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Friday, September 7, 2012

Short Essay 39: Telecoms and Boko Haram

Short Essay 39
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Telecoms and Boko Haram

The much expected claim of responsibility for the attacks on offices and installations of telecommunication companies (telecoms) in Nigeria by Jama’at Ahlus Sunnah lid Da’awati wal Jihad – or Boko Haram as they are popularly called – finally came yesterday. With it, it is certain that the two elephants are logged in a fight that would leave ordinary Nigerians at the receiving end.

The contention, I believe, is all about management of private information received on trust, and not about terrorism per se. Last February, Boko Haram issued a warning on possible attacks on properties of telecoms for passing the content of communication among its members to Nigerian security and law enforcement agencies. By attacking those targets after six months, it is clear that, in the judgement of Boko Haram, the alleged collaboration between the telecoms and the government agencies has not stopped.

At this point, I think a denial by the telecoms, if the allegation is false, is critical. Boko Haram has thrown two challenges at the telecoms: the allegations and the attacks. Both have been replied with silence, if not with further collaboration, by the telecoms. If the companies are not collaborating with the security agencies by passing over private information of their suspected Boko Haram customers, something that contravenes the ethical and legal fundamentals of the industry, they should say so such that further attacks by the sect can be avoided. In fact, I expected the to put up even a “white lie” to avoid the present catastrophe. But they have not.

Well, the grammar above is just for the purpose of understanding the positions of both sides. On the one hand, telecoms are under pressure from government to pass over information about locations of callers suspected to be Boko Haram members and what they say in their calls or text messages. One can easily see them obliging such requests either as their ‘patriotic’ contribution in the fight against Boko Haram or in a bid to play the ‘good boy’ before government even if it contravenes the law. This understandably and instantly places them on the group’s hit list.

Boko Haram, on the other hand, definitely needs the privacy of their information to succeed in eluding the authorities. However, this is a desire that may hardly be granted to any insurgent group anywhere under the sun today. More than that, however, I must say that it is wishful in the first place. Anyone using digital technology must know that he is liable to hacking by the authorities. His location is the easiest thing to find. Since the row between Blackberry and China, India and a number of governments in the Middle East in 2009, it became clear that hardly would any technology be permitted into the market today without its “antidote” known to western governments. Technologically advanced countries were quiet on the BB Messenger row precisely because they have many such antidotes in their security stock. Boko Haram must understand the simple logic in this Hausa proverb: “kowa ya sayi rariya ya san za ta zubar da ruwa.”

For now, the Inspector General of Police has directed that security be provided to every office and mast of telecoms in the country. This is a good gesture though, unfortunately, a practically impossible one. I cannot see any Nigerian police playing a martyr in defence of a telecom installation in the bushes and villages of Northern Nigeria. He will be offering too much for nothing in return. Families of policemen who died in such circumstances are always complaining of neglect by the authorities. But that is even taking the argument too far. The basic reality is that with three to five masts in every village in the region there are just not enough policemen to safeguard the hundreds of thousands of such telecom masts even if all the policemen in the region are diverted to the project. I concede that there could be a reasonable number for their offices and, perhaps, personnel. But all masts? Kai, Mr. IGP.

The telecoms must therefore invent a practical equation to secure their installations, offices and staff. They must be ready to forego a scratch on the surface of the billions they daily harvest from Nigerians in protecting their assets with the formidable private security personnel for the foreseeable future. But please let them not pass the cost to us – the consumers. Let this not be an opportunity to return the cost of calls to N50/minute wo!

As for Boko Haram, my advice is that hardly would reliance on conventional telecommunication channels guarantee safety from surveillance of anti-establishment group. In fact, even without the collaboration of the telecoms, there are dozens of equipment that can intercept digital communications available over the counter for authorized bodies all over world. If it must survive, the group must keep this in mind and think ahead in its communication strategy. Hitting telecoms underlines its lack of its sophistication. More importantly, it undeniably puts the people that the group claims to protect centuries backward in economy, scholarship, culture, etc. Without modern communications, the North will eventually be reduced to its colonial era of kar ta kwana in which mails were delivered by a chain of native pedestrian human couriers until they reach their destination, non-stop. This is a fate that the group must work to avoid as it does not serve its cause in any imaginable way.

