Former Nigerian State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gideon Dubem Onyia, with The Oslo Times
The former Nigerian State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gideon Dubem Onyia, who was recently in Oslo in a bid to urge Norway to assist Nigeria in its fight against terrorism, spoke to the Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar in regards to violent extremism in Nigeria, the cause of terrorism in the country, cyber fraud and the rampant political corruption in Nigeria.
The excerpts below gives us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
Thank you Mr. Onyia, for giving us this opportunity to talk to you on rather short notice, before we start could tell us a little about your purpose of visit to Oslo?
We are In Oslo to seek the support of not only the Norwegian government, but also the support of other governments in the region in the fight against terrorism. Like you already know in our country we have Boko Haram and other terror organizations working against the state. We are here with Reverend Father Emanuel Ade, who has a very big center in Alele, where most of these displaced people from the north are seeking refuge and he is taking care of them. In the process to stop terrorism, there is a need for countries in the west and the International community and especially Norwegian government to help us in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism not only in Nigeria but in other Sub western and other African countries.Like you already know you have the Al Shabab in Kenya, Somalia and other places. So, when Reverend Father Emanuel Ade who has done a lot in assisting the people who have been displaced, rescued in the region had been invited to a Seminar on Burundi, here, we came along to seek support from the government of Norway in this fight against terrorism.
Nigeria is ranked 26th in the World in terms of GDP (nominal: 30th in 2013 before rebasing, 40th in 2005, 52nd in 2000), and it is also the largest economy in Africa, however the growth in violent extremism is taking a toll on the country’s economy and industries as foreign investors ,what would you say is the reason behind Radicalization in Nigeria?
I personally don’t believe that religion is the reason behind Radicalization, and nor is radicalization based on religions because most of the victims are Muslims. All the religions in thisWorld spread a message of peace. Islam is about peace, Christianity is about Peace and love, Buddhism is also about peace and love. So, radicalization cannot be based on religion. It is caused by people who are taking advantages over the underprivileged and want to acquire political territories in the name of Islam or other religions.
Those are the people who are advocating these acts of terror, in the name of Islam, in the name of Christianity and other religions. But I can tell you if you are advocating Islam, if you are fighting in the name of Islam, you will not kill your own Muslim brothers and sisters. You will not go and kidnap little girls, who are Muslims.
What they are really fighting for is territories; they are radicals, fundamentalists and they evil. Religion is just being used as a tool to brainwash the people into believing that these groups are working for god.
Though we all know that terrorism and terrorist groups need to be uprooted, however the fight against terrorism hasn’t been all too successful, as these groups always seem to have more than enough funds to cause terror, where do you think they get the funds from to carry out terrorist activities and who do you think is funding them?
You know there are various sources, through which they get their resources sometimes they get it in the form of ransoms for kidnappings, sometimes they capture an area where there is oil and they sell it to the black market, and they are also involved in money laundering. Apart from this we have several groups of people, certain citizens of the World who sponsor them, because they want to benefit from the evil activities of these terrorists. So, that when they acquire the territories most of these businessmen want products from these places at a very low price, so all they really want is to benefit from the actions of others. So, there are no one particular sources of income, for terrorist groups.
To sum it all up, their sources of income include:
1. kidnappings, as they use those they kidnap for ransom money,
2. Sell natural resources to black markets: when they capture areas if there are certain resources there, they sell it into the black market.
3. Money Laundering
4. Donations from certain people who want to remain anonymous.
These are their main sources of income. So, in my opinion, the best way to fight them is to cut off their source of supplies. First ofwe all need to understand what kind of people they are recruiting?
From what I know, they are recruiting young people, they exploit the younger generation who have no jobs or are not properly educated. Like the saying goes ‘the idle mind is the Devils workshop‘, so those young men who are not properly educated, who are unemployed and who have no skills, are susceptible to radicalization, and these are the people they recruit as this group is easy to brain wash as they are already facing difficulties in their lives.
The terrorist groups then, use religion as a tool. You know, religion is the ‘sixth entity of power’, and they use it to brainwash the mind of the people by telling them that they are born to serve the lord, and this is the only way they can make up for their sins. Those who do not join them are against god and will end up in hell. They are using the faith people have in religion and God against them, religion is merely a tool they are using to recruit innocent minds.So, what we need to do is create job opportunities for the young generations like what Reverend Father Ade is doing, help them become self sufficient so they do not fall prey to terror groups.
Meanwhile, we need to create skill development centers and send youngsters there, readily give them scholarships to pursue skill development courses. So, at the end of the day they will have dignity, economic security and a skill to live by, and will find no need to join terrorist organizations.That means, if you want to curb on terrorist activities, you need to create better education and employment opportunities which will act as a cap around such terror networks.
As once the generation becomes productive,self sufficient and financially independent, it will be difficult for terrorist organizations to embed radical thoughts into their minds. So, this is one way we can stop young adults and youngsters from joining such groups.
