By Eno-Abasi Sunday, News Editor
|Some of the rice farmers killed by Boko Haram
For 14 years, Terver Alaaga, a father of four was a produce buyer in Benue State, where he hails from. Married to a nurse, Alaaga had a “good life” with his family until the menace of herdsmen reached a crescendo in the state about four years ago.
Having seen many lifeless bodies, some with gouged out eyeballs, severed limbs, lacerated skulls and even spewed brain tissues, he collected his family members, hopped into an open van one night and they all woke up in Lagos State the following morning.
“The decision to move to Lagos State was a spontaneous one, which I had to make in order to keep my sanity and that of my family members,” he told The Guardian. “When I left Makurdi that night in 2017, I had about N4m in my bank account, but had no idea of what I was going to do in Lagos; where we were going to stay as a family, or how life would be. But we just needed to get away from that place when we did. After the gale of killings that happened in that state in the dying days of 2017, up to the New Year day, I knew any one could go out and never return alive.
“My wife feared for our lives and supported our relocation. Sadly, since we arrived here, killings have continued heavily in different parts of the country unabated. How do you explain the cold-blooded murder of nearly 100 Nigerians in one fell swoop by people suspected to be Nigerians within a span of five days. At the time this was happening in Benue State, killing of innocent Nigerians was also going on in Rivers, Kaduna and Enugu states,” Adaaji said.
He continued: “We may be safe where we are now, but what worries me deeply is the fact that this government has been unable to nip senseless killings in the bud, but has graduated to giving senseless reasons why the killings are still ongoing. How do you tell the world that farmers ought to have taken permission or clearance from the military before going to their farms. Who does that?
He expressed regrets that all the promises of securing the lives and property of Nigerians made by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari have come to naught, while residents of the country are now uncertain of who may be the next to fall to the bullets of kidnappers, assassins, rampaging herdsmen, or by stray bullets fired by overzealous state agents.
A day after he obtained victory over former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in the 2015 general election, Buhari had pledged to tackle corruption and crush deadly Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, and bring to an end, the then six-year-old insurgency.
While speaking in Abuja, he said: “I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace.”
He added: “We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism. In tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do.” Up till now, Nigerians are still waiting for the tough job to be done.
Not a few in the North heaved a heavy sigh of relief when Buhari got the mandate to lead the country. Besides having one of their own in the nation’s number one office yet again, the excitement was intense given the fact that the epicentre of the insurgency remains the North East. The North, especially the North East where Boko Haram, which has been fighting to carve out a caliphate, and has operated with reckless abandon since 2009, killing over 15, 000 people, showed Buhari a great deal of support as he bided for the office in the last two occasions.
But five years after taking the reins, bloodletting and serial loss of lives have become the norm in the North, even as no part of the country is spared the malaise, including the parts, which were hitherto peaceful before Buhari’s electoral victory.
In the last five years, not only has the country been badly fractured, especially along religious and ethnic lines under Buhari, it has also become economically harsh for residents to thrive, while banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, and senseless killings persist.
For instance, one third of Buhari’s home state of Katsina, which contributed 1.2 million votes to the All Progressives Congress (APC) electoral success in 2019, according to the former executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, is under the control of bandits, while the state capital is equally alleged to be filled up like an Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp.
Last week, a worried Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), which expressed frustration at the manner, which Boko Haram beheaded 43 rice farmers in Borno State and kept their severed heads behind their backs, said that the military has been completely overwhelmed by the security challenges facing the country.
The governors, who spoke through the chairman of the Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, while on a condolence visit to Governor Babagana Zulum, stressed that the military was overwhelmed in the handling of the country’s security challenges.
Fayemi, who noted that efforts to tackle insecurity must involve local communities, described the manner that the farmers were killed as “by far beyond any imagination.”
Fayemi said: “It was a massacre and it was one that none of us could come to terms with easily. As a security scholar, the reality I can see is that our military is overwhelmed. Our military is no longer in a position to single-handedly tackle this menace effectively. It is not a criticism of our military; if one were to suggest a coalition that will even include our neighbouring countries who are probably more experienced in fighting asymmetrical wars. It will not be a loss of our pride as a country.”
Equally condemning the rising spate of killings in the country, last week, was the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, which warned that the nation will continue to witness rise in arms proliferation for self-defence if the Federal Government fails to mop up small and light arms and weapons that are in circulation.
The JNI in a statement, entitled “Requiem for Zabarmari,” signed by its secretary-general, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, explained that the Sultan said that much of the violent crimes manifesting as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping etc., in the country were rooted in the proliferation of small and light weapons, stressing that the earlier they were mopped up, the better for the country.
