Don’t negotiate with B’Haram, experts warn FG …… PUNCH


Two leading UK experts on terrorism, Dr. Afzal Ashraf and Richard Barrett, have advised the Federal Government to be cautious in holding talks with the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

The duo made this known in separate email exchanges with our correspondent.

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has not ruled out negotiation with the terror group.

Ashraf, a consultant fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence, said it was not advisable to negotiate with ideological terrorists.

He said, ‘‘As a general rule, it is not advisable to negotiate with ideological terrorists. Non-ideological terrorists do respond positively to negotiations.

“For example, the IRA in the UK gave up violence only after long secret negotiations with the British government. Boko Haram is not really ideological, even though it claims to follow Al-Qaeda and now ISIS. Its leadership is anti-intellectual given its name. They do not have even the pseudo-Islamic scholars that Al-Qaeda had in the form of Ayman Al Zawahiri and Abu Yayah Al Libbi. Therefore, they are not likely to respond to pragmatic political negotiations.”

Also, Barrett, a Director of the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies in Doha, stated that though it was wrong to negotiate with terrorists, the Federal Government should try to rescue those abducted by Boko Haram, especially the Chibok schoolgirls.

According to Barrett, it may be difficult for the Nigerian government to believe any promise made by the violent group.

Barrett noted, ‘‘It is always wrong to negotiate with terrorists, but everything should be done to free all those kidnapped by Boko Haram, including the Chibok girls. The government will find it hard to trust any agreement made by Boko Haram, and it will need to ensure that any negotiation does not provide the group with the means to get more weapons and continue its rampage of terrorism, for example, by giving it money. A deal should be more in line with an offer of reduced prison sentences for those responsible if the captives are returned safely to their families.’’

Barrett also lauded the ongoing military operations against insurgency in the North, adding that the Nigerian population would need a long-term protection and government support to withstand Boko Haram intimidation.

‘‘The young men would also need jobs to support themselves and their families. Boko Haram certainly takes advantage of the social, political and economic marginalisation of many of the communities in the North-East. Also, of course, it will be necessary for the Nigerian Army to work in concert with its counterparts in Chad, Niger and Cameroon, and for those governments to support their vulnerable communities in the same way,’’ said Barrett, who served as the coordinator of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team at the United Nations.

On his part, Ashraf, who also served in the UK Armed Forces, explained that negotiations with Boko Haram should only be considered in the light of the kidnapped Chibok girls and their families going through unbearable heartache.

While identifying one of the strengths of the Buhari administration as its stance against graft, Ashraf added that the long-term fight against terrorism would be won after removing corruption from the nation’s economy, especially in the judiciary and security sectors.

He said, ‘‘So, while the army operations and negotiations with Boko Haram are necessary at this time, any victory will be short-lived if the government does not check corruption and divert investment into the development of the northern region