Finally, let me reiterate my analysis in my previous discourse. The whole Boko Haram insurgency and the general violence pervading Northern Nigeria is a product of the prevailing corrupt leadership in the country and the silence of Northern political leaders and intelligentsia over the injustice that such corruption perpetrates. This has led everyone outside the cliques of political and economic consortiums feel alienated, frustrated and hopeless. In that state of social perversion, anarchy cannot be avoided. In that state of affairs, the rich – like the telecommunication companies – and the strong – like the law enforcement agents and politicians – will both share in the tears of the desolate downtrodden whose life depicts the popular dictum: aluta continua. It is an analysis on which I remain unrepentant.

Bauchi
7 September 2012

25 comments:

kabara-dku said...

By Nasiru Manga
With the spate of violence and unwanton destruction of properties and lives caused by this dreaded sect, I don't blame the service providers for assisting security to fish out these devil-incarnated beingd among us even if it "contravene the law or unethical". We are tired if these beasts painting Islam black. Let the service providers continue their good work, period

Stephen said...

Nice one but please note that there is no law preventing the passing of suspected terrorist communication to the authorities worldwide. Infact, there are intelligence personnel who trawl through everyday communications with sophisticated listening devices for key words which alert them to monitor certain phone calls or emails.
Here in the western world, a lot of crime is solved through this method though a Jugde will need to authorise the release of such information.

Anonymous said...

Saleh Bukar Word! No more no less. A must read. Thank you.

jidda said...

Let them hear. In this age it is easy for a handful of individuals to cause serious disruption of whole societies. We can not police every critical infrastructure. There is no solution in confronting the BH issue as a simple law and order issue. It is legal, justice, economic, sectional and philosophical issue all rolled into one.
Maiduguri has been barely secured after a huge army presence- the militants simply moved to Damaturu. And now it has become ghost town- banks have closed shop and layed off staffs, residents give ATM to friends heading for Maiduguri to collect cash! Government offices operate with a sense of insecurity.
Those who say do not negotiate simply hate the north, wish to bring her to her knees.....

Anonymous said...

Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim

I am proud of you Dr. Tilde

To be frank they know the solution, but very unfortunate they are benefiting from security allowance that is why they hardly tackle it !!.

Anonymous said...

Dr.your efford cannot b over emphasize!

sada said...

That is simply the issue!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you dr tilde but some sentences in your discourse seems to suggest that you have sympathy with boko haram, like wanting them to understand that their communications can be kept secretive by other means. I may be wrong but i just want to be clarified!

ingweyejn said...

You this Tilde, you are a wicked man. Your Ph.D or MBBS or DVM as the case may be was given in error. How could you support these devils call BH? Those supporting BH openly or stealthily as you are doing will never go unpunished. At least the blood of those killed must be avenged by God Himself if the government is incapable of doing that.

Jibrin dan Nijeriya said...

Allah-SWT ya karemu, ya kiyayemu, AREWA da kuma Nijeriy baki daya Dr. ...Weldone & happy w/end Sir.

Anonymous said...

We should know that the govt is responsible 4 all the destructions of property in the north. They just want 2 shot down the North b4 they breakaway. Biafra agenda but a failure, just wait & see when december comes.

Aminu Danmaliki said...

Who are the Boko Haram any way ? Dr Tilde is speaking as if BH is different from the operatives,insurgency ? Bullshit ! I do agree with those who categorized BH as a sponsored mission with tacit support of the present government to destroy the north,we should all see beyond our noses.

Anonymous said...

Its naivety for any terrorist organization to rely on modern day technology as a means of communication,Osama used Human Courier to relay meassages to his followers worldwide but it was the Same Courier that turn him in after capture and ofcourse several session of water boarding.

Isah Matori said...

Dr.Tilde, you are indeed a symbol of patriotism and objectivity.

Yes said...

