Vanguard (Lagos)

24 April 2013

Nigeria: It's Nigeria, Chad, Niger Operation - Army

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"My hometown of Baga is today in total ruins, with between 180 and 200 human lives lost and numerous other unaccounted, 2,000 homes, 62 cars and 284 motor cycles and tons and tons of food stuff destroyed", he added.

Continuing, he said: "At this point I do not want to immerse myself in the blame game of whether it is multinational task force, JTF or the insurgents that carried out the atrocities, but it bears the hallmark of the Udi Massacre. Whoever did it, that level of atrocity is condemnable and it is hereby condemned. I call for a full-scale investigation to unearth the truth, as this is a recurring decimal in all such past instances in Borno State".

After his presentation, Senate President, David Mark, who was the only person to respond, said the matter was a security one and considering the security implication, there shouldn't be any debate on it by the Senate.

"I don't want any debate on it because there is already a committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate it", he said.

He thereafter directed the Senate Committees on Defence, Police and National Security to investigate the incident and report back within 14 days.

But Mark directs the Senate joint committee to call the Chief of Army Staff with a view to ensuring that the military task force in the area keeps to rules of its engagement.

"You should call the Army Chief and ensure that our boys adhere to the rules of engagement", he said.

The Senate subsequently observed a one-minute silence in honour of the victims.

Speaking with newsmen later, Senator Ma'aji admitted that the insurgents, according to reports available to him, first attacked the military that, he said, were on a routine patrol in the area.

But he faulted the retaliatory action by the military, saying it was wrong for them to have involved civilians in their action against the insurgents just as he said the resort to using higher fire power against the insurgents was not the best way of arresting the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.

"The resort to arm in fighting terrorism in the country is a lazy way of going about it", he insisted.

Senator Ma'aji who confirmed that the Boko haram have taken over 10 local government councils in Borno State, blamed it on security personnel, whom he said, abandoned their duty posts.

"I can confirm to you that there is no security outpost standing in Borno State now. All those needed to man these security posts have abandoned their areas and when you are not there, the person with the gun rules", he said.

He said the "ultimate solution to this insurgency is a genuine dialogue that must necessarily address the immediate and remote underlying causes of the insurgency", even as he commended President Goodluck Joathan for setting up a committee not only to probe the Baga massacre but consider amnesty for those linked with Boko Haram activities in the country.

He appealed to concerned agencies of government and spirited individuals to come to the aid of the surviving victims, whom he said, were mostly women, children and the aged, saying they were in dire need for assistance.

The House of Representatives on its part urged President Goodluck Jonathan to set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the massacre following the adoption, without debate, of a motion brought by Hon Mohammed Tahir Mongonu.

The House presided by the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal yesterday also called on the Boko Haram Sect members to embrace the amnesty offered by the Federal Government, just as it further urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to the victims who lost their property.

ACN cautions JTF against extra-judicial killings

In its reaction, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, warned the JTF against engaging in extra-judicial killings, saying the security agencies must respect the relevant rules of engagement in their ongoing onslaught against the sect in order to spare the lives and property of innocent civilians.

"Without jumping to any conclusion on what really transpired in Baga, we hasten to say that the military, in fighting an asymmetric war against insurgents, must ensure a strict observance of its rules of engagement to avoid the kind of deaths that were recorded in the border town.

"No matter what defence the military may put forward, the mass deaths and destruction in Baga during the JTF-insurgents' clash portray the Nigerian military as having little or no respect for human rights and the sanctity of lives. This is not a flattering portrayal for a military that has made its mark in global peacekeeping," it said.

The ACN also criticized the Federal Government's handling of the killings, calling it slow and disrespectful to the sanctity of human lives.

Northern Elders condemn killings

Also the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) yesterday, condemned the alleged killing of Baga residents, alleging that the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in Borno State carried out the alleged killings to avenge the death of one soldier ostensibly killed by the Islamist militants, Boko Haram in the town.

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