26 May 2013

Nigeria: State of Emergency - Residents Gloom in the Face of Hardship, Rise in Crime

Proclamation of State of Emergency Rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, a few weeks ago, by President Jonathan has not only put the residents in the states on red alert, but also culminated into what could be described as living in misery within the states. SADIQ ABUBAKAR Maiduguri and Mohammed Ismail Yola write.

Complaints from the residents in some of the wards indicated that the JTF has adopted a new method of daily harassment and molestation of residents in the slightest delay or move by the residents to either reach their homes or go out in search of their daily food.

The situation has, however, been described as a cruel way of inflicting more hardship on the poor masses of Maiduguri metropolis which has continuously been receiving series of criticisms and condemnations from the public.

Traders who have been going about pursuing their legitimate businesses as Nigerians have been abused by the JTF in many cases. In an instance, one Tanimu Labaran told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY at Mari Tashan Bama Area off University of Maiduguri road that, "we are not animals, we are human beings like them [soldiers] but the way they maltreat us daily in this area is as if we are animals or not human beings. It is unfair and inhumane.

"How can you pick somebody in his house and execute him without investigation?" he queried.

Labaran added that, "every Nigerian has a right to fair hearing and that they (suspects arrested in neighbourhoods by JTF) were supposed to be investigated and found guilty first before they are punished. I call on the government to properly investigate the incidence that led to the killings and bring all those involved, whether directly or indirectly, to book to serve as deterrent to others who may wish to engage in such a barbaric and inhumane act against humanity anywhere in the world".

Alhaji Masa Abacha, a kiosk operator in Bolori Ward, off Baga Road Area, that has also been under the said curfew, speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday on the issue of state of emergency rule and curfew said, "Everybody is happy and welcome the idea of the federal government granting amnesty, releasing some insurgents of the Boko Haram sect members. Every reasonable person will appreciate such a move for peace to return to Borno and other parts of the country."

"However, we pray that the committee will do a better job at bringing every offender to book without any fear or favour as well as consider the plight of those affected by the insurgency by way of compensating the victims generally, including those of Baga, Bama and few other places affected by the insurgency which we expect at the end of the reports of the Amnesty Committee of Alhaji Kabiru Turaki in respect of the insurgency," Masa said.

An orange and banana seller roaming Post Office and Ramat Square Shopping Complex Area told LEADERSHIP Sunday, "The military men disturb us more with this curfew. Before the curfew time, you will see them beating residents to enter their houses. Those yet to reach home, even the women, you will see the JTF chasing them running no matter the age of these women, including married women. They don't have regard for people even women. We don't know what is happening"

"We that sell all these petty things on the street or by roadsides witness these things. But we are being careful not to be trapped by the JTF. At times, they buy things from us. But we still stand the risk of being molested or harassed or attacked by the JTF. Sometimes, they don't have mercy on people," Nuru said.

A student of the University of Maiduguri, Abdullahi Ahmed, of the department of Bio-Chemistry told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Maiduguri that, "It is a good development and I think it is also in the interest of all and sundry, including the security people and citizens of Borno. With this move, we hope that peace should reign and the group should accept to ceasefire and surrender completely with this attack on them by the Special task Force," Ahmed said.

"We also want the JTF to soften their pattern of handling our people during the curfew period. It is outrageous for the JTF to be maltreating the residents, despite the appeals by the governor that the soldiers should carry out their assignments with caution."

"We have been praying day and night for this curfew and state of emergency to end, and peace to return to the state. We also pray that the members will now give up and give the government listening and cooperative ears to end the crisis," he added.

In Yola, residents have decried the recent upsurge of burglary cases, recorded in the metropolis, even though the state is under the hammer of Emergency Rule, imposed on it as a mechanism of controlling the rising violence in the state.

