BOKO HARAM: PURSUING NIGERIANS TO ASYLUM

Nduka Nwosu writes that security agencies must do more to rid the country of terrorists

Five years ago Reverend Caleb Adedapo Haastrup ministered to the
faithful in his suburban non-denominational Pentecostal church
of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Unbeknownst to him, he was one of
Christian clerics blacklisted by murderous Islamist fundamentalist
terrorist group, Book Haram (BH). Several assassination attempts on Haastrup, who was the senior pastor of the 500-member Kingdom Connection Christian Center in Lokogoma
successively followed. BH had found his sermons offensive to
its cause. His movements were under surveillance; he had to live his life
disguised. This did not deter those who pursued him. Haastrup had
close the brushes with BH but miraculously escaped. Unfortunately, the police and other security agencies could not guarantee her safety.

Recalling that near-death encounter, Haastrup told this reporter, “Life has become quite unbearable. The situation had a huge impact on my mental and physical health. My members and my family were also traumatized by my ordeal and the constant death threats that had become part of my life. In the words of the reverend gentleman, “I had no choice but to join a legion of Christians in my part of Nigeria to seek ways to leave the country, hence my arrival in the United States in 2017 where I am currently seeking refuge. . In fact, it’s all over the news that several of my colleagues and other Christians have been killed by Fulani terrorist herders and other fundamentalist Muslim groups because of their faith.

While Hafsat Maina Mohammed, a former Kano-based journalist whose NGO looked after the needs of Boko Haram victims, believes Christian and Muslim worshipers are easy targets for Boko Haram attacks, using his experiences as a lucid example , Haastrup sees it from his religious angles and personal experience. Many Nigerians, through a relative, member of the same religion, friend or office colleague, have a story to tell about the wanton killings of Nigerians by Boko Haram. This equalizes the equation.

Reverend Haastrup’s agitation is palpable as is Maina Mohammed’s. “As I speak, the situation has yet to improve. In fact, it is getting worse and worse. The problem of insecurity in Nigeria is so severe that there has been growing unrest for the splintering of the country due to the increased level of violence inflicted on certain sections of the population due to both religious and ethnic sentiments,” Haastrup lamented.

The cleric wants different levels of government in Nigeria to tackle each other
what he describes as a “monster” or facing the consequences of all-out sectarian war, noting that “a peaceful nation is a powerful nation,
progressive and prosperous, and without adequate security for its citizens, the future of such a nation is in jeopardy.

Well, a lot may differ from Haastrup, whose opinions have recently been
articulated by the Christian Council of Nigeria (CAN) when the country was removed from the list of countries violating religious freedom. Both sects agree, however, that terrorist activities should not escalate into sectarian conflict.

Reverend Haastrup’s Trials Sounds Bigger Like a Familiar
abstain for many Nigerian victims of Boko Haram attacks, who have fled to the United States and Europe, Canada and Britain in particular, in
the search for a safer sanctuary. This writer had recently seen Mrs. Maina Mohammed, who is also the founder of the NGO Choice for Peace, Gender and Development, speaking on Arise News television, recounting her misfortunes as a victim of the inhuman assaults of the terrorist organization.

According to the mother of six, who moved to Prince George’s
County of Maryland, she was the victim of rape and assault by Boko
Haram. Beyond that, Maina Mohammed was equally traumatized watching members of this evil group rip apart babies’ bellies and derive joy from killing those who fell under their trap. While
speaking to the U.S. Bipartisan Commission on International Religions
Freedom, Maina-Mohammed had this to say: “I was the victim of rape by these people, brutal beatings and incarceration and I escaped. Many women and people in Nigeria, especially in the
northeast of Nigeria, regardless of their religion, have faced
persecution and still face persecution.

The stories of Reverend Haastrup and Maina-Mohammed took me back to 2011 in Abuja when Boko Haram was constantly bombarding the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Goodluck Jonathan administration has been reviled for its poor attack on BH, especially after the abduction of the 287 students from Chibok Secondary School. But what has changed since then?

This journalist narrowly escaped the April 2012 Boko Haram attack on
THISDAY office in Abuja. It was after the awful Christmas 2011
Daytime bombardment of St. Theresa of Madala Catholic Church near Abuja.

Like many journalists covering Boko Haram and its horrible
activities, he was profiled for many months. Our regular engagement at the British High Commission where we reviewed the security situation in the country, was cut short for fear of the unknown, not after the bombing of the UN office on August 26, 2011.

In the United States, where the writer was later posted as THIISDAY New York
Head of office, he regularly listened to the debates of the members of the
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee, specifically the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, the Counterterrorism Subcommittee, and the Homeland Security Intelligence Committee were constantly briefed by the late Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Adefuye, who pushed me to report in detail on my Boko Haram experience as part of the House series on terrorism
organization.

The committee had called Bosnia and Herzegovina an emerging threat to the American homeland, pledging huge support to Nigeria in its war against it. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, later
visited the country as part of the follow-up to the meeting between the Presidents
Jonathan and Obama. Boko Haram and US support figured in discussions between Thomas-Greenfield and Nigerian officials.

Sadly, while the United States, which under Obama has denied Nigeria essential weapons needed to fight terrorism, has long degraded and decimated the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the death of ‘Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, its supreme leader, Boko Haram still prowls the neighborhoods of Borno State and as part of the Islamic State of West Africa Province-ISAWAP. America’s story with ISIS should be Nigeria’s story with Boko Haram, Banditry, Kidnapping and Herdsman Terrorism.

Unfortunately, nothing has diminished significantly, except that Boko Haram keeps changing tactics against a backdrop of a military posture that gains and loses territory, a security apparatchik that excels in more talk and less action.

In the last chapter of its mandate, the administration of the PMB must
leave something valuable to Nigerians, a love letter, a
darling message, proving that he has truly rid this country of
terrorism. It was his promise. There is no doubt that some success has
been recorded fighting Boko Haram; however, the assertion by a traditional Borno state ruler during President Buhari’s recent visit to the state that BH is running a mini-government in two local governments in the state skews the war into his favor.

The new year offers security guards the opportunity to give
Nigerians are hoping for a secure environment, which Reverends Haastrup and Hafsat Maina Mohammed need to return home rather than
remain fugitives in America and Europe.

Nwosu, former THISDAY New York bureau chief, wrote from Washington DC

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