Posted by News Express | 23 January 2018 | 1,357 times
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has faulted the claim by the Department of State Services (DSS) that Islamic State terrorists are responsible for the killings in Benue State, describing the claim as unbelievable.
It also called for judicial inquiry into killings by herders across the country.
Coming almost 24 months after the international media reported the affiliation of the breakaway faction of Boko Haram terrorists with the then Iraq and Syria based global terror network known as Islamic State, HURIWA said, is unwarranted and suspicious.
In a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA expressed doubt over the claim by the DSS, citing what it called circumstantial evidence linking some members of Miyetti Allah Cattle owners body with the incidents following their series of threats and opposition to undermine the anti-open grazing law made by the Benue State House of Assembly, and okayed by the State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
The group tasked the Benue State government to set up a judicial panel of inquiry on the widespread killings by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
It also called on the National Assembly to organise a transparent, open and an independent investigation of the killings.
In addition, HURIWA asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig his national security team to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to end the dominance of all the strategic national security agencies by persons from one ethno-religious divide -Hausa/Fulani.
The group averred that majority of the heads of the security agencies have pampered the armed Fulani herdsmen suspected of carrying out widespread attacks in different parts of Nigeria.
HURIWA said: “A random sampling of opinion on the latest claim by DSS led by the Katsina-born (Acting) Director General of the Department of States Services, Alhaji Lawal Daura shows that most respondents accuse the DSS of cover up gambits in the latest rounds of ethno-religious genocide carried out by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
“Although we strongly dispute the credibility of the intelligence being circulated by DSS on the Benue killings, we decided to go to town in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt whereby our teams interviewed Nigerians on the media reports quoting the DSS as accusing Islamic State’s ‘Army’ of the Benue killings and majority of the respondents disputed the claim and demanded independent judicial inquisition and forensic investigations to ascertain the real perpetrators.
“Nigerians are in doubt of this latest claims because the national security infrastructure is dominated by Hausa/Fulani heads and this creates room for mutual suspicions and compromise.
“Only an independent body of judicial investigators to be put together by Benue State government and supervised by a team from the United Nations can satisfactorily determine the culpability or otherwise of the armed Fulani herdsmen widely accused of carrying out these killings not only in Benue State but in Southern Kaduna, Adamawa and Taraba states.” HURIWA also recommended that eye witnesses to the attacks who survived the ordeals can be invited in camera to render evidence.
“The hasty speculative claims of foreign terrorists as the perpetrators as made by the DSS lacks coherence and is not grounded in scientific and forensic findings which are the minimum benchmarks for global best practices in crime investigations.”
HURIWA wondered why security agencies like the Police and DSS could go fishing for “innovative and phantom reasons for the attacks when it is clear to every discerning mind that an official of the Benue State branch of the cattle owners body reportedly spoke with the British Broadcasting Service to offer explanation for the attacks.
“This interview is retrievable because it was widely received all over the world. Why the attempt to tie a wool of organised confusion on discerning members of the public by the DSS? Why did they not stop the attack? Who invited the so-called foreign terrorists? Who gave them weapons deployed for the killings? Where were Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Intelligence Agency and the DSS all led by Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri when this sort of invasion occurred? Why have the heads of these agencies not tendered their resignation if indeed these claims are accurate?
“We are shocked that many weeks after claims and counter claims on the alleged perpetrators of these dastardly crime of terror against Benue State citizens in protest against the passage of the anti-open grazing law started flying in the media, the publicly funded DSS is seeking to fly a kite by bringing up another strange angle to the debacle regarding who killed innocent Nigerians in Benue State? Why have the security agencies failed to invite all relevant officials of Miyetti Allah cattle owners body in both Benue and Abuja to question them on media claims they made before and after the Benue State House of Assembly passed the anti-open grazing law? Why is the DSS indicting itself for failing to even stop the invasion of Nigerian nation by foreign terror groups assuming without conceding that the new claim is true, all together? The best bet is for independent investigations to be supervised by the United Nations Organisation.”
HURIWA recalled that in August 2016, the Islamic State group identified a new leader in its West African wing popularly known as Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists, who promised not to attack mosques or markets used by Muslims, as reported by the Associated Press.
It further recalled that in August 2016, the Arabic-language newspaper al-Nabaa identified Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new ‘Wali’, a title previously used to describe long-time leader, Abubakar Shekau, who has been leading Boko Haram since 2009.
Though the replacement comes after rumours spread that Shekau had been killed or replaced as the leader has not made a verified video appearance for the past few years.
“In March 2016, Boko Haram was believed to have released a video featuring Shekau. However, the unusual poor quality of the footage raised suspicions over its authenticity. Furthermore, the video was only shared on YouTube, rather than on Twitter accounts affiliated with Boko Haram’s ally, IS.”
The rights group reminded Nigerians that the then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (before it was defeated by international armed coalition) had publicly announced new Boko Haram leader Al-Barnawi’s appointment and it came as the Nigerian government and army claimed the fight against Boko Haram was over.
DSS had claimed in a report at the weekend that a group Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) is operational in North Central and South Nigeria. And that it deploys foreign terrorists that unleash mayhem on communities with a view to exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions.
HURIWA has therefore challenged the National Assembly to save Nigeria of the embarrassment that the killings have caused the country.
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