“Wanton killings, acts of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, high rate of unemployment among the youths, rape and all forms of terrorism have now become the ‘new trend’ in our communities. Nigerians have become so much terrified, as nowhere is safe; the home, the farms and the roads. Bandits now rule in many communities, they set rules that must be obeyed,” the statement read.
Be that as it may, many were shell-shocked when governors elected on the platform of the ruling APC, allegedly disapproved of the president’s appearance before the House of Representatives, a resolution, which was reached on December 1, via a motion.
The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which met at the State House, Abuja, also towed the same line even as a South West governor, allegedly put Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila on the spot, for allowing the motion summoning the president to sail through.
Besides the leadership failure, which many Nigerians allege is plaguing the country, the apparent disdain, with which the president treats the National Assembly, and indeed its resolution is another cause for worry
After discountenancing three resolutions of the Senate to do away with the current crop of service chiefs, the president on Thursday shunned appearing before the lawmakers, where he was supposed to brief a joint session on efforts his administration was making to address heightening insecurity in the country.
The resolution to summon the president followed a rowdy debate on the Zabarmari massacre carried out by Boko Haram. While some lawmakers, especially those from the ruling party kicked against summoning Buhari, opposition lawmakers were all in support of the subpoena.
But matters took a new turn when the Attorney-General of the federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, last Wednesday said the National Assembly does not have the power to summon the president.
“The right of the president to engage the National Assembly and appear before it is inherently discretionary in the President and not at the behest of the national assembly,” Malami had alleged.
“The management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested in the President by Section 218 (1) of the constitution as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
“An invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the armed forces to a public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law making beyond bounds,” stated.
Peeved by the hopeless game, which the political class is playing with Nigerians, Akinsanya Abisuga, a civil servant thinks Nigerians should develop the culture of letting their leaders know that they are in office at the mercy of the people.
“Until we become resilient enough to call the bluff of the political class, we may not be able to get the best service from these self-seeking politicians. How do you explain how a person will tour the entire country appealing to people to vote for him. What gives him and his aides the impetus to say that the representatives of the people, who are even vested with the power to impeach him for his numerous failings, are not qualified to summon him?
Abisuga stressed that this is the time for the National Assembly to shed its “rubber stamp” status by stamping its feet and insisting that Buhari should appear before it and explain why he has failed to protect Nigerians’ lives.
“Every time I recall how Gen. Buhari cried on national television when Nigerians kept on rejecting him at the polls, I thought he had a great deal to offer the country, especially in terms of security. But like many other Nigerians, I was totally wrong, and his five years in office has lent credence to that.
“Talks about Boko Haram being technically defeated constitutes the biggest lie that a government has ever told Nigerians, and Nigerians are now wiser. It is unfortunate that the political class has continued to worsen the plight of Nigerians while bettering their lot. One of the biggest responsibilities that the political class owes the people is to secure them and their belongings. Anything short of that they should be told in simple terms that they have failed. If its time to get help from other countries, there should be no time-wasting because we are not going to be the first country to do that as the country is bleeding. If the government also decides to heed Governor Babagana Zulum’s call to bring in mercenaries, it is still up to the government to make the move,” he said.
Captain Aliyu Umar Babangida (rtd), a former military intelligence officer and Chief Executive of Goldwater and Riversand Consults, is sounding a note of caution about the involvement of mercenaries in the fight against insurgents in the country.
According to him: “Private military companies are mercenaries or soldiers of fortune if you like.
They fight for the “highest bidder” and owe their loyalty to no one. While they may get the job done, their interests (not yours) is uppermost. While at your behest or service, there is no guarantee they cannot be co-opted by vested interests to push a covert agenda, for which they also get paid too. Private military security companies come with a price, which could span the immediate, into the long term. I leave you to read in between the lines.”
CLAIMS of worsening insecurity by individuals and groups as reflected in Thursday’s killing of 16 businessmen along Abuja-Kaduna expressway by gun men, on their way to Kano (even though contradicted by the police), are consistent with the country being ranked third on the latest Global Terrorism Index, a report that measures the impact of terrorism on countries across the world.
Only Afghanistan and Iraq were adjudged to be more ravaged by terrorism, even though the number of terrorism-related deaths dropped from 2, 043 in 2018, to 1, 245 in 2019, a 39.1 per cent reduction, according to the 2020 report.
In the report released last month, the reduction was mainly driven by a “fall in terrorism deaths attributed to extremists, and the “this reduction occurred despite a small increase in deaths attributed to Boko Haram, which has been the most active terrorist group in the country over the past decade. Deaths from terrorism in Nigeria are now 83 per cent lower than at their peak in 2014.”
