Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 19 July 2014 | 2,939 times
The last few days have seen a rash of local and international activities by divergent stakeholders, all aimed at addressing the mass killings by the armed insurgents in the Northern part of Nigeria. The United Nations and the United States government piloted the international dimension of the global effort, even as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Federal Government of Nigeria coordinated the local and sub-continental dimension of the advocacy approach.
At the local scene, President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly attended a high-profile meeting of ECOWAS’s Heads of State in Accra, Ghana in continuation of his global advocacy to seek greater partnership in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Government, it would be recalled, has come under considerable global pressure to do more, to tackle decisively the murderous terrorists that seemed to be gaining notoriety for inflicting some of the harshest spate of attacks targeted at very volatile civilian infrastructure, which have consequently resulted in very outrageous casualty rates.
Vexed by the extent of bloody violence inflicted on civilian targets by the armed insurgents, the United Nations expressed the readiness of the international community to partner with the Federal Government, to seek an end to the circles of violence in the country that prides itself as the single largest black nation globally.
In this vein, the United Nations had during the past one week blamed the armed Islamic insurgents for, at least, carrying out 18 attacks on civilians in Northern Nigeria in the past two weeks, just as it stated that the continuous attacks by these terrorists based in north-eastern Nigeria are very serious threats to the security of West Africa.
The United Nations’ Special envoy for West Africa, Mr. Said Djinnit, stated thus: “The level of violence against civilians in Nigeria continues to escalate. It is disheartening to note that within the last two weeks, at least, 18 attacks attributed to Boko Haram have been conducted, resulting in the tragic death of innocent civilians and displacement of peoples.”
The U.N. Special Envoy thereby stated that the failure to plan systematic and holistic strategies to bring to an end the murderous attacks in Nigeria is surely a plan to achieve imminent failure of the nation state.
“All efforts should be made to address the insurgency and insecurity. The present situation underscores the paramount need for the Nigerian political class to forge a unified stand in confronting the persisting insecurity,” he submitted.
The Federal Government is aware of these series of international pressure on it to do the needful to bring to an end the regime of impunity and mass killings that are being coordinated by armed members of the Islamic extremists in the North-East of Nigeria, but who have gradually exported their attacks to the political and economic capitals of Abuja and Lagos, resulting in the killings of dozens of Nigerians.
Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati, was quoted to have issued a robust response defending the current government’s methodical approach towards rescuing the over 250 secondary school girls snatched on gun-point by the armed insurgents in Chibok, Borno State, over three months now.
The Federal Government also brandished series of spectacular military successes recorded in some of the hot spots of insurgency in Balmo Forest in the North-West and some parts of the North-East as evidence of the government’s determination to use every means legitimate to restore calm and rule of law in Nigeria.
But in far away United States Congress, the alleged human rights abuse record and uncooperative attitude of the Federal Government and its military authorities have been identified as factors hindering United States of America from offering Nigeria effective security assistance.
Speaking before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa’s hearing entitled, Human Rights Vetting: Nigeria and Beyond, the specialist at African Affairs Congressional Research Service, Lauren Blanchard, said the Nigerian government and its military had not been yielding to America’s suggestions.
Media reports gave the account to the effect that the Congress heard that the main impediment to America’s efforts to support Nigeria’s broader response to Boko Haram is “gross violations committed by the Nigerian forces, the Nigerian government’s resistance to adopting a more comprehensive approach to Boko Haram, and the continued lack of political will” within the government to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable.
This writer, while not completely rejecting these assertions by the United States security expert on African affairs as narrated to the United States congress, believes that the current Federal Government has indeed made significant effort in granting greater independence, operationally and financially, to the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission which goes to show that the President of Nigeria is not a stranger totally to the increasing demands for a rights-based approach to the fight against terrorism in Nigeria. What is to be asked is why the National Human Rights Commission has been unable or too slow to bring perpetrators of the worst kinds of human rights violations to trial for these alleged violations [both the military and the armed insurgents have recently been indicted for committing crimes against humanity by Amnesty International, the United Kingdom-based human rights organisation].
If I may ask, is it the work of the President of Nigeria to drag human rights violators for prosecution, when the same government has in place an independent and powerful commission to handle such delicate national and global assignment?
Why has the Nigerian National Human Rights commission not designed foolproof strategy for bringing alleged human rights violators among the military sector in Nigeria to trial? And if the local courts are too weak to take them up, then why not recommend it for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, since Nigeria is a signatory to the Rome treaty?
I must, however, admit that on one occasion the National Human Rights Commission investigated and issued its decision on alleged human rights violations made against the military during an operation in Abuja early this year, but the spate of attacks that happened in Abuja goes to show that the military claims that the armed insurgents have, indeed, invaded Abuja may not be far from the truth. This poses serious unpopularity for any attempt by the National Human Rights Commission to make any radical findings against the Nigerian military.
So Nigeria is currently in a cull de sac and a catch 50/50 scenario. What this demands is a meticulous and methodical planning on how to achieve a balance between respecting human rights of civilians and also keeping Nigeria safe from these murderous attacks of armed insurgents.
But the United States Government sees it differently, because the security expert on African affairs who spoke at the congressional hearing think that the Federal Government and the military are posing significant obstacles to the global movement towards crushing the armed insurgents in Nigeria.
Lauren Blanchard told the Congress: “The Nigerian government also has appeared reticent in some cases to allow its security forces to participate in U.S. training programmes. The State Department indicates that there are currently 187 Nigerian military units and 173 police units that have been vetted and cleared to receive U.S. assistance and training.
“It is unclear whether the Nigerian government has given approval for such training to occur. A 2013 State Department audit report noted that, in addition to human rights concerns, Nigeria’s late submission of names of candidates for assistance was a ‘recurring problem’ for the U.S. embassy.
“Multiple systemic factors further constrain the effectiveness of the Nigerian security force’s response to Boko Haram, notably security sector corruption and mismanagement, and some of these factors impede U.S. support even for units that have been cleared for assistance.”
Among the cleared units, she revealed, were Nigeria’s Speed Boat Service Commando and the 101 Infantry Battalion, which the ACRS specialist said were best positioned to conduct hostage rescue operations but, “both reportedly require significant additional training.”
She added that the security relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. was hampered by the lack of cooperation and systemic failure in Nigeria.
“The security relationship also has been hampered at times by a lack of cooperation from Nigerian officials and by systemic problems in the Nigerian military. Political and human rights concerns have been a prominent factor in shaping US-Nigeria relations for decades.
“State Department human rights reports have continued to highlight serious human rights violations by the Nigerian security forces every year. These violations include politically- motivated and extra-judicial killings, excessive use of force, and torture,” Blanchard said at the hearing.
Despite about N1trn ($5.8b) security budget, the ACRS specialist said the “Nigerian troops are not adequately resourced or equipped” to counter Boko Haram insurgency.
During the hearing, the American disclosed that the troops were “slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics,” and described Nigeria as “an extremely challenging partner to work with.”
I think, honestly, that these areas of interest raised before the United States Congress merit significant attention of the Nigerian Government. Nigeria can and must do the needful to plan and execute a meticulous and methodical result-oriented effective strategy to counter the attacks targeting soft targets by these armed insurgents. A stitch in time saves nine.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
No comments yet. Be the first to post comment.