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Category Archives: Human Rights

WOMEN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ON THE PLATEAU: A RISING WARNING OCTAVE

By Jerome Uneje

Bang! Bang!! Bang!!! Bot (not real name) keeps hitting on the door as he hollers her name in the still of the night. Kangyang, (not real name) 28, and a Mother of two slowly sits up in her hard, and narrow wooden bed. She picks up her small handset to check the time. The broken screen shows 1: 17 am. Oh no… not again. She hisses, gets up and opens the door for her husband. He staggers in and begins his routine of abuse and insults in slurred speech occasioned by too much alcohol. She is quiet and takes on the abuses with a dignified silence. He pushes away his food and demands sex. This time, Kangyang refuses. She has been busy on the farm all day and is too tired for sex and asks for a little more time to rest. Bot will have none of that. She stands her ground. A scuffle ensues. Bot grabs Kangyang by the throat and begins to shake her violently. She struggles, but her blocked wind pipe cannot take in enough oxygen to sustain her strength. She gasps and gasps while Bot tightens his grip. She finally weakens and slumps, dead.

Kangyang’s story is an everyday narrative in Nigeria. Violence against Women is as common place as any other vice. The United Nations Fund for Population Agency (UNFPA) reported in 2016 that Gender Based Violence, especially against women has a prevalence rate of over 30% across the country. This translates into 1 out of every 10 Women in Nigeria as a victim of violence in one form or more. The same report has it that over 25% of Nigerian women are circumcised.

There has been an unprecedented rise in violence against women in spite of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition Act) 2015. In Plateau State for instance, reports indicate that Violence against women is on the rise. Reports from the Media and other stakeholders including the Civil Society in Plateau State has it that in the last one year, there have been up to 430 reported cases of violations against Women in the State. Of these figures, 123 are rape cases of which 96 or 80% involve minors. There are over 21 cases of murder and many more.

Currently, efforts are being made by State and Non-State Actors in Plateau state to curb this fast rising menace to the womenfolk. The Civil Society has formed an observatory platform that monitors and documents these violations. According to our sources, the Observatory Platform has over 23 Civil Society and other key stakeholders. It is this platform that has recorded the over 430 cases of violations in Plateau State over the period of 1 year alone.

Besides the efforts Civil Society, the Plateau State House of Assembly, worried by the rising cases of violations against women, has initiated an Executive bill which seeks to penalize perpatrators of violence against women. The proposed bill seeks to strengthen the old Northern Nigeria Penal Code under which offenders are currently charged and tried. The Northern Nigeria Penal Code is archaic and does not speak to current realities on ground. The proposed bill is yet to be passed and it’s still in the formative stages in the Plateau State House of Assembly.

Lawyers Alert commends the efforts of both the State and Non-State Actors in Plateau State in tackling the issue of violence against Women. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a menace that should concern every member of the society, regardless of status.

Given the above therefore, Lawyers Alert as a Human Rights Organization and a staunch advocate of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, wishes to make the following suggestions to both the Civil Society and Government Institutions in Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole, in their efforts to curb the violations against Women and other vulnerable groups.

Regarding the efforts of the Civil Society, Lawyers Alert suggests that;

  • Recorded violations should not be stopped at the documentation stages alone but such cases should be taken to Court where the perpetrators will be adequately punished and the victims compensated
  • Monitored and documented violations should be analysed by the Civil Society in order to pattern out a trend in the violations. This will help in directing advocacy courses and programs.
  • There should be a pool of Human Rights Lawyers set to offer pro bono services to the victims of these violations especially for the poor and vulnerable.
  • Civil Society should push for the passage and implementation of laws and policies that protect and empower Women including international, regional and local instruments.

To Government Institutions:

  • They should endeavour to pass laws and policies that protect and empower Women
  • Put in place structures and procedures to assure the full implementation of passed and domesticated laws in their States.
  • Put in place structures and platforms that empower Women in economic and social terms through the formulation of laws, policies and special interventions like Women Skill acquisition programs amongst others.

In conclusion, Women Rights are Human Rights guaranteed by laws. The violations against Women must be condemned and discouraged in strong terms at all levels in Nigeria and Plateau State in particular. Failure to take proactive measures in this regard could lead to more episodes of the Kangyang story in our communities.