Secondly, social networks are not working with us, previsiously, social and moral studies were a part of the school curriculum and students had a clear idea of what is right and what is wrong, which prevented them from making immoral choices. These days we do not have such programs in schools.
So now to sum it all up for you:
1. Firstly, identify their sources of supply and put a cap on their source of supplies,
2. Restrict their source of recruitment and stop the young generation from turning into baits.
Nigeria has earned a reputation for conning people out of their money, as millions of people globally keep receiving emails about winning a lottery or inheriting an exceptionally high source of money, these emails have become notorious and there are many people across Norway and Europe who have been affected by this form of fraudulent activities. Why are people here becoming targets to cyber fraud, be it inNorway or any other European nation cyber crime is on the rise, what is your view on this?
For you to fall victim to this kind of crime, cyber crime you must be a greedy mind yourself. Because if I tell you that I have one billion dollars somewhere and I want to transfer it to your account then all I need for you to do is pay 100,000 dollars or 20,000 dollars to transfer this particular account to you, why would you want to fall for that? Why do you want to reap what you did not sow, but having said that cyber crime should not be encouraged in any form-it is bad, it is evil and it destroys people’s lives. It is for this reason that the Government in my country set up an Economic crime unit, EFCC, it was to mainly check-mate and stop this cyber crime, because most Nigerians were involved in it and since the establishment of EFCC it has reduced drastically. As, EFCC works in conjunction with the Interpol and other global security agencies to target those people, find where they are and arrest them.
This year’s African Union conference in South Africa where calls for President Bashir’s arrest were made, as a lot of human rights organizations as well as the ICC called for his arrest for war crimes, as a political figure how do you see the situation President Bashir is in?
Well, I don’t have the details but if the reports before the ICC for a matter of fact say that President Bashir committed human rights crimes, it is only those who have the report before them that can comment on this. But, what I want to say is this President Bashir was invited to South Africa by the AU for a conference and it is the duty of the AU to protect him. I am sure he was asked to come there because the AU stated that they would protect him and he would not be arrested. As much as I condemn in totality the human rights abuse by any individual be it head of states of any country. But there has to be a modicum of respect for regional organizations when they have meetings and they have guaranteed the safety of their members coming to that meeting. If President Bashir was visiting South Africa on his own, by the South African Government then it would have been a different thing but it was an invitation from the AU and they had promised him his protection. So, for the ICC to blame South Africa for not handing him over to them is not right. So, despite the fact that we should condemn Human Rights abuses by any organizations, we need to respect the sanctity and autonomy of regional organizations.
The one problem Nigeria faces is corruption. In fact political Corruption in Nigeria is a prevalent crime, and many times there have been reports of official misuse of resources for personal use. Over the years, the country has seen its wealth being spent, with little to show in living conditions of the average citizen who are living in sheer poverty, what is your view on this? I totally agree with you, and Corruption in Nigeria is an economic disease that needs to be totally eradicated, it should be removed fought against totally it.
How is it possible?
Well , I can assure you this, the current president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, who was also a former head of state, former chairman of PTF, but if you go to his house in Kaduna, I have been to his house in Kaduna and I have had the opportunity to go there for meetings and let me tell you he is the cleanest most simplest former head of state and president we have ever had. He is a man who is humble,simple who does not believe in corruption and and he will fight against corruption with everything he has asked the international community, when he attended the G7 meeting last week, to help him in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. You know why, because this money that has been stolen from the people are in western banks either in Norway and Switzerland, British bank or American Bank, so if all of them agree then there is no place for the perpetrators to hide the stolen money. So the president has asked for the cooperation from the international community to help us fight corruption. I agree with you, because you are given an assignment as the President, governor, parliamentarian or a minister to work and serve the people and you have not been given that assignment to steal their money. We should always remember that the money that is stolen out of the system, leads to the impoverishment of the people of that nation.
And Nigeria has a lot of problems. The gap between the rich and poor is so wide, the rate of unemployment is high, we need money to provide good health care systems, we need money to encourage social systems, we need money to provide transportation, we need money to provide employment and if you are elected by the people to serve them and provide them with these amenities and the only thing you do is to steal the money, if there is no place for you to hide that money, you cannot put it in a Nigerian bank, you cannot take it to any bank out of seas the best thing for you to do is stop stealing and do the right thing, that is use that money for the development of the nation and its people.
My final question to you today is a question we ask all our guests, what do Human Rights mean to you?
To me it means that every citizen of theWorld has the right to exist, has the freedom of speech, freedom of movement freedom to breathe air, the freedom to walk with anyone they like and the freedom to be protected. Authoritarian governments do not guarantee human rights.
But, isn’t Nigeria considered as country which has been violating human rights?
I don’t think there is any country which had not violated human rights at one point or the other, we have freedom of press, there has been no time that we have thrown our journalists into jail for giving their views. We have freedom of expression in Nigeria. Im not saying there have been no cases of violations, we have had cases of human rights violations but that is just one or two and it not conspicuous.
All Rights Reserved with The Oslo Times