7 April 2014

Nigeria: Memorandum to the National Conference on the Security Challenges in Borno and Yobe States

Photo: Vanguard
Terrorism in Nigeria.

Abuja — We are all members of the Borno and Yobe States Peoples Forum who actively participated in the preparation of the Press conference held in Abuja on 30th March 2014. The message of that Press conference which was held under the Chairmanship of our leader, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, was widely reported on and generally well received. We fully subscribe to the content of the statement read on that occasion by Air Marshall (Rtd) Alamin Daggash and commend it to the attention of all those who are in a position of influence to help bring to a speedy end, the nightmare under which our people have been living for so long.

However, we do realize that the nature of a Press conference and the short time allotted on such occasions necessitate some brevity. We therefore feel that it is still timely and topical to release this detailed document we prepared in collaboration with some members of the Forum which gives greater depth and further details to the message of the press conference.

Borno-Yobe Elders Allege Complicity of Security Agencies in Boko Haram Attacks

For the most part of the last decade, the people of Borno and Yobe bore their grief and losses alone. There is hardly any household that has not lost a family member or close relative to the mindless carnage unleashed by Boko Haram. Property and livelihoods were destroyed or lost across the two states, and entire villages set ablaze, leading to thousands fleeing across the borders or being internally displaced. Unfortunately, not all of the atrocities were committed by Boko Haram, as the Security Agencies deployed to fight them and protect the civilian population also had a hand in some of the atrocities visited on innocent civilians perceived to be Boko Haram supporters or sympathizers.

Boko Haram's assassination and murder spree affected not only the defenceless rural dwellers and hundreds of innocent urban bystanders, but also, high profile politicians, businessmen and clerics. Even revered traditional rulers, including the Shehu of Borno and the Emir of Fika, were targeted by suicide bombers, but mercifully, their lives were spared.

While all this was going on, for a long time, the people of Borno and Yobe did not see the Security agencies as their protectors. Neither did we feel any sense of solidarity from even our immediate neighbours in Nigeria as our horrendous suffering was viewed as if it was no different from those of the people of far-away lands as Syria or Afghanistan – no delegations of Traditional Rulers, religious groups and organisations, Labour Unions or even political parties to sympathise with us. Yes, there was a fleeting visit by the President and a well appreciated visit by a group of Governors. But by and large, we were left thoroughly alone with our suffering as if we did not belong in Nigeria.

Our confidence in the Nigerian people's sensitivity to our suffering and their solidarity with our people were somewhat restored recently, especially after the Buni Yadi Secondary School massacre, when people from all walks of life rose up spontaneously and roundly condemned the Boko Haram and their atrocities. We wish to place on record our deep, profound and heartfelt appreciation to our compatriots at home and abroad for the outpouring of grief and sympathy and demonstration of solidarity over the colossal human tragedy that had befallen our communities.

We wish to thank the women's groups in Abuja, Anambra, Ekiti, Lagos, Rivers and Oyo States: students of the unity schools throughout the country; civil society groups, and our country men and women in the United Kingdom, Germany and West Virginia in the United States. We are greatly touched by the demonstration of common humanity by Filipino women who held solidarity rallies in far-away Philippines. The media also started to do more than just report the incidents and began to raise pertinent questions about the manner the insurgency was being confronted. Indeed, of recent, even the Security Agencies began a more robust, proactive campaign and started taking the initiative on the ground. To all of you and our individual friends, associates and acquaintances who have called to commiserate with us, we say thank you. May God grand us peace, social harmony and shared prosperity as we fulfil our common destiny.

All these developments have led us to believe that what we perceived previously as non –concern of our compatriots to our plight and suffering was perhaps due to the insufficient awareness of the horrors our people of Borno and Yobe had been subjected to over the last five years. This memorandum is therefore, an effort, in part, to bridge this information gap.

A brief background to the Insurgency and its metamorphosis

Yobe State experienced its first wave of violence in 2002 when a previously unknown group which called itself the "Taliban", began its violent activities in some parts of the State. In December 2003 the group attacked police stations in Geidam and Kanamma, carting away sizeable number of weapons including AK47 assault rifles. In January 2004, the group, on their way to Maiduguri, attacked 3 police stations in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State. At least 18 people were killed in these attacks. Between 2004 and 2006 not much was heard about the Taliban. It was apparently undergoing transformation and gaining footholds in the neighbouring States. By 2007 the group had consolidated its main base in Borno State and christened themselves as Jama'atul Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram.

In June 2009 what started as an altercation between the Police and Boko Haram followers under the leadership of Mohammed Yusuf, ended up with the officers of the special anti-crime unit called Operation Flush opening fire on the group and injuring 17 people. Following the shootings, Mohammed Yusuf released several video tapes propagating his ideology and bowing to take revenge for the killings of his followers.