 

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Lawyers Alert sensitize Journalists on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights

The training was organized by Lawyers Alert for journalists as part of a sensitization and advocacy drive within the media community. The objective is to educate journalists on the subject of SRHR and how they can effectively report violations of same and also getting the participants to cascade knowledge gained to other journalists.

Facilitators at the training were:

  1. Rommy Mom, Esq. – President, Lawyers Alert.

2.  Mrs. Abubakar Abubakar – Director, UNFPA.

3.  Charles – Director, UNAIDS.

SRH, HIV & GENDER ISSUES IN NIGERIA

Facilitator – Zubaida Abubakar, UNFPA

Topic – “SRH, HIV and Gender Issues in Nigeria.” (Focus: Key Populations)

She began by acknowledging the vital role journalists play as watchdogs of the society in ensuring the protection of Human Rights. “We need to engage the media,” she enthused, “our work is based on evidence. Children and girls are mostly victims of SRHR violations. They are victims of rape, violence, etc. We have to educate them and the media can help achieve this.”

To buttress her claims that children and teenage girls were the most vulnerable in terms of SRHR violations, Mrs. Abubakar reinforced her facts with statistics shown below:

  • In Nigeria, girls particularly between the ages of 18-22 years of age are likely to get pregnant before marriage. The North has a preponderance of early marriage.
  • Female hawkers are particularly vulnerable to rape.
  • Owing to poverty, religious and cultural issues, girls are married off at the young ages of 9-22. They are most at risk of HIV and Vesico-Vaginal Fistula, a condition that frequently occurs when underage girls give birth. Nigeria has up to 600,000 cases of VVF. Girls with the condition tend to be stigmatised and isolated.
  • 47.6% of illiterate girls get pregnant early. They have no idea of the use of contraceptives.
  • Maternal and child mortality rate is high in Nigeria: For every 100,000 births, 576 infants die, while approximately 111 of the mothers die in childbirth.

Consequences

On the consequences of the violations of the SRHR of girls, Mrs. Abubakar pointed out that:

  • There is no opportunity for their being educated (attending school).
  • The vicious cycle of poverty is continued.
  • They are isolated.
  • 25% of the girls whose SRHR are violated contribute nothing to the economy.

What to Address

On what to address, Mrs. Abubakar explained

  • Girls should be kept in school to discourage child marriage.
  • Girls who do not get formal education should be empowered through vocational skills.
  • The health and well-being of children should be prioritised.
  • Girls should be trained in the use of contraceptives.
  • There should be a conducive environment for children and girls.
  • Keepers of the traditional institutions should be enagaged in these efforts to obtain their support which could in turn influence parents to change their beliefs.
  • Children and girls should be given comprehensive HIV education.
  • Young people should be co-opted into the information dissemination process.
  • Social could also be a useful tool in this effort.

UNFPA Projects

On the projects being carried out by UNFPA, Mrs. Abubakar noted:

  • 4,150 are being supported with the help of Canada. In Nigeria’s North, UNFPA provides support in the education sector. In Lagos (the suburbs of Lagos State), out of school children are being supported by training them in vocational work. 270 of the girls were able to impact 20,000 others.
  • Campaign launched last year to end child marriage in Nigeria.
  • A forum was set up to educate various communities on the negative effects of early marriage.
  • UNFPA collaborates with local NGOs to carry out their work with ongoing projects in Kaduna and Kebbi States.
  • Support is being provided for girls suffering from VVF

EFFORTS AT ENHANCING SRHR REPORTAGE IN NIGERIA

Facilitator – Charles, UNAIDS

Topic – “Efforts at Enhancing SRHR Reportage in Nigeria.”

Mr. Charles introduced a five-page news report culled from The Associated Press, which he distributed to all participants titled: “Rampaging Sudan Troops Raped Foreigners, Killed Locals.” Using the news report as a yardstick for measuring reports on SRHR, he asked participants to read the report and critique.

Most participants condemned the detailed style of reporting. They were of the view that The Associated Press was so detailed in the reportage that within days of publication, Sudanese citizens were able to identify victim of the gang rape perpetrated by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

A participant, (a female journalist with the Daily Trust), was of the view that the victim’s identity ought to have been protected in line with the ethics of the profession. Though her name was withheld, the description of the location and the race of the victim, were so vivid that Sudanese citizens had no problem identifying the victim.