A resident of the metropolis, Mallam Salihu Sani, said since the curfew was imposed, shop owners across major roads have continued to operate under the mercies of burglary, which seemed to have become the new order of the day by men of the underworld, who have been operating with impunity. "Since the dusk to dawn curfew was imposed on us, hardly will a day pass by without somebody's shop being burgled," he said.

Investigation by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that in Yola alone, more than four shops have been burgled. And the irony is that, most of the shops are located along major streets where they can't be missed by the military personnel on patrol.

One of the shops worst affected by the onslaught of the burglars is located along Modibbo Adamawa Way, which now wears a shadow of its former self, as the burglars succeeded in carrying away most of the valuable items in the shop.

Another tailoring shop belonging to one Mallam Saidu, located opposite School of Arabic and Islamic Studies (SAIS), Yola, also suffered similar fate. But what makes Mallam Saidu's case even more pathetic is that it is close to the Wuro Hausa Police Command in Yola.

One of the shop attendants, who identify himself as Mallam Adamu Ibrahim, said clothing materials worth N200,000 were carted away from the shop when they went home to observe the compulsory curfew, imposed by the military authorities. "We have never experienced such theft, even before the emergency was imposed. That is why we found it difficult to understand the level of burglary that is going on now that a curfew was in force," he lamented.

The owner of Elyasa Computer Centre, also located in the same block with the tailoring shop, had similar tale to tell. The shop owner, who is also a student at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, said he was astonished to find out that his shop was burgled and the two computers with which he worked had been stolen.

He said, as a student, he does not know how to cater for his school fees, as he depended entirely on the business to settle his fees and other sundry expenses. He said his main concern is how to pacify the people who gave him jobs, which he saved in the computer hard drives. Two more boutiques in Yola were also reportedly burgled with clothes worth tens of thousands of naira stolen.

Also, the people of Bachure, a suburb of Jimeta near the 23rd Military Barracks, were not spared from the onslaught as their transformer was seriously vandalised with the armored cables stolen.

The ward head of Bachure, Alhaji Sa'ad Yauba, said the thieves took advantage of the people's compliance and vandalised the only transformer they have. "When the thieves arrived, I heard movement of people, because the transformer is located near my house, but unfortunately, I thought they were military officers on patrol and I did not raise any alarm. Only to know in the morning that our hard-earned transformer was vandalised by miscreants."

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the 23rd Armoured Brigade, Yola, Lieutenant Nuhu Mohammed Jafar, said he did not receive such reports. Efforts to reach the Force Public Relations Officer of the Police in Adamawa State Command also proved abortive as at the time of filing this report, due to network problem.

However, the Chief of Staff to Governor Murtala Nyako, Alhaji Abdurrahaman Abbah Jimeta, said the recent statements he made to the effect that the President deliberately included Adamawa among the states covered by the Emergency Rule was to fulfill an ulterior motive has come to pass with the recent move by the President to take control of the administrative and financial resources of these states.

"Right from the time the State of Emergency Rule was imposed on the state, I told journalists that the security drift in Adamawa State can in no way be compared to Borno and Yobe states. But despite that, an Emergency Rule was imposed on us. Although we can understand the predicaments of Yobe and Borno states, the action taken against Adamawa State by the President is simply unexplainable. But in line with our culture, we know that the antics of those who are behind the ill move will soon manifest as we have seen."

Jimeta stated that they were aware that the President had sent details of the proclamation order to the National Assembly in order to get the legal muscle to control the finances of the states from the hands of the governors.

"But we must thank the National Assembly for their doggedness at ensuring that the right thing is done within the circumstances," he said, adding that it should be clear to any discerning mind that what the President wanted to do was typical to the action of a military junta, which is not feasible in a democratic setting. "In a democratic government, where the level of awareness is very high, such practices of bringing military to interfere in civil cases are highly regrettable," he said.

"I would not blame the President completely for the events in Yola, because I know a lot of politicians from the state are misleading the President over happenings in Adamawa State," he stated.

He said the President should be aware that those politicians that are misleading him into taking rash decisions would not save him from the wrath of the people on election day.

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