5 April 2014

Nigeria: Borno-Yobe People's Forum Decries 'Continuous Bloodletting', Issues Urgent Questions & Recommendations

Photo: Premium Times
Boko Haram attacked Konduga.

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Abuja — Presentation by the Borno-Yobe People's Forum at the World Press Conference on the Crises in the North East Held on 31st March 2014 at Barcelona Hotel, Abuja

Introduction

We welcome you to this World Press Conference called by the Borno-Yobe People's Forum, a non-partisan and non-religious association of concerned citizens from Borno and Yobe States. The Forum is compelled by the continuous upsurge in the insurgency in the north-east to call this press conference.

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Borno-Yobe Elders Allege Complicity of Security Agencies in Boko Haram Attacks
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In the last one month, Kawuri, Konduga, Izge, Bama, Michika, Buni Yadi, Mafa, Mainok, Jakana, Auno, Shuwa, Madagali, Malari, Wajonkoro, Ajigin, Benishiekh, Gamboru, Kalabalge, have been attacked with heavy civilian casualties. In the Giwa military Barracks attack, there has been a loss of over one thousand lives as stated in the current Amnesty international report. Rather than abate, the insurgency has not only continued to escalate but has become more daring.

The continuous bloodletting has led to the loss of over 17,000 lives. Official statistics released by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), revealed that over three million people have been displaced by the insurgency and terrorists attacks in the affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in the first three months of 2014 alone: Borno 1,304,393; Adamawa 1,086,126 and Yobe 771,368.

Most of the victims are women, children and the elderly. These developments underscore the urgent need for the Government, the International Community, as well as all Nigerians to arrest the brewing humanitarian crises in the area.

It is to be noted that while the various incidents have been given wide publicity, the real human sufferings remain unknown and under-reported.

For the past 2-3 years, farmers in the affected areas could not access their farms. This coupled with the deliberate scorched earth tactics employed by the insurgents, the lack of food, water, electricity, shelter and inability to pursue any kind of gainful employment have resulted in the systemic destruction of the economies of the affected areas and the psyche of the people.

It is encouraging that in recent weeks the entire nation has risen in unison in condemning the senseless killings and wanton destruction of lives and properties. It is equally encouraging that Government is reviewing its approach in handling the insurgency.

Observations

As widely reported in the media, both indigenes and non-indigenes, Muslims and Christians, mosques and churches, men, women and children, as well as security personnel have NOT been immune to the violent bloodletting, arson and wanton destruction of lives and property. All these are happening despite the existence of a two-term state of emergency in the area.

The alleged involvement of foreign nationals, specifically the arrest of Cameroonian nationals that led to the discovery of a cache of arms as well as gunmen who are not indigenous to the area of the insurgency have given rise to a lot of unhealthy speculations and conspiracy theories about the crisis as being stoked by yet to be known persons/forces.

The dropping of arms, ammunitions and attackers by helicopters as reported in the media and as discussed on the floor of the Senate under-score the urgent need for government to investigate and un-mask the sponsors of terror and bring them to justice.

While the Defense HQ in Abuja has acknowledged these shocking allegations and said investigations were on-going, it is important that the issue is concluded with utmost urgency and the outcome made public to restore people's confidence.

It is perplexing that despite a subsisting two-term state of emergency in the area and restoration of telecommunication services, distress calls from the people to the security agencies remain unanswered for up to eight hours as reported in the case of Bama attack and as revealed by the Shehu and also by teachers of the Federal Government College Buni Yadi where the lives of 59 young students were cut short, among several others.

It is no secret that today people in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States and indeed most parts of the Country are confused by the lack of prompt response to cry for help during attacks.

It is very worrisome that as the insurgency in the North East is escalating, the once relatively peaceful states of Katsina, Benue and Kebbi are experiencing serious killings and social dislocations. It is the considered opinion of the Forum that unless government takes urgent steps to arrest the situation, the whole of the North may be engulfed in a serious security crises. The possible repercussions of not taking action to arrest the situation are best imagined.

Questions Needing Urgent Answers

The Borno-Yobe People's Forum is seeking urgent answers to the following questions:

1. Who authorized the withdrawal of security personnel from the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi hours before the attack that claimed the lives of 59 innocent children?

2. Why were security reports from the communities on impending attacks ignored or not promptly responded to?

3. How were the insurgents able to attack the Maiduguri Air-force Base and de-mobilize as well as burn planes and other military installations despite the existing state of emergency and curfew in the town?

4. Are the authorities unaware of helicopters dropping arms and ammunition, food and medical supplies to areas well-known to be strong holds of the insurgents?