A few of the participants, however, had a dissenting opinion. One of them was of the view that the detailed reportage was what led to further investigations.

The Facilitator left the critiquing to the professionals only pointing out the following issues:

  1. The news is about sexual violence in the context of armed conflict.
  2. Giving tips (reports) to journalists helps with exposing SRHS violations.

HUMAN RIGHTS DIMENSION

Facilitator – Rommy Mom (Lawyers Alert President)

Topic – “Human Rights Dimension on Violations of SRHR,”

Citing the cases of the FSWs in Abuja and the suspected gay people in Gishiri village, in Abuja, Lawyers Alert intervened, Mr. Mom emphasized the need to protect key affected populations. To buttress his point, he cited the case of a Customs Officer who was accused of theft in a market in Jalingo, Adamawa state and subsequently beaten to death. It was only after the mob action that his identity was revealed.

Mr. Mom rounded off his session with a quote he once saw in a prison in a prison he visited. The placard read: “A society is judged by how it treats the weakest among them.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

The issue of homosexuality in Nigeria is a touchy one especially since the country has enacted laws criminalising same sex relationship and marriage. It was no wonder therefore that the following questions came up:

Q – “If I heard you clear, you mean you offer free legal services to homosexuals?”

Rommy Mom – “Yes, if we offer 10 free legal services to victims of SRHR violations, including homosexuals.”

Q – “How do you marry this with the Nigerian laws which prohibit homosexuality?”

  1. M – “Years ago, in Gishiri village, a pastor mobilised a mob to attack some persons alleged to be homosexuals. They broke into their houses, assaulted them, took them to the police station, and they were detained. This to the Pastor and his believers was in keeping with the law. We urge you however to examine the process. It is an offence to break into a persons’ home, assault the person etc. Yet we choose to ignore this. It is so much as the law, the process. We don’t violate rights, in getting to the end of the law. Lawyers Alert is about rights of ALL. Remember again, it is the court that determines culpability at the end of the day. The law does not permit any person to break the doors of people on ground of suspicion of being homosexual. It is the court that will determine the guilt of any person alleged to have committed a crime. Homosexuals, like other groups be they Female Sex workers, Persons Living With HIV, Persons who use Drugs etc are the vulnerable people in the society. How we treat and relate with them is different with coloration of stigma and discrimination. Ours is to focus on the rights of these key population groups.”

Q – “Do you also offer services to children and victims of domestic violence?”

  1. M – “Yes, we offer free legal services to children and victims of domestic violence. A 10-year old girl was raped recently. Her mother could not afford to pay transport fare. We offered her free legal services and we also paid for her transport fares.”

WAY FORWARD

On way forward, all participants agreed that:

  1. We should keep journalist informed as journalists are human beings and not ghosts that should know everything that happens in the society.
  2. Outcome of meetings should be shared. It could be visual, audio or text.
  3. Lawyers Alert could organise meetings to keep journalists informed.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Mom thanked all participants and assured them that the training just held was just one of many more to be held, and that from time to time, Lawyers Alert will hold refresher trainings for those in attendance.

 

 

 

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LAWYERS ALERT TO SUE NIGERIA ARMY OVER BENUE KILLING

Lawyers Alert has taken up the matter of the wrongful killing by the Nigerian Army of one Master Ipaven Paul AYEM, a JSS 3 student of Holy Family Catholic Secondary School, Jato-Aka, Kwande Local Government Area. The family of the young man had approached Lawyers Alert last month to seek for justice over the killing of their son by men of the Nigerian Army.

According to the family, Paul Ayem, had just closed from school and sat down to lunch outdoors when he suddenly slumped at the sound of gunshots and was found to be bleeding from the head. Closer inspection revealed a gunshot to his head. It turned out that men of the Nigerian army had taken it upon themselves to randomly fire into the air in an attempt to disperse vigilantes they were caught in an altercation with. It was in the course of this action that Paul received a bullet to the head resulting in his instant death. The sad incident took place on the 21st of March 2017.

Strangely enough, when the Nigerian Army were made aware of the incident by the family of the deceased, they became quite hostile and refused to listen to the deceased’s family against standard practice and procedure – and dismissed the death as likely caused by a bullet fired by the vigilantes.

