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Turkish arms supplies to Boko Haram?

Turkish arms supplies

The Egyptian Television station TV Ten recently aired a report wherein the presenter of the programme played an audio of a purported conversation between Mustafa Varank, Turkey’s Minister of Industry and Technology, and Mehmet Karatas, a manager with Turkish Airlines about supplies of arms to Boko Haram from Turkey.

The audio seemed to be the same one first reported in 2014 when Varank was Senior Advisor to President Recep Tayyib Erdogan between from 2011 to 2018.

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The issue was given added traction most recently on November 3, 2019 by Raymond Ibrahim, an American of Lebanese Christian Maronite origin and senior fellow at Gatestone Institute, a US think tank on Middle East affairs. Raymond Ibrahim in his paper sought to portray it as plot by Turkey, a Muslim country, to arm Boko Haram insurgents in order to commit genocide against Christians in Nigeria.

For sure we must not lose sight of the fact that Turkey is at odds with some of the local and outside powers involved in the on-going crises in the Middle East who may want to paint it in bad light. But this is not first time we are having reports of countries aiding and abetting Boko Haram insurgents with supplies of arms and logistics. A few years back there was a publicised case of seizure of a large cache of arms at the Tin Can Island Port Lagos imported from Iran. Similarly, there was the case of a French national who reportedly disclosed that France was behind the Boko Haram insurgents, supplying them with arms, logistical support and training from bases in neighbouring French-speaking countries.

To the best of our knowledge, none of these and other known allegations of foreign support for Boko Haram has been investigated and its result made public. That the Boko Haram insurgency has lasted this long could not have been possible without support from outside sources. Indeed, reports from various sources have confirmed that Boko Haram insurgents are often better armed than our gallant soldiers. In the theatre of battle itself, the insurgents have often demonstrated capacities that indicated they are being trained and directed by superior foreign sources.

We note that the international arms industry is like a bazaar where all kinds of actors operate. This current matter allegedly involving Turkish officials and institutions may well be the work of rogue elements within the Turkish government. It may also involve non state actors who have an eye on the lucrative pickings that the world of illegal arms shipments provides. Experience has shown that where insurgency like the Boko Haram lingers on intractably, it gives room for shadowy arms merchants to take advantage using all kinds of underhand practices.

The latest report of alleged Turkish arms supplies to Boko Haram is therefore one too many which must be comprehensively investigated and disclosure made to the Nigerian public. It must not be hushed up or swept under the carpet like previous ones. Although the veracity of the report is yet to be ascertained, we welcome the statement by the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Onyeama Okechukwu that the matter is being given serious attention by the relevant institutions of national security.

Although Nigeria enjoys warm relations with Turkey across all areas, that should not prejudice or preclude our authorities from thoroughly investigating the matter. Indeed, it is exactly because of the need to preserve our state of relations with Turkey that the matter should be investigated in conjunction with the Turkish authorities, if only to clear any doubts.  Turkey just like Nigeria knows and feels the pain of internal insurgencies with the violent activities directed against it by Kurdish separatists within and outside its borders.  Accordingly, it behoves on the government of the Republic of Turkey under President Erdogan to demonstrate its commitment to the excellent relationship it enjoys with Nigeria by cooperating fully with our authorities in this investigation.

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