By Nkasi Wodu —
On Sunday, June 6, Nigerian terrorists attacked a catholic church in Owo, a town in Nigeria’s South West region. Eye witness accounts mentioned that the attackers opened fire while church service was going on, and reports put the death toll at 40, with many more injured. Unfortunately, when this attack occurred, both foreign and local media reports followed their usual tactics of portraying the attackers as ‘unknown gunmen.’ Regrettably, this phrase seems to do more harm than good in Nigeria’s fight against terrorism.
The phrase ‘unknown gunmen’ in Nigerian parlance refers to most acts of violence committed by a range of actors since 2020. Other terms used by the media to portray purveyors of terror attacks in Nigeria are ‘bandits’ and ‘Fulani herdsmen.’ These names convey certain anonymity to the attackers as if they appeared out of nowhere and disappeared shortly to whence they came from after the attack. However, these groups have continued to grow in increasing influence since 2019 and have come to stay. Nothing can be far from the truth. Therefore, the media need to portray these groups as terror groups whose main objective is to incite fear and keep the country in a perpetual state of instability, a condition the country has experienced since the emergence of Boko Haram attacks in 2010. This point is even more significant with the recent claims by the National Security Council that the terror group, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), a group with close ties to the global terror group ISIS carried out the attacks. More significant is that in 2022, the Nigerian government labelled bandits as a terror group, yet the media has stuck with the narrative of mislabeling.
Op-Ed originally posted on Premium Times on June 11, 2022.