banner ad

The Ansaru Challenge

| March 21, 2013 More

The fate of seven expatriates seized in Bauchi by the Ansaru sect, believed to be an offshoot of Boko Haram, is still uncertain. Ansaru claimed it had executed the foreign construction workers it took hostage since February 16, and posted a grainy photograph in support.

The seven-nationals of United Kingdom, Lebanon, Greece and Italy- worked for the Setraco Construction Company handling a federal road project in Bauchi State. According to reports, the attackers first assaulted a local prison and burnt police trucks before blowing up a back fence at the construction company’s compound, killing a guard in the process and quickly subduing the foreigners.

Britain and Italy have issued statements that said all the abductees were dead; the federal government has expressed scepticism that the hostages had been executed as the photo posted on YouTube appeared to suggest. President Goodluck Jonathan has sought to assure visiting leaders of some of the affected countries that the government was determined to ensure the hostages returned safely.

Amidst the continuing security challenges in the country, the foreigners’ abduction has added an unwelcome impact on Nigeria’s image, particularly at the international level. The security agencies have not provided details on the abduction, raising concern over the ability of the federal government to prevent such attacks and kidnappings. That could make for a perfect recipe for intrusive measures by Western countries in Nigeria, in the name of war on terror.

Reactions from some of these countries to the Ansaru posting were swift and typical. “It’s an atrocious act of terrorism, against which the Italian government expresses its firmest condemnation, and which has no explanation, if not that of barbarous and blind violence,” a statement from Italy’s foreign ministry said, just as Britain described it as callous and an act of terrorism.

Ansaru claimed that it killed the hostages during what it said was a military operation jointly co-ordinated by Nigeria and British forces to rescue the hostages; Italy dismissed the claim. On the other hand, UK’s defence ministry said it did send planes to Abuja; it insisted that the aircrafts’ mission was part of arrangement to airlift Nigerian troops and equipment to Mali. Ansaru said it believed the planes were part of a Nigerian and British operation to rescue the abducted hostages. Ansaru’s position may have been shaped by previous experience. In March 2012, British special forces troops backed a failed Nigerian military raid to free two hostages-Christopher McManus, who had been abducted months earlier, and Franco Lamolinara, from a home in Kebbi state. Both hostages were killed in the attempt.

The establishment of a drone operational base in neighbouring Niger Republic by the United States government, and the likelihood of having more on the African continent may compound the situation as Nigeria appears to be getting into the sight of the countries engaged in the war on terror.

The best possible option out of a worsening scenario is for the government to show better commitment in dealing with internal security challenges and leave no room for external force to intervene.

Whatever the status of the hostages, there is no justification for their abduction, which in itself is a heinous crime. If they are indeed alive, they should be released unharmed and unconditionally.

In the wake of the Bauchi incident, the federal government announced plans to devise security measures aimed at protecting foreign workers operating in the Northern part of the country. Although there were no details, it is not clear how such a step would tackle the immediate problem and also address its underlying causes.

The Ansaru group cited French involvement in the conflict in Mali as the casus belli for seizing the foreigners. It follows that the government should ensure that the entire north, not just foreign nationals working there, needs better intelligence led security arrangements than what is currently in place, and these do not necessarily mean more soldiers or heavier militarization of the solution to the problem.

Category: Bauchi State News

Comments are closed.