Lawyers Alert believes responsibility lies on Government at all levels to bring to justice the perpetrators of such this act. Paul was a 17-year old in a certificate class with poor parents catering for him and hoping for an eventual reaping of the fruits of their sacrifice. 

Based on the above facts and the Nigerian Army’s indifference to the family’s plight, Lawyers Alert has written to and served on the Nigerian Army, a 21 days’ notice to meet the following demands:

  • a.      Identify and bring to book the soldiers involved in this heinous crime as their conduct was a negation of the ethics, conduct and rules of engagement of the organization.
  • b.      The Nigerian Army serves a letter of condolence on the family of the deceased for the unfortunate and unlawful death of their son from the bullet fired by men and officers of the Nigerian Army.
  • c.       The Nigerian Army pays to the family a compensation of two billion naira as damages for the unlawful killing of their son by men of the Nigerian Army.

A failure to meet the demands stipulated above will cause Lawyers Alert to resort to the law courts for a judicial determination of this matter.

 

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Human Rights, Uncategorized

 

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NIGERIA: MANDATORY HIV TESTING AND DISMISSAL OF AN EMPLOYEE ON THE BASIS OF HIV-STATUS

http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/nigeria-mandatory-hiv-testing-and-dismissal-of-an-employee-on-the-basis-of-hiv-status/

 
 

Reason to monitor Human Rights Abuses

By Sunday Adaji Esq

One common denominator among human rights defenders is the passion to fight, protect, and defend the fundamental rights of citizens. This passion has led some lawyers to sacrifice their time, money, resources and even life and limb, in defense of citizens’ inalienable rights.

The history of the human rights struggle is as old as the history of mankind. In the Bible, we read how Cain murdered Abel his brother in cold blood. There was no justification for the murder of Abel by Cain. From the time of Abel till now, human rights abuse has continued to rise at a geometric rate while the rate of protection and defence against human rights abuse, on the other hand, only rises arithmetically. Just when you have successfully prosecuted a case of human rights abuse and want to jubilate, you hear yet more cases of others whose rights have been infringed.

Nigeria, has witnessed all forms of human rights abuse by the state actors whether during the military era or in the democratic dispensation and by non-state actors.  Thousands of citizens have been killed by Boko Haram terrorists and millions of others were rendered homeless due to Boko Haram’s invasion In every nook and cranny of the country, human rights abuse exist. Issues of child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, rape, lynching, homicides, baby factories aimed at making babies primarily for commercial purposes, deprivation, false imprisonment, etc still abound and actually appear to be on the increase. 

As long as rights exist, so shall abuses, making the need to monitor paramount. So long human rights defenders make efforts at combating  human rights abuse and reducing it to the barest minimum, dignity of more persons can be protected. abusers.

We will not forget in a hurry heroes in Nigeria the military era for example. Be they organizations like NADECO, CLO or persons like  the Fawehinmis, the Ransome – Kutis, the Agbakobas, or the Nigerian Press, and many others too numerous to mention, who wrestled with military dictatorships and eventually saw them out of power. The feat achieved by these human-rights-minded Nigerians convinces me beyond an iota of doubt that we can reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum, if only we are willing to contribute our quota towards protecting and defending citizens from having their human rights abused.

Everyday people’s rights are violated with impunity. Some, we witness ourselves, others are reported to us. And many others are reported on the internet and in the print and electronic media, yet we do nothing about them. We cannot continue to fold our arms and watch perpetrators violate people’s rights. We have to show and feel concerned with what happens to others. We might be the next victim! You never can tell!

There is always something you can do when you see other people’s rights being abused. Don’t shrug your shoulders, walk away and say, “It is none of my business.” It is your business. If it doesn’t concern you today, it may concern you tomorrow. Be your brother’s keeper. Do something. You can report to the police, you can report to the press. We have many radio stations, television stations and print media around us. We also have many human rights organizations around us, they are within your reach.

We don’t have to keep mute in the face human rights abuse. The reason human rights abuse is rampant is because we are not doing anything about it. If we are ready to do something about it, we will reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum.

And for us human rights lawyers, TENACITY is our watchword! We are not relenting, we are not quitting! We will not fold our arms! More often than not, we will spend our money, time and resources pursuing this just cause, but these are the sacrifices we must make to ensure that people enjoy their inalienable rights.