5. How could 20 to 30 Toyota Hilux vehicles move in a convoy freely with a subsisting curfew and still go undetected?

6. How did a little band of rag-tag misguided youths metamorphose into a well kitted, well armed killing machine moving freely in convoy of vehicles and supported by helicopters.

7. How did the Shilka Tank, a multipurpose self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery weapon positioned to secure Giwa barracks fail to function resulting in heavy loss of lives, both civilian and military as widely reported in the media?

8. Why was the Late General Mohammed Shuwa, a civil war hero, killed despite the presence of a military detachment in front of his home?

9. What is the status of persons abducted by the insurgents in various places in the North East?

10. Who are the instigators of online media campaigns of calumny stirring ethno-religious intolerance in the country?

11. Are we dealing with fifth columnists in this crises?

12. Why have the various reports on the crises not been implemented by the Government? What happened to the 2009 Report of the NSA, CDS, IGP and CDI, the Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari and the Barrister Tanimu Turaki Presidential Committee Reports?

Enough is enough! Enough of the bloodshed, enough of the destruction, enough of the dislocations and upheavals, enough of insecurity, enough of unanswered questions.

Recommendations:

The Borno-Yobe People's Forum recommends as follows:

1. In line with section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states that "the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government", the Federal Government should comprehensively address the security and welfare of citizens in the affected areas. Government must do everything possible to arrest the senseless destruction of lives and properties.

2. The current state of emergency which expires on the 19th of April, 2014 should not be extended because it did not serve the purpose for which it was invoked. This will enable the state governments to use their meager resources for the re-construction of the states as well as the rehabilitation and reintegration of our people.

3. Government should un-mask the sponsors of the Boko Haram insurgents and any other group(s) and person(s) that are involved in the insurgency in the North East. As has been previously recommended by the Northern Elders Forum, Government should probe the genesis of the crises with particular regards to those who master minded, encouraged or financed it. The full wrath of the law should be brought to bear on those found guilty.

4. Government should thoroughly investigate human rights abuses including alleged extra judicial killings, maiming, tortures, rapes and abductions that may have been committed during the insurgency from 2009 to date.

5. Government should expedite the trial of the security agents that were implicated in the extra judicial killings of Mohammed Yusuf and others which precipitated the crises and has been used to justify the insurgency.

6. Government should secure all borders, especially our borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, to arrest the influx of mercenaries, arms and ammunitions into Nigeria.

7. Government should investigate the violation of the Nigerian airspace in which helicopters were alleged to be dropping arms in Birnin Gwari, Benue as well as the North East.

8. The Federal and State Governments in the affected areas should re-strategize and secure all schools and colleges in the area. There must be a deliberate effort to keep our children in school. To do otherwise will not only exacerbate the educational backwardness of the states but may not augur well for the future of our children and country.

9. The two billion Naira budgeted for the North East Initiative is grossly inadequate. Government should establish a special intervention fund for the re-construction and re-habilitation of the zone as well as re-integration of the people affected by the crises.

10. We urge the International community, the United Nations, International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), bi-lateral and multi-lateral agencies, Civil Society Organizations and people of means to join in the task of re-building the States affected by the insurgency and by giving succor to the over three million people affected by the crises.

11. Government should repatriate Nigerian refugees in Chad, Niger, and Cameroun and take immediate measures to rehabilitate, reintegrate and compensate them.

12. Government should provide safe corridors to access the affected States to deliver relief from both local and international sources.

13. We urge both the Federal and State Governments to provide well equipped and adequately staffed Medical Centers to cater for the large number of casualties. These should also include Trauma Centers to treat physical trauma as well as counseling victims for psychological trauma.

14. We urge the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari and Barrister Tanimu Turaki Presidential Committees, and to revisit the 2009 Report of the NSA, CDS, IGP and CDI. It is the considered view of many commentators that, had the latter Report been implemented, the insurgency would have been largely contained.

The Forum wishes to seize this opportunity to appeal to members of Boko Haram to sheath their swords and dialogue with the authorities to find long lasting solutions to whatever grievances they may have.

In conclusion, the Borno-Yobe People's Forum wishes to place on record its gratitude and appreciation to the Nigerian security agencies and the Civilian JTF who have put their lives on the line, in serving the nation. We also wish to place on record our appreciation to the international community, Civil Society Organizations, Women groups, the Media both national and international and all well meaning Nigerians for their concern and quest for a just resolution to the crises.

Last but not the least, the Forum wishes to place on record its appreciation to the Governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States for courageously and stoically standing with our people despite the hydra headed challenges including their personal safety and security.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we thank you for attending this press conference and urge you to remain undeterred in the quest for the truth and in resolving the crises in the North East.

Thank you.

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