On 26 July 2009, members of the Boko Haram followed up on their revenge threat by attacking a police station in Bauchi, Bauchi State. Over the next few days Boko Haram carried out coordinated attacks on the police and government establishments in Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano states. Clashes between members of Boko Haram and security forces continued all that week, with fierce street gun battles. By the end of the week over 30 police officers and 14 members of Boko Haram were killed. Tragically, more than 800 innocent people had also been killed by both the police and Boko Haram. Indeed the Al Jazeera news channel broadcast video footages taken at the time showed the police shooting and killing unarmed people who were not fleeing but lying flat on the ground to demonstrate their innocence.

Following these incidents, Mohammed Yusuf, the Boko Haram leader was arrested and while in police custody, shot in cold blood. Although the video clip which captured this extra judicial killing had gone viral, not only Boko Haram members, but the entire Nigerian public were outraged when it was officially claimed that Yusuf was killed while trying to escape. This sowed the seed of distrust between the public and members of the Security Agencies who up to now had failed to win the hearts and minds of the people. Following this public outrage, an investigative committee looked into the affair, leading to 5 police officers being charged with murder. Five years on, the case has not been concluded.

From 2009, the group unleashed indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians; the abduction, rape, torture and killing of women and children; continued looting of people's homes, banks, and business premises; and attacks on military formations in Monguno, Maiduguri, Bama and others. In Yobe State, the attacks were concentrated mainly on policemen, paramilitary personnel and police stations.

Boko Haram attacks on school children and the burning of school buildings reached their most inhuman levels with the cold-blooded murder of nine (9) students of Government Secondary School Damaturu in June 2013, forty-two (42) students of Government Secondary School Mamudo in July 2013, forty-four (44) students of College of Agricultural Gujba in July 2013, and the gory slaughter of fifty-nine (59) school children whilst they slept at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in February this year, all in Yobe State. These attacks led to the closure of most schools outside the two State capitals, thus further worsening the educational situation of two of the most disadvantaged States in the country. Concerned individuals and groups continue to be bewildered by the seeming inability of the Federal Government's security agencies to protect the lives and properties of the citizens of these two States. The shocking level of audacity with which the Boko Haram insurgents attacked and killed people, destroyed towns and villages and committed unspeakable atrocities led many to raise questions as to whether there was the political will to fight it or the capacity of our Military to successfully defeat it.

The conduct of the Security formation called the Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to Borno State in June 2011 to fight and end the indiscriminate killing and torture of civilians by the Boko Haram lent credence to this public distrust with their heavy handedness against innocent civilians rather than facing the insurgents at whose approach they usually fled! The atrocities committed by the JTF were condemned and investigated by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and UNHCR. These atrocities were committed not only by the JTF, but the Security Agencies in general, and included;

1) The arbitrary arrests, torture and killing of mostly innocent, able bodied young men (and sometimes even women, children and the elderly) from July, 2009 to July 2013.
2) The inhuman treatment and extra-judicial killing of those arrested and detained in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Abuja and other detention centres across the country from July 2009 to date;
3) Breaking into people's homes in the middle of the night on the excuse of the State of Emergency and sometimes committing acts of robbery in the process; and the torching and looting of people's homes and business premises in the name of hunting for members of the Boko Haram Sect. The burning of almost all houses in Shehuri North, Kawar Maila, Budum Market and other parts of Maiduguri township as well as the torching of over half of the houses in Baga town by the Security Agencies are cases in point. They have also been accused of the recent massacre of over 600 unarmed civilians during the attack on Giwa Military Barracks in Maiduguri.
4) The failure of the JTF to protect the identities of those who collaborated with them by providing useful information led to reprisal killings by the Boko Haram. This created a climate of fear of even being seen with the JTF, let alone provides them useful information. The distrust thus created between the security agencies and the general populace lingered and led to the creation of a self-help vigilante group called the Civilian JTF.

In their 2012 report on Nigeria which focused mainly on Borno State, Amnesty International said the following:

"In the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on the Security Challenges in the North-East Zone of Nigeria, the Committee noted "allegations of high-handedness against the JTF bordering on rape, destruction of property belonging to sect members, extrajudicial killings, and harassment and intimidation of Maiduguri residents." One of the Committee's recommendations was that the "Rules of Engagement should be reviewed to reflect the low intensity nature of the military operations, not only in Maiduguri but in all similar operations." The government "noted" the recommendation and said that there were "steps being taken by the Defence Headquarters to investigate the allegations and deal with it appropriately."

Nothing further was seen or heard of these "steps".

