Security experts have warned that Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb as the African Union alerted recently that over 6,000 Africans who fought for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq could soon be returning to the continent.
According to the experts, the returning fighters pose a major security threat to the country, as they are likely to join forces with Boko Haram, an affiliate of ISIS.
The analysts warned that if the Federal Government failed to quickly install security measures to counter the potential threat, insurgency could increase in the country.
Notifying the continent of the intelligence report recently, AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, said member countries needed to work closely with one another and share information to counter the returning militants.
“There are reports of 6,000 African fighters among the 30,000 foreign elements who joined this terrorist group (ISIS) in the Middle East,” Chergui had said in Algiers, Algeria, during a meeting.
“The return of these elements to Africa poses a serious threat to our national security and stability and requires specific treatment and intense cooperation between African countries.”
As fears mount on the migration of the fighters, who could be bringing their extremist ideology and violence with them, a security expert, Mr. John Enweliku, said the development called for “great” worry.
He also called on the Federal Government to quickly deploy troops in the borders so as to ensure the safety of Nigerians.
He said, “Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb with this development. Boko Haram alone has caused lots of trouble and we have yet to fully overcome them. Should the returning fighters join the sect, there would be more trouble.
“It calls for great worry because of the problem we’re already facing with Boko Haram. The returning fighters would likely join Boko Haram. All the security agencies, as well as the AU and ECOWAS, have to start doing something about the development. Troops must be deployed in the borders because Nigeria’s borders are very porous.
“Most of the returning fighters could disguise as farmers or others; they might not even be carrying arms, so there should be intense security measures put in place.”
Enweliku also advised the government to quickly launch a deradicalisation programme for the returnee fighters.
According to the Future Advanced Research, a think tank in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, ISIS has an expanding network in Africa, especially Central and West Africa, where Boko Haram activities have led to the death of about 100,000 people and the displacement of 2.3 million.
In March 2015, the Boko Haram sect pledged allegiance to ISIS, thereby becoming the latter’s largest affiliate in the world.
By August 2015, Indian security agencies arrested two Nigerian youths, Imran Kabeer and Sani Jamiliu, suspected to be on their way to Iraq to team up with the dreaded ISIS terrorist group.
According to a United Kingdom-trained criminologist and Chairman of Puma Eye Security Services, Pedro Ayandokun, said there was a high likelihood that most of the 6,000 returning fighters were coming to Nigeria, where Boko Haram operates.
He called on the Federal Government to be swift in deploying personnel in the borders to counter the impending security threat.
He said, “I would refer to the development as an invasion and it is a security threat mainly to Nigerians because as the fighters are returning, they would likely join their ‘brothers,’ that is, Boko Haram terrorists.
“They are coming to wreak havoc. Nigeria is definitely sitting on a time bomb; the fighters are our enemies and we have to be security conscious.
“The government needs to move fast in deploying troops in the borders, where the fighters are likely to come in through. The most appropriate thing to do is for the AU and the Economic Community of West African States to convene a regional security meeting to find a solution to the potential threat.”
Ayandokun also said the government should quickly initiate a rehabilitation programme for any suspected fighter, who is arrested at the borders so that they would not join the Boko Haram terrorist group.
“Because the fighters have yet to commit any crime on the continent, they should be quickly arrested [intelligence should help in identifying them] and be rehabilitated; otherwise, if they joined Boko Haram, we would be in the soup,” he said.
A security consultant, Mr. Chigozie Ubani, also said everything had to be done to contain the situation, adding that there was no doubt that Nigeria would be a target of the incoming insurgents.
“There is no doubt that Nigeria would be a target; so, the country needs to sit up and friends of Nigeria need to assist because it could turn out to be a huge crisis,” he said.
Source: ( Punch Newspaper )