WASHINGTON, October 14, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — In April 2014, the world was horrified to learn that the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram had abducted approximately 270 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. In the six months since, some girls have been reunited with their families, but most remain in captivity, and Boko Haram has continued to terrorize the region. This year alone, the group has abducted hundreds of men, women, girls and boys and killed 3,000 people in Nigeria. President Obama has directed that the U.S. government do everything it can to help the Nigerian government find and free the abducted girls and, more broadly, to combat Boko Haram in partnership with Nigeria, its neighbors, and other allies. This support takes many forms but the goal is singular: to dismantle this murderous group.
Advisory Support to the Nigerian Government
The United States is assisting the Nigerian government to undertake more concerted, effective, and responsible actions to ensure the safe return of those kidnapped by Boko Haram, including through on-the-ground technical assistance and expanded intelligence sharing.
In May, the United States dispatched a multi-disciplinary team to Abuja to advise the Nigerians on how to secure the safe return of those kidnapped, encourage a comprehensive approach to address insecurity, and establish a capacity to respond more effectively in the future. These officials provide guidance to the Nigerian government on conducting a comprehensive response to Boko Haram that protects civilian populations and respects human rights.
The team includes civilian and humanitarian experts, U.S. military personnel, law enforcement advisors and investigators as well experts in hostage negotiations, strategic communications, civilian security, and intelligence. The team continues to facilitate and coordinate information sharing and the provision of assistance for survivors and their families.
Expanded Intelligence Sharing
The U.S. government also has provided the Nigerian government with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) to aid Nigeria’s efforts to locate the missing girls.
Sanctions Against Boko Haram
In recent years, we have helped isolate Boko Haram’s leaders by leveraging our own authority to designate them as terrorists and by encouraging the United Nations to do so as well.
In June 2012, the State Department designated Boko Haram’s top commanders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. In June 2013, the State Department added Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s official leader, to our Rewards for Justice Program and offered up to $7 million for information leading to his capture.
In November 2013, the State Department designated Boko Haram and Ansaru, a splinter faction, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. This designation empowers U.S. law enforcement and the Treasury Department to pursue these violent extremist organizations.
The United States worked closely with Nigeria to pursue terrorist designations at the UN Security Council for Boko Haram, which were approved and took effect on May 22, 2014. These designations prohibit arms sales, freeze assets, restrict movement, and encourage regional cooperation.
Continued Engagement to Counter Boko Haram
The United States is committed to supporting efforts by Nigeria and its neighbors to combat the threat of Boko Haram more effectively and in a manner that respects human rights through a variety of assistance programs designed to advance regional cooperation, bolster rule of law, and strengthen security institutions.
President Obama announced Nigeria’s participation in the Security Governance Initiative (SGI) during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in August. SGI is a new Presidential initiative in which the United States and Nigeria will work to improve security sector institution capacity to protect civilians and confront challenges and threats, with integrity and accountability. To support a longer term focus, SGI involves multi-year funding commitments of increased U.S. support and requires sustained, high-level leadership and commitment by partner countries to pursue policies in support of the agreed upon goals.
Nigeria is a partner in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, a U.S. government effort to enhance regional security sector capacity to counter violent extremism, improve country and regional border and customs systems, strengthen financial controls, and build law enforcement and security sector capacity.
The State and Defense Departments are launching a $40 million Global Security Contingency Fund for Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to counter Boko Haram. The program will provide technical expertise, training, and equipment to the four countries to develop institutional and tactical capabilities to enhance their respective efforts to counter Boko Haram, and to lay the groundwork for increased cross-border cooperation to counter Boko Haram.
We work closely with other international partners, including the United Kingdom, France, and Canada, to enable information-sharing, alignment, and coordination on international strategies and programs to counter such threats in the region.
Support to Populations Affected by Boko Haram
Boko Haram is inflicting untold hardship on the people of Nigeria, with repercussions for men, women, girls, and boys throughout northeast Nigeria. The United States provides assistance to affected populations, including support to health, water, and sanitation services; the delivery of emergency relief supplies; and protection services, including psycho-social support for survivors of Boko Haram violence. The United States further invests in helping Nigeria to build security and increase opportunity in northeast Nigeria, including through education programs for girls and boys; maternal and child health services; and programs to strengthen democracy and governance and counter violent extremism by engaging leaders across society, including women.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides trauma counselling to survivors and their families, including those directly affected by the Chibok abduction, through a $4.5 million, five-year (2010-15) program. USAID also recently completed its third training for psycho-social support teams based in Borno–the locus of Boko Haram’s violence. The role of these social workers, health care providers, and other community members is to sensitize communities to prevent stigma against abductees when they return, and to provide psycho-social first aid to girls and their families.
USAID is starting two new programs that will address critical educational needs for both girls and boys in northern Nigeria. A $20-30 million crisis response program will provide basic education to internally displaced persons and others affected by the violence in the northeast. In addition, a flagship five-year, $120 million program will strengthen education systems so that they can provide greater access and improve reading among primary school children.
In support of the contributions women make to peace and prosperity, USAID is promoting women in leadership and peacemaking through a series of conferences and workshops. Training exercises in Kano and Sokoto states promoted tolerance across ethnic and religious lines through engagement with influential religious, traditional, and women leaders. Women participants came out with a plan to use “naming ceremonies” (common across most Nigerian cultures) to carry out campaigns against hate speech and electoral violence. Interfaith media dialogues discussed how women and other stakeholders can prevent electoral violence in the run up to the February 2015 elections and how women can contribute to Nigeria’s political and economic progress.
USAID is launching the Nigeria Regional Transition Initiative to improve stability and strengthen democratic institutions in northeast Nigeria. The initiative will focus on building the resistance of communities vulnerable to the effects of violent extremist organizations, weak governance, and insecurity through increased positive engagement between government and communities; increased access to credible information; and support to reduce youth vulnerability to violent extremist influences.
The State Department supports efforts to facilitate dialogue between local women activists and security-sector personnel and to highlight the role of female law-enforcement officers. State also supports a Hausa-language multi-media platform which includes a free-to-air satellite TV channel designed to serve northern Nigeria. The channel highlights the rich cultural diversity of northern Nigeria while offering programming with themes that reject political violence and violent extremism. It also includes programming intended to meet the needs of mothers with young children. One show highlights as role models women who have overcome obstacles and now own their own businesses or have obtained higher education. The objective is to show that any girl can grow up to be a strong contributor to her society.