In the course of the prosecution of the fight against the insurgency, it became evident to even ordinary civilians that the military and paramilitary personnel were overwhelmed. There were several reports of military personnel running and hiding during the recent attacks in several towns in Borno and Yobe States. The creation of a new Division,7 Div, of the Nigerian Army did not reflect any increase in troop presence in the rural areas which have borne most of the brunt of the attacks by the insurgents in recent months.

Comments by the spokesperson of the Defence Headquarters that the recent upsurge in attacks on towns and villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States was as a result of the Military's flushing out the Boko Haram from their hideouts were greeted with disbelief as were similar previous claims which glaringly contradicted the facts on the ground. The towns and villages attacked in the three States within a spate of about 2 weeks included Kawuri, Konduga, Izghe, Bama, Michika, Buni Yadi, Mafa, Mainok, Jakana, Auno, Shuwa, Madagali, Malari, Wajonkoro, Ajigin, Benisheikh, Gamboru-Ngala and Kala Balge. Surely, a more robust military campaign against Boko Haram should have diminished rather than increased the insurgents' capacity to attack innocent civilians at will.

It is most worrisome that, of recent, reports of mystery helicopters seen landing in the forests, dropping mercenaries, supplies, arms and ammunition to the insurgents have been common knowledge in the affected areas. These helicopters were spotted in the forests of North Eastern Nigeria and even as far as some parts of Kaduna and Katsina States. And yet the Defence spokesperson claimed that they had the capability to detect any aircraft crossing into our national air space. If that is indeed the case then the question arises as to the provenance and ownership of these mysterious helicopters.

Impact on the Communities

The UN report on Human Development Index (HDI) classified Borno and Yobe States as a part of the poorest regions on earth, as measured by access to education, health, potable water, electricity etc. Majority of the citizens of the two States depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The threat of attacks by insurgents has further worsened this situation because most farmers were unable to cultivate their farms in the past two to three years. Livestock production has also been seriously disrupted. Hunger, malnutrition and diseases have since started manifesting in many communities in the two States.

As a result of the increased attacks by the insurgents, government workers in the rural areas were forced to migrate to the State capitals, leaving the rural dwellers without any social services such as education, healthcare, water, electricity etc. It is also sad to note that thousands of Nigerian refugees who fled their communities are now living in temporary shelters in the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In addition, it has been estimated that the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States is in the millions.

The dearth of medical facilities in Borno and Yobe States even in peace time has further compounded the suffering of victims and their families. In Maiduguri, the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital which is a referral, Tertiary level facility has been turned into a Primary Healthcare Centre where both staff and facilities are constantly overstretched. The intermittent strikes by medical and other health workers during this insurgency have further worsened the situation.

Progress made.

The recent collaboration between the military and the civilians that led to the formation of the Civilian JTF by a group of well-meaning youths is a well welcome development. These young men holding merely primitive tools as weapons who fought alongside our soldiers were able to arrest the insurgents and hand them over to the authorities. Shortly after this success, the Civilian JTF was curiously disbanded without any alternative plan to secure the cities. Both Maiduguri and Damaturu had experienced a rare period of peace before bombs and wonton shootings returned to Maiduguri recently after the Civilian JTF were disbanded.

We welcome and endorse the government's "Countering Violent Extremism Programme" recently unveiled by the National Security Adviser as being a fresh thinking on the multifaceted and long term approach to countering violent extremism in Nigeria, of which Boko Haram is its most virulent manifestation. We see the programme as complementary and not a substitute to the military push to end the insurgency and continued military presence in the area.

In this regard we urge the Boko Haram to seize the window of opportunity offered by the Government's "soft approach" alternative and therefore engage the newly resuscitated Dialogue Committee in the interest of all.

We note the release by the Federal Government of 600 trucks of grains to the affected States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa from the Strategic Grain Reserve to alleviate the suffering of the victims of insurgency. However, this is nowhere near adequate. We however acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of Borno and Yobe State Governments in assisting victims of the insurgency in various ways. Despite that it was the primary responsibility of the Federal Government; the two State Governments also provided logistic support from their meagre resources to the Security Agencies in their fight against the insurgents.

The encouraging effort of the National Emergency Relief Agency (NEMA) in distributing relief materials to victims in towns and villages attacked by the insurgents is also noted and commended. However both the quantities distributed and the coverage remain far short of actual needs.

