Two leading UK experts on terrorism have warned the federal government of Nigeria against negotiating with the Boko Haram sect.
The Punch reports that Dr. Afzal Ashraf and Richard Barrett in two separate emails cautioned the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which has not ruled out negotiation with the leadership of the terror group.
Ashraf, who is a consultant at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence, stressed that it was not advisable to negotiate with ideological terrorists. According to him, non-ideological terrorists respond positively to negotiations.
“For example, the IRA in the UK gave up violence only after long secret negotiations with the British government. Boko Haram is not really ideological, even though it claims to follow Al-Qaeda and now ISIS. Its leadership is anti-intellectual given its name. They do not have even the pseudo-Islamic scholars that Al-Qaeda had in the form of Ayman Al Zawahiri and Abu Yayah Al Libbi. Therefore, they are not likely to respond to pragmatic political negotiations,” he noted.
Barrett, a Director of the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies in Doha, shared the opinion of his colleague stating that it was wrong to negotiate with terrorists. However, he stressed that the federal government should try to rescue those people who had been abducted by Boko Haram, especially the Chibok schoolgirls.
‘‘It is always wrong to negotiate with terrorists, but everything should be done to free all those kidnapped by Boko Haram, including the Chibok girls. The government will find it hard to trust any agreement made by Boko Haram, and it will need to ensure that any negotiation does not provide the group with the means to get more weapons and continue its rampage of terrorism, for example, by giving it money. A deal should be more in line with an offer of reduced prison sentences for those responsible if the captives are returned safely to their families.’’
Commending the ongoing military operations against insurgency in the North East, Barrett noted that Nigerians would need a long-term protection and government support to resist Boko Haram intimidation.
‘‘The young men would also need jobs to support themselves and their families. Boko Haram certainly takes advantage of the social, political and economic marginalisation of many of the communities in the North-East. Also, of course, it will be necessary for the Nigerian Army to work in concert with its counterparts in Chad, Niger and Cameroon, and for those governments to support their vulnerable communities in the same way,’’ he said.
According to Ashraf, one of the strengths of the Buhari administration is its stance against corruption. He noted that the war against terrorism would be won after removing corruption from the nation’s economy, especially in the judiciary and security sectors.
‘‘So, while the army operations and negotiations with Boko Haram are necessary at this time, any victory will be short-lived if the government does not check corruption and divert investment into the development of the northern region,” he concluded.
In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, President Buhari has stressed that the federal government is ready to negotiate with the Boko Haram group to secure the release of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.
“They have to prove to us that they are alive, they are well, and then we can negotiate with them. We said it and we meant it. If we are satisfied that the girls are alive,” he said.