According to the report, “ISIL’s shift to sub-Saharan Africa meant that the region recorded the second-highest number of terrorism deaths, even after accounting for the substantial fall in Nigeria.”
The index is published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a think tank that receives support from the United States government.
Interestingly, in the 2014 Global Terrorism Index report, Nigeria placed fourth among 2013 world’s most terrorised countries.
In that report, the five mostly terrorised countries, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, accounted for 80 per cent of the deaths from terrorism in 2013.
WITHOUT a doubt, if there is any national challenge that Nigerians (both at home and abroad), including a good number of those in opposition thought would be put paid to because of the emergence of Buhari, a retired general as president, it was the issue of rising insecurity. But unfortunately, the spectre of insecurity has loomed larger than ever-before, and human life has become very cheap, while the administration appears to be totally at sea with the situation.
This apparent cluelessness in the face of a serious national malady, perhaps, prompted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives to call on members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to invoke the provisions of Section 144 (1) of the Constitution, by declaring President Buhari incapable of ruling the country.
The Caucus also called on Nigerians to compel their representatives in the National Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against Buhari for gross incompetence and persistent and continuous breach of Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution.
According to the Leader of the PDP Caucus, Kingsley Chinda, in a statement, it was disheartening that Buhari has failed to lead Nigerians from the front as he promised, stressing that Nigerians are daily and defenselessly killed by terrorists and bandits, while the economy is being freely bleed by public officers.
Chinda, who was reacting to the recent killing of farmers in Zambarmari area of Borno State, insisted that the reactions of the presidency and the military to such killings highlight a certain crassness and lame duck attitude that has, for the past five years, come to define the Buhari presidency.
He stated: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives wants Nigerians to compel their representatives in the National Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari for gross incompetence and persistent and continuous breach of Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The PDP caucus also wants members of the Federal Executive Council to invoke the provisions of Section 144 (1) of the Constitution by declaring that the president is incapable of discharging the functions of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Section provides that the president or vice-president shall cease to hold office, if – by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the federation, it is declared that the president or vice-president is incapable of discharging the functions of his office.”
Incensed by “the do-nothing posturing” of the president after each dastardly attack that has left thousands of lives wasted, Chinda noted that the attacks continue to take a consistent pattern — a pattern that results in mass deaths, which embolden the insurgents to embark on more spectacular attacks that provide them national and global attention.
He further stated that from Buni Yadi, Gamboru, Baga, Gwoza, Shiroro, Konduga, Kawuri, Southern Kaduna to Benue and everywhere else in the country, lives were being snatched by insurgents, bandits and kidnappers who have no respect for the sanctity of life, “while President Buhari idles in the typical fashion of Emperor Nero as our country burns. Questions must be asked about his capacity to lead at a time that our country desires robust and responsible leadership that can pull it from the brink and rescue it from the clutches of insurgents, terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.”
AS bedlam continues, the Nigerian Army, and indeed the Federal Government have blamed everybody and everything except themselves for the worsening state of economy and security.
For instance, many see as a huge joke, the recent claim by the Nigerian Army that the heightened Boko Haram attacks were instigated by the international community to “cut Nigeria to size.”
The acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, in an article published on social media in the wake of the killing of over 40 Borno farmers, stated that some international paymasters were sponsoring the insurgents.
Musa wrote: “The recent killing of our people on a rice farm in Borno State was unexpected, inhuman, cowardly, dastardly and sadistic cruelty by the Boko Haram terrorists. There is no normal human being that will take pleasure in such inhuman massacre of defenceless and armless civilians, working on their farms; but that is the nature of terrorism and those who sponsor it.
“There is an international conspiracy to cut Nigeria to size and compromise national renegades making attempts to destabilise and dismember Nigeria if possible in subservience to the international paymasters, who are the owners of Boko Haram. They train them, arm them, finance them and supply their logistics.”
Be that as it may, as Nigerians continue to express fears that with widespread insecurity occasioned by killings, kidnapping and terrorists attacks, the nation is plunging into a state of complete anarchy. They also not convinced that Buhari is taking seriously, protection of lives and property of residents of the country as provided by the Constitution and other relevant laws
HUMAN rights lawyer, Mbasekei Martin Obono agrees with them saying: “We have lost more lives in Nigeria than we ever have since our democratic journey started in 1999. If the president is taking security seriously, he would have sacked the service chiefs. That is where we can begin the conversation on the level of seriousness of the president in tackling insecurity in Nigeria.”
