On March 26, the Nigerian senate proved that President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to grant amnesty to terrorist organization Boko Haram was not in vain. Nigerian Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe announced that the senate, like the president, was opposed to amnesty for Boko Haram.
Nigeria’s emboldened approach to dealing with Boko Haram should inspire the U.S. to follow suit. Just as refusing to grant amnesty is a symbolic gesture in addition to a strategic move, the U.S. should call Boko Haram by its rightful name, and designate this Nigerian jihadist sect as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
Ansar Dine, another Islamist militant group whose mission is to impose sharia law, was declared an FTO by the U.S. State Department on March 21, 2013. While this is a welcome development, the U.S. has failed to designate Nigerian jihadist sect Boko Haram as an FTO, despite the group’s continued terrorist acts.
For years, Boko Haram has terrorized the people of northern Nigeria and Cameroon. On January 28, a cease-fire was agreed upon between Boko Haram and the Borno state government in the Northeastern part of Nigeria. The Borno State government, regrettably, believes in continued dialogue with Boko Haram. They maintain this optimistic attitude despite the Boko Haram–distributed leaflets that deny the cease-fire.
Boko Haram didn’t waste any time breaking the cease-fire—on February 19, 2013, they admitted to kidnapping a French family of seven vacationing in Cameroon. The group has stated that the abduction was in retaliation of France’s military intervention in Mali.
This isn’t the first time Boko Haram has surprised the world with its brazen attacks—in 2011, the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. It is, however, the first time that the group has ventured outside its home turf and terrorized the Cameroonian side of the border.
Nigeria is a security concern to the United States. It is Africa’s biggest oil producer, and the U.S. imports more oil from Nigeria than any other African country. The U.S. also relies on Nigeria to ensure peacekeeping in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and South Sudan.
The danger of Boko Haram’s gaining momentum has been addressed by the U.S. government, but not adequately. Last November, the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence wisely concluded that Boko Haram poses a threat to our national security. The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill outlined where the U.S. was lacking in intelligence on Boko Haram, and how we would obtain it in the fight against terrorism.
Boko Haram has earned the title of terrorist organization. Now it’s up to Washington to make it official and enable the United States to take legal action against the group and its material contributors.
Nicole Leibow and Sarah Field are currently members of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.