The spate and scale of terrorism can be overwhelming. Even global superpowers find it particularly challenging to contend with alone. The intricate global network underlying terrorist activities also requires that countries collaborate to deal with it. As the number three country after Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2020 global terrorism index, Nigeria cannot contend with the ferocity of terrorist activities that are beaming in its territory alone. It needs access to several international support in the war. However, notwithstanding all the financial, technical, and other forms of global support received since 2009 when Boko Haram manifested, Nigeria has yet to defeat the insurgents successfully. Understandably, the nature, pattern, trends, and dimensions of terrorist operations have widely changed with more vicious sophistication. Many believe that Nigeria has received enough support and has committed substantial resources that would have dealt a final blow to these extremists.
Many have accused those responsible for managing the crisis as doing extraordinarily little to win the war. Some others have openly called for the resignation and sack of the army chiefs. Regardless of the many excuses and counteraccusations on both sides, understanding the depth or otherwise of international support in this battle may help design future counter engagement plans. For instance, it would be good to know how many countries collaborating with Nigeria in the fight and the terms and areas of support; technical or financial. Determine how many more countries we can enlist their help. It will also help determine the nature, patterns and concentrations of support and the overlooked areas of need. Again, identifying the constraints to attracting further assistance from other countries and how the Nigerian authorities have utilized the support given are also reasonable concerns. Unfortunately, we cannot clarify all those puzzles on this page.
At least five recognized international stakeholder groups potentially provide support to Nigeria in its fight against terrorism. The multilateral level of cooperation is most apparent. Support at this level comes from regional development blocks, and member nations’ clubs focused on eliminating terrorism that Nigeria is a signatory. There are also many United Nations-supported agencies that play significant roles in this respect. The second stakeholder category comprises bilateral arrangements. There are several countries that Nigeria is cooperating with at this level, but the United States appears to be the most visible partner. Thirdly, international NGOs lead the pack in terms of reportage of terrorism activities and human rights violations. They seem to be most manifest in presenting believable information regarding the actual situations. In addition to the reportage, is the provision of humanitarian disaster management assistance, on the economic and social damages that accompany these horrendous terrorist operations. Organizations such as the Amnesty International, the Catholic Relief Services, and a few others are vanguards in providing this support level. Many international corporate organizations provide support subterraneanly. Many of them prefer to be anonymous regarding their roles in managing the crisis.
Cooperation in enhancing the counterterrorism capacity of a country is usually in five different areas namely [a] training of the on-ground actors and military personnel in such areas as military combat, legislation and law enforcement, the enhancement of criminal justice capacity, border security, tracking and blockage of terrorism financing, the promotion of interagency collaboration on counterterrorism matters, respect for human rights and so on. [b] promoting country membership of international counterterrorism organizations opening the channels for technical, financial, legal, and other possible support. [c] joint efforts in border security and combat where necessary. [d] countering the financing of terrorism using the international network of financial institutions and systems. And [e] sharing and collaborating in the use and deployment of advanced technological intelligence in terrorism detection and neutralization.
At the multilateral level, the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC] stand out. In the past decade, the UNODC has provided varieties of support to relevant ministries and agencies on the nineteen universal legal instruments against terrorism and critical United Nations Security Council resolutions. The UNODC website states that it “works closely with the Nigerian government to strengthen the rule of law-based criminal justice responses to terrorism”. For instance, it launched a three-phase counterterrorism program that commenced in 2015. Between 2015 and 2018, they executed the first two phases funded by the European Union. The UNODC also launched the first three projects to support criminal justice responses to terrorism and violent extremism in 2018. The aim was to keep Nigeria in its counterterrorism agenda through human rights compliant criminal justice measures. A variant of the program with the United Nations counterterrorism Centre also took place in 2019. The focus was still on enhancing Nigeria’s knowledge, understanding and implementation of the international human rights framework.