He deplored the actions of the National Executive Committee of the APC, and APC governors kicking against Buhari’s questioning by the National Assembly, saying, “Section 89 (1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the National Assembly to summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document and examine him as a witness. The summons issued by the House of Representatives is very legal and in line with constitutional provisions. Therefore, if the APC governors or the political class decides to continue to desecrate the constitution they swore to uphold by giving the president ill advise, then it is rather unfortunate. However, what is more troubling is the notion that we have a president that doesn’t seem to muster empathy from the annals of his duty to care for citizens he went under oath to protect. It is distasteful to say the least.
“So, the issue for me is really not about the APC governors, neither is it about the APC’s NEC, it is about a president who doesn’t feel he owes the country anything while demanding everything from the country. It is about a President who is old and experienced enough to know what is right and what’s wrong, but still chooses to do the later. It is about a president who likes to hide in his cocoon and blame everyone else except himself for his own failures. It is about a president who came to power under the guise of leading the country to battle Boko Haram from the front, but we have actually not seen him near the battlefields since 2015. It is about an absentee president, who has failed on all facets of his campaign promises.”
On Buhari ignoring three resolutions of the Senate to remove the service chiefs for non-performance, he said: “We have a president that is more concerned about loyalty to him than protecting the citizens. The Chief of Army Staff has consistently shown unadulterated loyalty to the president than the country. It is that loyalty that the president is rewarding at the expense of lives of innocent citizens who are being killed by Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and herdsmen all over the country. The current service chiefs appear to be bereft of ideas; they need to go in order to pave way for the emergence of new service chiefs who will inject new ideas into the security sector, but the president is more concerned about protecting his personal estate than the entire country. That is why he consistently ignores the call for the removal of service chiefs.
“In actual fact, the consistent disregard of the call by members of the National Assembly to sack the service chiefs is an impeachable offence, but the big question is, can the legislators muster the courage to impeach Buhari? The president knows that there are no consequences for his actions and inaction therefore, he will continue to go about flouting laws and disobeying the pronouncements of both legislature and even judicial pronouncements by the courts,” he stated.
Another issue that has left many livid and pondering over the government’s state of mind is its perennial resort to court martialling and demoting of soldiers that dare to complain about the dearth of weapons to prosecute the war against insurgents.
This development led the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) to flay the Nigerian Army over the demotion of General Olusegun Adeniyi, by a rank, and the jailing of Adeniyi’s assistant for 28 days with hard labour.
The forum in a statement signed by its spokespersons, Chief Guy Ikokwu (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South), Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), and Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South West), said it was unfortunate that Adeniyi’s ordeal started with his complaints about those who sent him to lead troops to fight Boko Haram insurgencies with bare knuckles.
It described the embattled general as a combatant who has won so many awards and commendations for his command of Operation Lafiya Dole, but has now lost many troops in combat recently, raising questions on what happened to the last $1billion released for the armed forces to buy weapons.
Obono while reacting to claims of dearth of weapons made by aggrieved soldiers who are in the frontline, said it was regrettable and unfortunate that “soldiers are risking their lives on the frontline in defence of our country without proper ammunition, and when they complain about dearth of equipment, they get court martialed by the Nigerian Army. Some of them are dismissed or imprisoned. There are many soldiers who have abandoned the fight in North East for lack of weapons to combat Boko Haram. They go on AWOL without resignation. In the military, there is really no much option for those in the frontline to make complaints other than to speak with their commanders, who will then take up their matter to their superiors and majority of the reports never really get acted upon because the superiors are complicit in the actions.
While baring his mind on whether the resort to the use of mercenaries would affect the prestige, integrity, or self-confidence of our security agencies, especially the Nigerian Army, Obono said: “It is only the living that cares about respect and prestige. We need all hands to be on deck to secure our country. If your house is on fire and you scream for help, that doesn’t or shouldn’t make you feel less a man. All that matters is that we want to put off the fire of insecurity by any means necessary.”
Recently, lawyers in the employment of federal and state governments expressed concern over heightening insecurity and demanded special protection, which they have not been given. Asked to what extent this is capable of militating against the fight to end insecurity in the country, he added, “No life is more important than the other. The life of a lawyer is as good and important as the life of a trader at Ugep Tuesday Market. So, there is absolutely no need to place premium on the life of anyone over the other. The government has only one job – welfare and security of every Nigerian. Not just that of a particular class of people. One of the major things that breeds crimes and insecurity in our country and other parts of the world is injustice. It is unjust to think that anybody’s life is more important and sacred than the other. We need to stop thinking that way to make our society just and equitable. What we all need is to be protected by our government.”
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