RECENTLY, in what must have sounded as yet another distressing and depressing news for Nigeria’s beleaguered populace, the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), in collaboration with the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ), released a damning report on genocide, religious persecution and other crimes in Nigeria, showing how the terrorist group, Boko Haram, had killed a staggering number of Nigerians in the last 20 years. The report titled Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter: Genocide in Nigeria and the Implications for the International Community also exposed ongoing attacks by militants which have caused the death of many Nigerians, primarily farmers.
Based on the data collected between January 2000 and January 2020, there were 19, 101 deaths resulting from attacks by militant attacks across the country. Similarly, 52, 861 persons were said to have been killed by Boko Haram, while 44, 303 persons were documented to have been killed by other actors. The report highlights the critical need for intervention by the United States (coordinated by an empowered Presidential Envoy) to address the situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. ICON stated that it had empowered a team of international lawyers to make a prima facie case on religious persecution/genocide, calling on the United States government to intervene and coordinate an international response to address the growing human rights abuses and threats in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
While urging the Nigerian government to upgrade the quality of service chiefs to personnel who can demonstrably, emphatically and proactively tackle and address the present crisis of insecurity in order to make the country safe again, ICON said it expected the Nigerian government to review the country’s constitution and correct inconsistencies, inequalities, and jurisprudential mischief that compromise the letter and spirit of the country’s civil association as a political community.
It is indeed troubling that since the onset of the present democratic dispensation during which the arrest of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was mismanaged by the Nigerian state, specifically the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Boko Haram has grown in leaps and bounds, recruiting socially disadvantaged and despondent youth and unleashing naked terror on the country. Although a significant number of the terrorists have been killed, jailed or rehabilitated by the Nigerian government, Boko Haram remains a potent threat to Nigeria’s existence as a corporate entity. Particularly in recent times, it has, together with nomadic herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, unleashed the worst forms of devastation on the country. Apart from kidnapping, serially abusing and severing married and unmarried women and young girls from their natural habitat, killing males of all categories and setting entire communities on fire, it has struck public buildings and premises used by international organisations and turned hitherto peaceful and thriving communities into ghost towns. And what is more, like the proverbial abiku who renders the medicine man and his remedies impotent, Boko Haram has defied all remedies and entreaties by successive governments, in large part because of the chicanery and duplicity of the political class. As a matter of fact, shortly before bowing out of service in January this year, the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai, gave the country a 20-year time line to overcome the Boko Haram problem.
Tellingly, the ICON/PSJ report shows that the usual resort of the Muhammadu Buhari government to patting itself on the back for having degraded Boko Haram is nothing but empty rhetoric, as the reality of the destruction by Boko Haram is as startling as ever. Before it came into power in 2015, the current administration promised to fight corruption, curb insurgency, and revamp the economy, but none of these goals has been met. Worse still, the situation has worsened considerably, and the country hovers precariously on the edge of failed statehood. In any case, the usual rhetoric about Boko Haram being “degraded” or “technically defeated” is undermined by the group’s serial assaults on communities in the North-East and beyond. Indeed, the situation is so bad that Boko Haram is purporting to appoint governors over the territories it has captured, collecting levies from farmers and generally putting the coercive powers of the Nigerian state to shame. Countless numbers of officers and men of the Armed Forces and the Nigeria Police have died battling Boko Haram, with humongous sums lost to the war.
No serious government would pretend that all is well when over 52, 000 of its citizens have been sent to their untimely graves through persisting terrorism. The government must come to terms with its profound inability to successfully handle and combat Boko Haram terrorism. It should call for a critical national review of the fight against terrorism with a view to embarking on a radically different platform of engagement in order to bring an end to this debilitating menace.
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