So the BH terrorists expects everyone to fold their hand and watch them unleashing terror against depenseless citizens? No, that cannot be! If anything this only shows the efforts of the terrorists is now being frustrated and that is what all we want. The Telecoms should not be intimidated, govt needs even more collaboration with you guys so that in no distant future we will see the end of these murderers who are out to disstabilize our great Nation. What BH is doing is not in the interest of ALL including 'we Nigerian muslims' they claimed to be fighting for. We don't want them because they are just tarnishing the good name of our peaceful religion. The terrorists are not out to fight the authorities alone, they are out to fight this great nation with all its peace loving people including muslims of course who even suffer more casualties, and imagine they said they are fighting for islam! With the collective effort of ALL muslims, christians, telecoms, govt and security agencies Boko Haram will soon be history Insha Allah.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

Mhm. Same essay, different meanings. I am not Boko Haram, though many times some readers have acdused me of being one. Happily, neither Boko Haram nor the Nigerian authorities beleive that I am one.

Yet, i must trade with caution in my effort to say my mind. I am not unaware that I have an address and so I am within reach of both BH and the government. If only I could enjoy the luxury of being anonymous, like many commentators here, ah, I could have written anything and gone to sleep without watching my back.

I hope that answers one of the commentators who asked for a clarification.

I must say I am enjoying the comments because it shows how different Nigerians hold different opinions about the insurgency.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your series of discourse for some time and I have no doubt to where your allegiance or sympathies lie.
Heck, it shows in the articles you pen.
We are at war with Islamic extremists who are killing muslims ,christians and the enforcers of the instruments of state coercion
It is the turn of the telecoms industry
To those who are the intellectual front of this movement,history should tell them it is a losing battle.If the prophet could convert all the world population to be muslims he would have already done so.
By the time the insurgency is over North Eastern Nigeria would have the same indices of development as Somalia
The Mast attacks should continue and the leadership of this movement who are presently in the border countries up north in Zinder and Diffa We know and we are watching

Yes said...

"If only I could enjoy the luxury of being anonymous, like many commentators here, ah, I could have written anything and gone to sleep without watching my back"

@Tilde, Hahahaha.. Gaskiya Dr. ka ban dariya! Ashe kana jin tsoro? But u try sha, b4 i even thought u cannot even publish my comment. LOL

Omar .M Tilde said...

sir, tnks alot, wannan magana haka yake

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

@Yes. The fear of Boko Haram is the beginning of wisdom here. I think that is why you answer the name 'Yes'. But the sect will be glad to know your actual name sir.

Salmat said...

Hmm really Dr! Gaskiya da wannan write up din gwanda shiru.I am sorry to say when it comes to the issue of Boko Haram, your opinions appear meek, shallow and suspicious to say the least. Wake up and smell the coffee brother, no matter how you try to defend those disgruntled elements, you are not safe,because those selfish bigots, murderers and cowards dont have a reason, don't reason and lack any justification for their devilish acts. If they can threaten Dr. Datti, I wonder who else is safe. Allah ya shirye su in masu shiryuwa ne in kuma ba haka ba Allah ya kawo mana karshen su da zaluncin su, amin.

Umar Sa'ad Aliyu said...

May Allah protect us all and distroy all evil plans. Sir, Allah yaka da alheri ya kuma kare mu baki daya. Amin.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

My views about Boko Haram are very clear in the first essay I wrote about it titled We are Boko Haram (http://fridaydiscourse.blogspot.com/2010/05/discourse-261-by-dr.html) and it has not changed. What they are doing now is a logical conclusion of our collective rejection of modernity in its various facets that is now supported by doctrines of some sects newly introduced into the country. That conclusion has expressed itself, as I have shown in that essay, in various aspects of our lives, of which the emergence of Boko haram is only one. It is a sad one but I couldn't reach a different one after a long search into the cultural roots of Boko haram. Successive essays, like the one above, are mere routine analysis of events. The damage has already been done by us collectively. This boys are just a part of it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...Shekau performed Umrah (lesser hajj) during Ramadan. He was sighted by several people in Mecca. Now what do you guys have to say about that?

Anonymous said...

With the spate of injustice carried out by JTF in the north east, BH attacks are a long way from over, Allah dai ya tsaremu!!!!