9 November 2012

Nigeria: Agents of Death


Though the entire northern part of Nigeria is engulfed in its worst social crisis ever, north-east in particular is increasingly proving particularly precarious, as it has been literally turned into an earthly hell of a sort.

In addition to Boko Haram, there are many other criminals who are busy unleashing misery, distress and death indiscriminately among the defenceless and innocent citizens. And, also, there are some (perhaps few yet very active) members of the Joint Task Force (JTF). However, of all these agents of death, the elements among the JTF are particularly dangerous.

It is clear that, having failed to tackle the guerrilla warfare tactics of Boko Haram, some probably drunk, gun-wielding members of the JTF are ironically out to vent their anger and frustration on the helpless and innocent people under the pretext of chasing the terrorists.

From their betrayal of lack of professionalism in their conduct, such members of the JTF give reasonable ground to suspicion that they already harbour some grudges and perhaps some personal scores to settle.

After all, as I was writing this piece, the UK-based Guardian newspaper carried a damning report on Nigerian army's professional capability to lead the impending foreign military intervention in Mali in order to oust the rebels there. The report maintains that there is a lack of discipline, training, and "capability to carry out even basic military manoeuvres." It therefore concludes that "their role is more likely to be limited to manning checkpoints and loading trucks," or "to play a behind-the-scenes role in logistics and providing security."

This in essence means that, Nigerian army's professionalism has declined drastically to the extent that they are probably good only in manning checkpoints (for obvious reasons of course), loading/unloading of goods and providing security to institutions and personalities, all of which by the way can be done effectively by any standard vigilante group.

Anyway, as such unprofessional elements among the JTF continue to exert their cruelty on the people, a growing number of innocent citizens watch helplessly how such heartless elements recklessly massacre them and their loved ones, force them out of their houses, assault, abuse and even, according to some reports, rape their women. Meanwhile, those who have fled their houses and areas have been rendered displaced and abandoned not knowing from where and how they could pick up the fragments of their shattered lives.

One can't help shedding tears for these people, who were already languishing under the severest bite of poverty when the prevailing nightmarish horror overwhelmed them, which also subjected them to constant fear and uncertainty to the extent that they now remember their past poverty-ridden but peaceful circumstances with much nostalgia.

Incidentally, this does not only explain government's scandalous failure to make any breakthrough towards solving this quagmire, but it actually highlights its insensitivity towards the plight of northern Nigeria in general and the north-east in particular. After all, it shamelessly dismissed the recent authentically documented charges against it by the influential Human Rights Watch, which had documented serious human right abuses including extrajudicial killings committed by the JTF against many innocent civilians under the pretext of chasing Boko Haram members.

By the way, it is such official apathy towards people's predicament that actually angers the public to the extent where some deeply frustrated amongst them decide (out of sheer frustration) to either join the Boko Haram or support them or at least give them cover to perpetrate their attacks against the government and its agents. And it is obvious that this will always undermine any effort to solve the problem hence inevitably prolong the bloodshed.

Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, in addition to Boko Haram and some bad eggs among the JTF members, there are apparently some criminal gangs who capitalize on the prevailing security chaos to perpetrate their acts of killing. After all, even Boko Haram that normally admits its responsibility for various attacks and killings has on different occasions denied involvement in some acts of assassinations that have happened in the region.

I personally believe them when they denied responsibility for the recent assassination of General Mamman Shuwa (rtd) in Maiduguri, considering the circumstances surrounding the operation, which was executed in broad daylight and right inside his residence that for decades has been under military protection by virtue of his status as a former army general. Yet, there is no any detailed security related explanation from the authorities as how the General was assassinated under such circumstances anyway.

Meanwhile, though a growing number of people publicly lament government's failure to check the operational excesses of some JTF personnel, it remains indifferent largely because there is hardly if at all any concerted effort spearheaded by the region's elite to pressurize the government in order to get it act seriously, professionally and decisively to end this mess. This is despite the fact that their unified and resolute stand is too important to be ignored by the government.

It is very unfortunate that, even when an individual among such influential elite from the region chooses to reluctantly speak out, he sounds too ambiguous and too hesitant to command government's attention. As a matter of fact he sounds too intimidated by the usual politically motivated blackmails by his political rivals from the other parts of the country hence he succumbs to their pressure to avoid being labelled as a Boko Haram apologist.

Similarly, some other largely insincere political opponents seek to capitalize on such systematic insensitivity to launch politically motivated attacks against the government with a view to scoring cheap political points.

It is therefore unfortunate that only the voices of the effectively ineffective majority that are heard, who relentlessly appeal to the government to adopt more proactive and professional attitude in handling the crisis. However, since the government has already taken them for granted, it is not likely to listen to them, because after all its conscience (if any) doesn't seem alive enough to inspire it to do the right thing.

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