Sunday Adaji is a human rights lawyer and legal officer with Lawyers Alert. He can be reached on 07061016859

 

Lawyers Alert Brings Human Rights Lawyers together on provision of legal literacy and access to justice to vulnerable groups in Nigeria.

By Roseline Oghnebrume

Lawyers Alert in partnership with UNAIDS Nigeria, brought together human rights lawyers under the auspices of Coalition of Lawyers For Human Rights, COLaHR, on the 28th and 29th day of October 2015 at Kanem Suites, Utako Abuja to interact with People Living with HIV (PLWHIV), People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs), Female Sex Workers (FSWs), Sexual Minorities towards provision of free legal assistance and legal literacy.

The Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights (CoLaHR) which consists of Volunteer Lawyers across 23 states in Nigeria has as its  mandate the provision of free Legal Assistance and Interventions for Key Populations and Vulnerable Groups in Nigeria.

This event was aimed at bringing Members of CoLaHR and Members of Key Populations and Vulnerable Groups to get to know one another to ensure justice for all and to create awareness of relevant law as members of CoLaHR have been finding it very challenging connecting with Vulnerable Groups since the Coalition was formed. It was also a forum to increase the visibility of CoLaHR and to build confidence and trust between the Vulnerable Groups and Lawyers.COLAHR Meetin

At the event there was an official launch of the CoLaHR website (http://www.colahr.org), CoLaHR help line (08026826761) and email (colahr.nigeria@gmail) making it easy for the Key populations and vulnerable groups to reach the CoLaHR members promptly when the need arises. Ramaroson Mianko representing UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Bilali Camara, emphasized the importance of the website stating that it was created to facilitate  the protection of Human Rights and also to serve a resource base. Informative, Educative and Communication materials (pamphlets and posters) explaining rights and where to go when one’s fundamental Human Rights are abused were developed and distributed to Key and Affected Populations during the meeting to take home and also distribute to the grass roots and the larger community towards possible validation and mass circulation afterwards.

Mr. Kunle Adeniyi, representing of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) expressed his delight with the passion being exhibited by the participants but also cautioned that the forum cannot fully settle the issues of the law as it relates to Human Rights as the Law is constantly existing. He congratulated UNAIDS, Lawyers Alert and CoLaHR for a job well done and for the official launch of the website.

The Executive Director of INCRESE, Dorothy Akenova expressed her joy at the launch of CoLaHR website and stated that she had never been more happy working with Lawyers Alert and UNAIDS. Most participants expressed the feeling that hitherto were not comfortable in the same room with  Lawyers as they always had the mindset that no one understands them and the society at large always discriminates against them. They thanked Lawyers Alert and UNAIDS for organizing the meeting especially with members of CoLaHR  volunteering to provide Legal Assistance to them.

Barrister Rommy Mom, President of Lawyers Alert commended and appreciated his learned colleagues who have offered to give themselves and their time to the Vulnerable Groups to protect and offer pro-bono legal services when their rights have been infringed.

At the end of the 2 day event, an effective networking and trust building between the Lawyers and the Vulnerable Groups was enhanced and  agreed modality between the Vulnerable Groups and members of CoLaHR on reaching out when in need. The participants also learnt about the common violations faced, knowledge of their rights and knowledge of the legal needs of key populations and vulnerable groups.

The members of the Coalition agreed on the following: There should be a permanent staff for CoLaHR, Legal fund for CoLaHR be established and administered by Lawyers Alert, Members of CoLaHR should be trained on Human Right practice, More Lawyers should be trained to increase the number of Lawyers under CoLaHR, There should be a meeting with critical stakeholders and bodies, The need for specialization by CoLaHR members where necessary and the need to have periodic meetings.

 

 

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THE EVOLUTION OF BOKO HARAM AND THE ROLE OF CITIZENS

BY ROMMY MOM

Beginnings of Boko Haram

It is widely believed that the movement started out as a pious and strict way of Islam intended to guarantee paradise after death in the midst of worldly and earthy distractions. Not many people are aware that this ideology became so popular in Nigeria’s North East that even some government officials joined in the movement and supported it in order to be seen as holy and pious people.

With time, the movement became powerful enough to start enforcing its way of life on many, demanding zero tolerance to anything western. Some government officials resigned to comply with this directive while others saw the price as too heavy to pay just to belong. Originally known as “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,” which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” this coinage was soon shortened by locals to the simpler, “Boko Haram” which, loosely translated, means, “Western education is forbidden.” Those who refused to team up with the extremists were viewed as uncommitted Muslims.

