Remembering the victims of terrorism


AS the world commemorates this year’s International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism themed, “Legacy: Finding Hope and Building a Peaceful Future,” today, Nigeria should critically introspect on the humanitarian crises unleashed on its citizens by unrelenting terrorist and bandit attacks and find lasting solutions. Overall, defeating terrorism, providing lasting succour and resettling the survivors should be the overriding objectives.

While the United Nations denounced acts of terrorism that propagate hateful ideologies that continue to injure, impoverish, and kill thousands of innocent people, it noted that despite international condemnation of terrorism, “victims and survivors of terrorism often struggle to have their voices heard, their needs supported, and their rights upheld.”

Nigeria should pay heed. More than 35,000 people have been killed in the country since 2009 when Boko Haram launched its Islamic insurgency, according to the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect. Other sources estimate higher figures topping over 100,000 killed. They should not be forgotten. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project reported that bandits across several Northern states murdered more than 2,600 civilians in 2021.

Some attacks are unforgettable. In 2011, a Boko Haram suicide bomber rammed into the UN building in Abuja, killing over 21 persons and wounding 60 others. In 2012, at least 185 people were killed in Kano following terrorist bombings and gun attacks.

In February 2014, terrorists attacked a boarding school in Damaturu, Yobe State, and killed 59 students. That same year, in April, two bombs planted in a motor park in Nyanya, Abuja, exploded, killing at least 88 and injuring more than 200 people. In 2020, no fewer than 40 rice farmers and fishermen in Borno State were gruesomely beheaded by the jihadists.

Security personnel have also borne the brunt. About 581 police officers were killed, 344 of them by gunmen and separatists in the South-East, while 119 were killed by bandits and kidnappers. There have also been serial abductions, torture, rapes, and forced marriages, leaving thousands of traumatised and hapless victims.

In April 2014, 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, were kidnapped by Boko Haram. In 2018, its off-shoot, the Islamic State of West Africa kidnapped 110 girls from a school in Dapchi, Yobe State. While all the other victims were later released, one, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity for refusing to convert to Islam.

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Sadly, Nigeria has expended so much resources fighting terrorism. Former president, Muhammadu Buhari, disclosed that his administration spent over $1 billion fighting Boko Haram.

Some other African countries are also locked in a gruelling war against Islamic terrorism. These include Somalia, Kenya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, and Mozambique.

Terrorist groups are active in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan. Western countries are not spared either. The coordinated September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States claimed 2,996 lives. In 2005, jihadists bombed underground trains and a bus in Britain killing 52 persons. There have been similar outrages in France and Spain.

Over two million Nigerians have become refugees, says the Red Cross, with over 200,000 of them taking refuge in neighbouring countries. Greater efforts are required to assist them, recover their homes from strife and help them resume their lives.

All countries need to re-strategise to tackle terrorism. Like others, Nigeria needs increasingly to deploy technology and adopt effective intelligence-gathering systems to track terrorists, their funding and support networks, and apprehend them.

There should be more stringent punitive measures against individuals and organisations supporting terrorism, including fifth columnists within the security agencies. Border controls should be stepped up, along with regional and global military cooperation.

Most importantly, victims of terrorism need long-term multi-dimensional support, including physical, psychological, social, and financial welfare programmes. Particular attention should be paid to nutrition and schooling for displaced children. Governments, NGOs and corporate bodies need to work together to rebuild their shattered lives and give them hope. Religious leaders should re-educate their adherents, propagating the necessity to embrace tolerance and peaceful coexistence in a multi-religious society. Religious extremism should be vigorously neutralised.


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