

He added: “Following the interrogation of two teenage suspected bombers who confessed that they were given the bomb by one Hassan Mai Doya of Custom Area to plant somewhere in Maiduguri metropolis, the suspects are now being interrogated by the security agents.

Speaking further, he warned of the possibility that fleeing members of the insurgent group would resort to attacking communities and other soft targets on their way.

“We continue to urge Nigerians to exercise extra vigilance especially at this period when our security forces continue to fish out members of the group who might have been embedded in the society, and whose activities have given rise to the recent bombing incidents within Maiduguri and other locations in the North east zone.

He, therefore, enjoined all Nigerians to exercise more scrutiny of persons and movements, especially within their areas of business and worship.

“Particularly, motor park and market managers all over the country must step up the level of security within their business premises, while religious authorities need to put in place more effective security cordon around places of worship to ensure the safety of the adherents.”

Continuing, he said: “In line with the avowed determination of the present administration to resettle persons and also rehabilitate communities affected by the insurgency, the government’s master plan for the North East zone received a boost with the recent visit of the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to Chibok community where the foundation stone for rehabilitation of burnt down schools was laid.

“This is in furtherance of the educational development agenda and safe schools initiative of the present administration. Equally, erstwhile Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are now returning to their homesteads to settle back into normal life following the liberation of their communities by Nigerian military troops,” he added.

Reliable sources in the security circles told The Guardian that the declaration “has definitely led to fear by the populace, which is the major motivation of terrorism and insurgency, and a good boost for jihadist propaganda”, but surmountable if the right approach is adopted.

Enumerating how the pronouncement will impact on the terrorists and the attendant consequences to Nigeria, the sub-region and Africa as a whole, the highly placed security source said besides adopting the jihadist ideology of ISIS wholesale that professes that Islam is a religion of the sword, “It will embolden the Boko Haram to toe the line of action similar to that of ISIS such as beheading of captives.’’

He said if the group in Nigeria will use the open declaration as a platform for recruiting more radicalised adherents, another implication will be that new recruits instead of travelling to Syria will just join the Boko Haram in Nigeria, where it is easier to gain access.

“The fact that the allegiance came at a time new recruits from Nigeria are said to have joined the ISIS will give the impression of growing influence of the ISIS which is likely to enhance the stature and promote the ISIS ideology of jihadist caliphate. And, consequently will enhance their ability to recruit more converts and radicalise more easily,” he noted.

While reiterating that it also means that Boko Haram will get more support from the ISIS in terms of finance, logistics and training purposes to carry out more deadly attacks on soft targets, the source said, “the implication hinges on the fact that the internationalisation of Boko Haram will give the Nigerian insurgents a symbolic and psychological boost, which is good for their propaganda.

“On the other hand, the terrorist group in Nigeria is likely going to be more ICT savvy, hence more and pervasive use of the social media to attract more sophisticated radicalised converts, ” he said.

On the dangers it portends to the continent and the growing influence if not checked, he opined, “the multiplier effect is that the Somalia Al-Shabab might follow the Boko Haram example. Recall that the Algeria – based Al Qaeda affiliate pledged allegiance to ISIS in October 2014, few days after the Algerian terrorists beheaded two French oil workers in its wake”, he added.

Though the Director of Defence Information Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade did not respond to The Guardian’s calls or text message to get the military’s reaction on the issue, it is apparent that the many problems that have trailed the battle against insurgents have inundated many other routines.

It is learnt that intelligence gathering is being sought to know the extent of involvement prior to the announcement, how much of the ISIS ideological ideas aligns with what Boko Haram stands for and how it would be stemmed to forestall a possible spread.

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