Recommendations on the way forward

Arising from the foregoing, and to effectively arrest the activities of the insurgents in the North East, we are calling for action as follows:

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. Towards this end:

i) The Federal Government should make proper budgetary allocations to address the effects of the insurgency in ALL the affected States, especially those that have been under a State of Emergency for nearly the past one year. A provision should be made in the 2014 Appropriation Act and subsequently, annually, for the purpose of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the affected areas. Not only that, all monies so voted must be applied in full, to the purposes intended;

ii) The Federal Government should, with all urgency, deploy additional troops to forestall a return by the insurgents after the current government offensive succeeds, as we are told, within the coming six weeks;

iii) The Federal Government should provide Safe Corridors for the delivery of relief from both local and international sources to the affected communities;

iv) The Federal Government should authorize more releases from the Strategic Grain Reserve on a regular basis as our people lack any purchasing power and their normal store of grains have been exhausted more than two years ago;

v) It should be ensured that both the quantity and frequency of distribution of relief materials by NEMA are multiplied several fold as those distributed so far are grossly inadequate, especially considering the fact that there have been little or no agricultural activity in the two States in the past two years;

vi) Pending the return of peace, the Federal and State Governments should, as a matter of urgency, transfer all students of secondary schools and colleges in the affected areas to safer zones within the states or to similar schools in neighbouring Geo-Political Zones.

vii) The Federal and State Governments should provide temporary shelters, to the most affected communities, including the provision of Primary Health Centres;

viii) The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of the thousands of Nigerian refugees that have moved to various neighbouring countries. They should be repatriated and rehabilitated. The millions of IDPs should similarly be resettled and rehabilitated;

ix) While longer term remedies are being worked out, the Federal Government should, as an immediate measure, adopt a deliberate strategy for poverty alleviation through Sure-P and other skills acquisition programmes for the youth;

x) The Federal and State Governments should remodel and reconstruct all destroyed Primary and Secondary Schools and Colleges with maximum security features to forestall future attacks;

xi) The Federal Government should broaden the scope of the Almajiri model schools and extend them to Borno and Yobe States so that the teeming number of children and youths out of school and, therefore, easy prey for Boko Haram recruitment, would be fully absorbed into formal education;

xii) We urge both the Federal and State Governments to provide well equipped and adequately staffed Medical Centres to cater for the large number of casualties. These should also include Trauma Centres to treat physical and psychological trauma;

xiii) We urge both the Federal and State Governments to initiate programs that offer the local vigilante groups (Civilian JTF) training in various skills and employment after the insurgency is ended;

xiv) We call on the Federal government to establish an Emergency Special Intervention Fund under a States Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Committee which should be managed by a Board of Trustees made up of persons of high integrity, with the sole purpose of providing quick wins and improving the quality of life of our people. In our estimation not less than N300 billion, i.e. N60 billion a year, over a period of 5 years is required. The reconstruction projects/programmes to be pursued with this Fund will have a balming effect on the long suffering people in the affected areas. A Special Adviser should be appointed by the President to oversee and coordinate the reconstruction and rehabilitation projects and programmes in these States;

xv) We appeal for the revitalization of the Hadejia-Jamaare, Kumadugu Yobe and the Chad Basin to revive agriculture in these areas and create job opportunities for the people;

xvi) We urge all UN and bilateral agencies, including International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), to partner with our States in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process;

xvii) We call on the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the Amb. Usman Gaji Galtimari and Barr. 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 2009 Report of the NSA, CDS, IGP and CDI been implemented, the insurgency would have been largely contained by now.

It is our considered view that immediate action is required to take all necessary steps to defeat this murderous and criminal insurgency and for the campaign to be carried out within standard rules of engagement by safeguarding the fundamental human rights of the population. This requires seeking active cooperation and engagement of our immediate neighbours to jointly monitor our borders in order to stem cross-border movement of the insurgents, cut their source of supplies, and destroy their bases and training camps. The recent move by Government to collaborate with our neighbouring countries on cross-border movement of insurgents is a step in the right direction. We should also seek the active support of the US, the EU and all other friendly countries with the requisite capability to provide satellite based high resolution earth imaging systems to track the movement of the insurgents.

In the short term, Government should urgently begin the reconstruction of all social infrastructures and rehabilitation of all internally and externally displaced persons. The support of specialized international organizations with the required experience, skills and expertise should be sought for the implementation of these programmes.

In conclusion, we urge the government, politicians, religious and traditional leaders, the Press and the general public not to trivialize or play politics with human lives, the lives of Nigerians of all faiths, and ethnicities and the lives of our servicemen and women who have also been killed in the line of duty. This is a criminal insurgency, pure and simple, and we should as a nation, be united and resolute in fighting and defeating it. It is expected that the Federal Government will give the necessary inspirational leadership in this regard.

All our requests and suggestions are geared towards discouraging idleness, creating quality educational opportunities and increasing employment and productivity thereby reducing poverty and vulnerability of our youths for manipulation by agents of destruction. This will help improve the quality of life of the people in Borno and Yobe States in particular, and the nation in general.

Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, CFR
Ambassador Baba Kura Kaigama, OFR, and
Architect Ibrahim Bunu

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