Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The return of Boko Haram

It might be wrong to describe the recent attack of the Boko Haram sect in Bauchi as a surprise. The indications of an attack were all over the place, including the North East, where they had started some skirmishes.

So if anything should be surprising about it, it should be the audacity of the attack. Once again, the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram struck and at the heart of Bauchi, of all places. They attacked the Bauchiâ-‚Central Prison, where they set free some 721 inmates, many of whom are members of the Islamic sect who have been detained in the prison since last year over a similar crisis.

Armed with weapons including guns and explosives, the group had attacked the prison one evening during the Ramadan fast, and over-powered the warders on duty, and set its members free as well as other inmates who took advantage of their liberty to also escape from the prison. While many were re-arrested days after, others returned on their own volition.

The Islamic sect, which is opposed to western education, had struck July last year and killed several people in Bauchi, Maiduguri and other northern states. In the clamp down that followed, the police had killed several members of the sect, arrested many others including their leader, Mr. Muhammed Yusuf, whom the police later killed whilst in their custody.

Between then and the latest attack, the sect had struck three other times, each time recording heavy casualties, most times of innocent persons.

As in previous editorials on the issue, we condemn the recent attack by the sect. The cause they claim to be fighting is perverse, retrogressive and dictatorial.

In an age where there is increased inclination to learning and technological breakthrough, to raise an army that will fight the process of acquiring such knowledge-be it Western or Eastern--, we believe, is a setback to development. But even if it were right, where is the freedom to learn as enshrined in the constitution of the country? Need the Boko Haram vanguard be reminded that Nigeria remains a secular society?

The resurgence of the Islamic militia is a failure of intelligence in many respects. First, the fact that it has been meeting, re-grouping, and stock- piling arms with which the attack was launched was common knowledge.

Second, the brazenness with which the prison was attacked and subdued portrays the poor combat readiness of the security operatives. It was an operation that lasted for several hours. The counter-response by the police was not only weak, but slow and even tepid. It tells a lot about the capacity of the security organs of the country. And it is worrisome.

The incident also raises the issue of the nation's judicial lethargy. The arrested suspects who have been in detention since July last year, have neither been tried nor freed, more than one year after. The slow grind of judicial process causes loss of confidence in the ability of the courts to deliver justice with dispatch; after all, justice delayed is justice denied.

We believe that the nation's security operatives should see the Boko Haram threat as a call to duty. To think that because its leader had been killed the group is now extinct has proven to be a grave mistake.

The attack on Bauchi prison, more than any incident, indicates that until the sect is completely routed, the North, and indeed the entire nation, will know no respite. That is why we call on the Police and other security agencies to join hands in removing this threat. Those arrested should be made to face speedy trial and face justice, if only to serve as a deterrent to other such groups. The nation must begin to enforce its laws effectively. That is the only way society can preserve and pursue collective order and safety.

This Day

Related stories: Tension in Borno over Al-Jazeera Boko Haram video 

Boko Haram snipers kill three policemen

 Video and transcript of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf interrogated before his execution

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