The dreaded Nigeria-based terrorist group, Boko Haram, established links with some international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Abducted Female Students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, has said.
The committee stated this in its report submitted to former President Goodluck Jonathan before he left office.
The 50-page report, which details were never made public, was obtained exclusively by PREMIUM TIMES.
The 27-member panel, chaired by Ibrahim Sabo, a retired brigadier general, was inaugurated by Mr. Jonathan on May 6, 2014, to, among other things find out the circumstances leading to the abduction of the 276 female students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014 by Boko Haram terrorists.
The establishment of the committee was sequel to claims and counterclaims about the circumstances and the actual number of students abducted by the terrorists.
Before the committee was set up there speculations were that Boko Haram had established ties with other terrorist groups across the world.
For instance, in 2002, the late Osama bin Laden reportedly dispatched his aide to Nigeria to distribute $3 million to Salafi groups and the Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was thought to be a recipient of the money.
By 2006, members of the group were also reported to be training in the Sahel alongside al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb.
“It is on record that Boko Haram has regional and international links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Al-Qaeda affiliate, and has cooperated with other terrorist groups,” the committee said in its report.
It said a collaborative and cooperative regional approach would be most effective in ensuring that “there is no safe haven for terrorists in and around the shores of Nigeria”.
It said the approach was adopted 15 years ago by ECOWAS in conflict prevention, resolution and management.
The committee asked the government to involve consultations and collaboration with neighbouring countries, multilateral organisations such as African Union, ECOWAS, United Nations and countries that are already assisting with representatives of most of these organisations in both open and closed-door interactive sessions.
The committee further recommended that Nigeria should use its influence to ensure the rapid operationalisation of the Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy (RCTS).
Under the prevention of the RCTS, it suggested, Nigeria should as a matter of urgency, establish its early warning mechanism/system in line with the October 24, 2013 Abidjan Declaration of ECOWAS member states.
“This will ensure that appropriate social, political, environment and economic indicators are identified, regularly monitored, analysed and reported in a way that elicits action to prevent and/or mitigate threats to peace and security by appropriate authorities,” it said.
It further said Nigerian border posts required urgent evaluation and intervention by the federal government.
It stated that with Para-military staff avoiding to serve in states that border other countries, because those posts were access for the insurgents, “government may need to consider how to strategically deploy troops and hardware as back-up for border security, without provoking the neighbouring countries.”
The committee said it took special note of the Youth Volunteer groups, also known Civilian Joint Task Force, JTF, in the North East region.
It said the positive role of the groups in giving support to the government and the security agencies in the fight against Boko Haram had been lauded by many.
It said the military and other security agencies should be advised to incorporate the local security organisations and vigilantes in the rescue efforts as they are more conversant with the terrain, particularly the Sambisa Forest.
It however warned that care should be taken in ensuring that members are persons of integrity and, in the long run, a lot of thought has to be given to Demobilization, Disarmament, Reintegration and Resettlement.
The Committee also recommended that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should sensitise the international community on the sensitive issue of Human Rights and Rules of Engagement (ROE) should there be an intention to re-strategise the current counter-terrorism approach, in order to avoid a backlash from the international community.