A Nigerian Islamic terrorist group has been using threats and bombings to try to force the government to impose Shariah law in the country’s northern states, reports Alozie Nonso, a 24-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Owerri, in southern Nigeria.
Nigeria, a west African country of over one hundred and forty million citizens, has experienced a series of unprecedented attacks by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, especially since the 2011 general elections. These nefarious attacks have brought to the fore the issue of the nation’s security.
Reportedly, the group was formed in 2002 in Maiduguri Borno state, in the north east region of Nigeria. In 2004, the group emerged in Yobe state where its headquarters. The Islamic sect was led by the late Mohammed Yusuf, alleged to have been killed in 2009 by Nigeria’s security forces.
The activities of the sect, whose demands are gross and generally unjustifiable, has only polarized the country. Among their demands are that Sharia law should be imposed on 12 states in the northern region of Nigeria, that their members in prison custody should be released, and that the soldiers alleged to have killed their controversial leader should be prosecuted
One of Nigeria’s newspapers, the Daily Sun (Thursday, July 14, Vol 6 No. 2031), recently reported that the Islamic militants have listed the Presidential Villa in Abuja as a target, according to the militants’ spokesman, Mallam Abu Zaid. Speaking on the phone from Maiduguri in Borno state, Abu Zaid justified a spate of attacks on banks by saying: “they are not working for the cause of the masses and they are not operating within the Islamic system, and we attacked them because we believe it is our right to do so”.
Kashim Shettima, the present governor of Borno State, has offered the Islamic militants an amnesty. However this was totally rejected. This behaviour by the sect is abnormal and inconsiderate.
Previously, in July 2009, over 500 people died in Bauchi state following the arrest of some Boko Haram leaders by the security forces, according to reports. On September 7 2010, a jailbreak by Boko Haram freed over 700 inmates from a prison in Bauchi state. On March 29, police prevented a plot to bomb a rally of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, a major political party, in Maiduguri, Borno state. On April 22 2011, Boko Haram liberated over 10 inmates during a jailbreak in Yola, Adamawa state.
These ugly incidents have been supported by an influx of Islamic fundamentalists across Nigerian territory. The climax of the insurgency came in June 17 2011 when the Boko Haram sects claimed responsibility for bombing the police headquarters in Abuja. The event, reported as the first suicide bombing in Nigeria, was unexpected and challenged the country’s security. It caused people to question the existence of unity among citizens.
The bombings by Boko Haram risk making the country ungovernable. It is a challenge to constitutional authority and distracting focus way from the way forward. It creates a vacuum of unconstructive critism and disentangles the support of the people from the government.
Until all their requests are granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria, it has vowed to unleash attacks on those opposing their activities. However the Federal Government must give no succour to groups that aim to polarize the nation. To stem the tide, every positive means should be undertaken to ensure unity and stability.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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