Extra judicial punishment in the form of brutal killings was soon meted out on those who resisted these teachings, especially persons of other faiths. Early violence was targeted at non-believers with Churches targeted particularly on holy days such as Easter and Christmas when attendance was heavy. Perhaps the initial plan was to plunge Nigeria into a religious war. The reluctance or inability of Christians to pay back in kind thwarted this move thereby frustrating the movement in that regard.

The now notorious cult, which began its insidious existence during the Obasanjo administration (2002), was rendered a crushing defeat by the state under YarAdua when it appeared to be challenging the power of the state. However, instead of a well strategized and carefully executed investigation which would perhaps have unearthed the roots of the cult, defeat was meted out on extreme grounds of extra judicial killings, with the arrest and execution of the group’s founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009.

This act caused the group to run off into the forest (Sambisa) and quietly continue living their “pious” lives while burning with anger and resentment with a view to vengeance. They soon regrouped under a new and more vile leadership, that of the so called Abubakar Shekau.

 

Growth and Notoriety

Having regrouped, the cult, now bent on establishing an Islamic state, quietly developed networks with other extremist Islamic groups, first across Africa and eventually, beyond. How Nigeria’s intelligence missed this is the wonder. Indeed, the efficiency with which the group was able to muster heavy military weapons and machinery speaks volumes about how incredibly weak Nigeria’s government systems were calling to question how the weapons were brought into the country and safely delivered to the terrorists without raising suspicion. These weapons included armored personnel carriers, surface to air missiles and other weapons even Nigeria’s military lacked.

On the anniversary of their leader’s assassination, the group announced its desire to commemorate his death. Not knowing the extent of the group’s preparedness and the seriousness of their threats, the Borno state government (the state that has since gained notoriety as the “home” of BH) assured citizens that there was nothing to worry about and urged them to go about their normal businesses. Underestimating BH turned out to be a big mistake.

On the day of the “commemoration,” gun wielding members of BH stormed the city of Maiduguri, mowing down any Christian policemen in sight, leading to police officers taking off their uniforms and begging for their lives. It was to be the first of many well primed attacks.

The state’s meek reaction did nothing to help and the sect waxed stronger over time, killing at will, bombing prime state targets across the country, including the Police headquarters and the UN office both in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Still the state, this time under Goodluck Jonathan, failed to fully comprehend how powerful the rag tag group had grown to be.

BH eventually went as far as conquering and seizing territories, declared its independence from Nigeria and killed citizens at will, at this point, not minding religious inclination. Schools were targeted and children killed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Buni Yadi massacre in Yobe state was carried out at night in an all-boys school. Shortly afterwards, an estimated 300 girls were abducted from their school, also at night. A few of them managed to escape when one of the vehicles they were being carted off in broke down.

This incident finally turned international attention to Nigeria, when the army first of all lied that the abducted girls had been rescued, then when the abduction was followed by inaction by the state. To this day, one and a half years later, there are still groups demanding for the return of the girls, now known as the Chibok girls. An estimated 200 may have been sold into slavery or forcefully married off to total strangers as Shekau at the time threatened.

Their actual fate remains unknown.

 

Reaction of the state

After the brutal subjugation of the movement by the Yar Adua administration, subsequent dealings by the state lacked any form of decisiveness. State reaction portrayed total lack of political will to deal definitively with the terrorists, leading to a state of general insecurity, not just in the region but across the country, thereby giving the group a larger-than-life reputation.

While the terrorist group wreaked havoc in Nigeria’s North East and the neighboring West African countries of Chad, Niger, and Mali, unscrupulous elements within the government and the military saw the insurgency as a means of making money and corruptly enriching themselves. Monies intended for equipping the military were diverted to personal use, while a poorly armed, poorly motivated military was sent out to tackle a better armed, better, motivated and better organized opponent. The battles ended with Nigeria’s military massacred in huge numbers and the people of the region killed in a pogrom of a sort never before witnessed in the land.

Over 15,000 lives have been lost, while a mutiny within the army, owing to lack of weapons and machinery was decisively dealt with by imprisonment even as corruption continued to thrive and the country bled. It has since been speculated that a 5th column was identified within the army and that some of the sponsors were known to those in power and yet to BH remained a menace.

