13 January 2012

Nigeria: Boko Haram Members May Face Crimes Against Humanity - UN

Photo: Abayomi Adeshida
Nineteen suspected members of Boko Haram.

Geneva — United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, has warned that members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, who have claimed responsibility for series of bomb attacks in Nigeria leading to loss of lives could be guilty of crimes against humanity if they are judged to have carried out systematic attacks on religious targets.

The UN chief gave the warning as the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor berated governors from the southern part of the country who he said were yet to see the need to make deliberate efforts to engage their northern counterparts on ways to end the killings.

According to the UN statement, "members of Boko Haram and other groups and entities, if judged to have committed widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population, including on grounds such as religion or ethnicity, could be found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Protesters in Abuja Protesting at the 4th Day of Occupay Nigerian Photo Gbenga Olamikan

Deliberate acts leading to population 'cleansing' on grounds of religion or ethnicity would also amount to a crime against humanity,"

The statement added: "It is essential that the country's leadership, and especially its Muslim and Christian leaders, join forces to unequivocally condemn all violence, including retaliation, and encourage their followers to identify and help arrest all those involved in killings and other acts of violence that have been taking place."

Meanwhile, Pastor Oritsejafor, who was piqued by the vandalisation of five churches in Gusau, Zamfara State in the guise of oil subsidy protest, said several Nigerian leaders, including the leadership of Labour and civil society coalition, owe this country an explanation for their conspiracy of silence while innocent Nigerians are being killed like animals in the North.

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Chapel of Grace, C and S Church, COCIN Church and CAC, all in Gangaren Yerima area of Gusau, were vandalised while a pastor was molested by people said to be protesting hike in oil prices.

Said he: "I am really ashamed at southern governors whose citizens are daily being mauled down by a group of Islamic fundamentalists who are hell bent on annihilating Christians from the nation without any attempt to engage their northern counterparts on ways to end the madness.

"I am really ashamed. Its amazing the kind of publicity the Borno State governor gave to the payment of N100 million compensation to the family of late Yussuff's father-in-law.

"We were all witnesses to how this same Yussuff killed Rev. Orji like an animal in Maiduguri in 2009. Nobody in this country has thought of paying any compensation to the late reverend's family to date nor rebuild the churches that are being burnt everywhere," Oritsejafor said, adding that he had to relocate the man's widow from Borno State for fear that her life also be in danger.

According to the CAN helmsman, "these are some of the injustices and imbalances we have been talking about. Who needs compensation? Is it the sponsored attacker or the victim of the attack who very often loses everything? We have, to no avail, consistently called on the Borno State government to pay adequate compensation to victims of the various attacks in that part of the country."

Stating that he sympathised with the pains of the Nigerian people who are currently going through harsh economic conditions as a result of fuel subsidy removal, the CAN president said if the House of Representatives truly love the nation they should have demonstrated it by holding a special session to end the growing menace of terrorism in the country.

"Much as I identify with the pains of Nigerians at this dark moment of the nation's history, I think those guys were on an ego trip, otherwise the security situation in the country should have been their number one priority.

"They reconvened a special plenary because of fuel subsidy removal as if the lives of those being killed don't matter to them. If the government reverts to N65 who will buy the fuel--the dead or the living? How can the National Assembly be so insensitive to the plight of Christians who are being killed like animals daily?

"Are they by their silence over the security challenges occasioned by Boko Haram, saying that the Christians have no stake in the Nigerian project? The House was quick to reconvene on Sunday to deliberate on oil subsidy, why haven't they taken one Friday to find ways to end the killings in the North?" Oritsejafor asked.

He maintained that the House was only playing to gallery because "the security situation in the North especially with Boko Haram giving an ultimatum to southerners to quit the North and vice versa is a much more serious issue than the oil subsidy removal because it is a threat to the corporate existence of the nation".

It will be recalled that the CAN president resettled late Rev Orji's widow who was pregnant at the time her husband was slaughtered, and gave the children scholarship in addition to giving her a car and money to start a new business.

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