Similarly, in late 2014 and early 2015, Nigeria also teamed up with Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and the Niger Republic under the multinational joint task force (MNJTF) to strengthen and launch its counterterrorism operations. All countries within the multinational joint task force are equally affected by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA religion-based terrorism. Approximately 8,000 troops were committed to the joint command at its inception. This regional collaboration for security has suffered from several strategic and operational inadequacies. Of primary concern is the unwillingness and inability of participating countries to substantially allow the coalition to command the counterterrorism operations independently. That partially explains its weak command structure relative to similar multilateral forces around the world. There are also issues of funding by participating countries as well as delays in logistics procurement.
Further to the terrorism prevention act of 2011 and 2013, Nigeria’s Attorney General agreed to cooperate with international institutions to prevent international acts of terrorism. This action is also consistent with the requirements of Nigeria’s membership of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The United States and Nigeria co-chaired a virtual meeting against the threat of ISIS in West Africa by the eighty-three-member global coalition in November 2020. The international alliance resolved that Nigeria and the United States of America will lead the counterterrorism efforts against ISIS, particularly in West Africa. Nigeria also joined Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Military Alliance in March 2016. The alliance is a counterterrorism coalition comprising 39 Muslim countries. IMAFT’s membership includes Arab and Muslim states in the continents of Asia and Africa. Nigeria no doubt stands to benefit from the considerable military capabilities and experiences of these countries.
The United States–Nigerian cooperation on encounter terrorism operations appears to be the frontline bilateral support received. In the last four years, the United States has contributed to approximately $110 million in counterterrorism assistance at the Lake Chad basin and the G5 Sahel. Since 2013 and beginning with the Nigerian government hosted a regional security working group of the US – Nigeria binational commission, the United States has actively supported Nigeria’s counterterrorism programs. Consequently, Nigeria has participated in several counterterrorism capacity building programs funded by the United States Department. Much of the capacity-building efforts organized for the Nigerian terrorism fighting agencies in the rule of law and human rights were essential to make Nigeria eligible for more assistance from the United States. Under the Leahy Amendment, the government blocked several United States aid to Nigerian military units because of Nigeria’s reported human rights abuses. The notable improvements in this area resulted in the August 2017 United States approval of approximately $600 million for the sale of high-tech apartments in Nigeria for strengthening its counterterrorism efforts.
Aside from the United States, in August of 2018, the United Kingdom committed to providing the Nigerian military with capacity building and equipment for counterinsurgency programs. Other three critical areas of support include the United States $16 million for supporting the education of children affected by conflicts, assistance in the provision of terrorism response program, and the promotion of counter-narratives that would help hinder Boko Haram’s recruitment efforts.
Although Nigeria is a member of several coalitions against terrorism, and benefits from the group assistance and support, there is sufficient evidence to show that Nigeria desperately needs massive international help. For over a decade, and with all the support garnered so far, Nigeria is still far from defeating Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa which have continued to massacre hundreds of thousands of countrymen and women. It is not even clear whether the Nigerian military has degraded the capabilities of these terrorist groups substantially. It is also slightly difficult to determine the size of additional international support that the country requires. Much of the finances for the execution of the counterterrorism operations are shrouded in secrecy. Such profoundly opaque financial management undoubtedly explains the alleged diversions of funds by senior military officers into personal pockets. The justified fear of financial and other support mismanagement is one of the obstacles to attracting additional assistance from several different countries. There are other factors, though. The many and continuous allegations of human rights abuses of the Nigerian military continues to constrain the country’s access to several global assistance windows. International NGOs in the country have continuously reported grave violations of citizens’ fundamental human rights by executing counterinsurgency and terrorism programs. The Obama administration in the United States rejected several requests for the Nigerian government’s purchase of warplanes solely because of this factor. But beyond hardware support, massive assistance is required in countering the narratives that are hitherto encouraged the easy recruitment of members of terrorist groups. Sustained counter campaigns against the wrong ideological premise that has fuelled Boko Haram’s acceptance by many unemployed youths in northern Nigeria demands urgency.