In the run up to the 2015 elections, the ability of the APC Candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, to definitively articulate issues such as Corruption and Security, and the way these messages resonated with the electorate forced the sitting government to finally see BH as an electoral albatross that could lead to its defeat. Elections were quickly postponed to deal with BH, but lacking any concise operational plan, weapons were hastily put together and indiscriminate air strikes commenced in territories held by BH. While the group was indeed pushed back, the collateral damage was equally huge especially in the civilian population.

This last ditch attempt at stopping BH, while the most impressive, did nothing to help the Goodluck administration as the people’s minds were already made up. Elections eventually threw out the government and installed Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, whose credentials as a long serving military man were seen as the right qualification for a Nigerian leader hoping to rout BH.

 

The Citizen

The present administration is now engaging BH in a more constructive and intelligent manner, strengthening alliances with neighboring countries, gathering intelligence and launching offensive strikes, while curbing corruption within the system and motivating soldiers.

The results are commendable as Nigeria is now on the offensive as opposed to BH being on the offensive, which was the situation in the past, and practically all Nigerian territories have been reclaimed. This has led to a new approach by the terrorists, bombing of soft targets within the communities, markets, viewing centers, IDP camps etc.

Intelligence can help neutralize these attacks and this is where the role of the citizen is key. The new wave of terrorism in Nigeria can NEVER be won except the citizen steps up and engages.

Intelligence is not obtained from thin air but by citizens being observant and reporting suspicious movements and or circumstances in their surroundings. In the past, those who did report such things found themselves under attack, the information having been somehow leaked to the terrorists. Perhaps this was led to the situation we now face where some of these communities have taken to shielding the terrorists and some even contributing their children to the “cause.” There are also those who genuinely believe the extremists are trying to promote an Islamic agenda and as such have developed genuine sympathies for them leading to them cooperating with the group and shielding them from the prying eyes of the authorities.

Interestingly enough, as operations against the group have continued, it has become obvious that though members of the group claim to be Muslims trying to establish an Islamic state, a good number of them know nothing about the religion itself other than what they have been brain washed by the master minds into believing. It is said that a good number of them neither pray nor can recite vital parts of the Quran. One then begins to wonder what the real motivation or trigger behind the movement is.

Attempts by the Jonathan administration at various points in time to establish contact with the group and determine their demands produced woeful results. Unlike other terrorist groups in Nigeria which made concrete demands on government, BH’s demands were unrealistic and speak of a lack of focus. The group is believed to have demanded that Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, convert to Islam, a request which of course went unattended to.

There is a real need for some of Behavior Change Communication strategy to be embarked upon to enlighten Muslims of the real intentions of the group which has little to do with promoting Islam and everything to do with spreading hate and fear. There is a need to send out educational passionate educational messages, suing passages from the Quran to counter the poisonous messages being spread by the terrorists.

These could be in the form of radio/TV messages, billboards, online broadcasts and so on. After all, the fight is against an ideology. There is therefore a serious need to work on the minds of those who are vulnerable to get them to understand that the ideology of the terrorists is warped at best. This is one of the ways in which the state can help the citizens to decide on doing what is right.

Regarding the fear of being outed after passing intelligence to security agents, the current government seems genuinely concerned about curbing the excesses of BH as can be seen by the fact that the service chiefs are now stationed right at the battle front and have been seen at the frontlines with their men. This is a clear sign that the status quo has changed and people can now trust the security agents.

“Small” things like strange faces, tenants who would rather keep to themselves, vehicles haphazardly laden with gas cylinders and driven in populated areas, etc. as normal as they appear, could be clues. A tip off to security agencies may lead to saving of scores of lives.

People acting suspiciously in crowded environments such as markets, schools, malls, Churches should be carefully observed and if possible questioned. Unattended bags should not be poked or touched. Very rickety cars driven to a crowded spot and abandoned are also suspect.

The need to create awareness amongst community leaders on how to spot suspected terrorists can’t be over emphasized. It is very important for the purposes of stepping the messages down to members of the community in languages they will understand and be made to understand how this strategy could save us all.

If we can successfully push for and achieve the measures outlined above, then we can truly begin to say with confidence that the days of BH in Nigeria are numbered.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Governance, Human Rights

 

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