The discrepancies in the number of people killed following the April 19 Clash between Nigerian security forces and Boko Haram Militants have been complicated by a former minister who now claims 288 people died following the assault on the Northern town of Baga.
Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, former federal capital Minister disputed the very low figure of only 25 deaths by government and the widely reported 185 by most media organs when he spoke to journalists recently. He warned the government to quickly resolve the crisis or risk getting into more problems
The senate will soon release results into their investigations into the carnage. Most of those who died were innocent civilians
Boko Haram recently held the Nigerian, Cameroonian and French government to ransom about a kidnapped French family of seven. The hostages were only released after a $3 million ransom was paid apparently by the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya.
The fact that the Nigerian government was unable to rescue the hostages is a sign of the power the Islamist militants now have in Northern Nigeria.
Did the Nigerian security forces use excessive force? What must be done now to prevent this from happening again? Our Abuja Correspondent Frank Garriba has been finding out.
Hussaini Abdu, Author, Country Director, Action Aid Nigeria
This is not the first time that the military is carrying out this kind of act. This is part of the history of the military. To set the record straight, there is no rule of engagement in this military assignment. It is one of the key issues that some people have been asking: Can we get the military to make its rule of engagement public so we know what the military ought to do and what it ought not to be doing?
In 1999, the military massively invaded a site in the Niger delta and killed scores of people. In 2004 there were similar invasions in Benue and hundreds of people were killed. As far back as 2009 there was also a massive killing of innocent people on the streets of Maiduguri where more than 2,000 people died. The experience of Baga is part of that trend, of impunity by security agencies in the country.
The general feeling by Nigerians is that the announcement of inquiry is one of those things that the government does. The probe report will never be made public. There was a probe into what happened in Benue in 2004 and up to now we haven’t seen the report. The government instituted a committee to investigate the killing of innocent people in 2009 in Maiduguri; up to now the report hasn’t been made public. There have been similar committees to investigate such incidents and nothing has been done about it.
The feeling of Nigerians, especially those from the affected communities, is that this is going to be the same business as usual; there will be a committee set up, reports will be prepared, but such reports will never be made public and those who have been involved will not be punished.
Professor Ango Abdullahi, Spokesman, Northern Elders Forum, NEF
We need more than a probe now. We need a judicial commission of inquiry to unravel what has happened in Baga. The commission of inquiry should have expanded terms of reference for people to come before it to raise issues that have been happening in Borno and Yobe states.
When we met president Goodluck Jonathan in May, we presented him a document indicating what we thought were some of the problems especially over instability and security in the country. We also explained what we thought needed to be done to resolve the issues.
It is important for me to say that when you are trying to set up a committee to reconcile people, what is required from both sides is mutual confidence, mutual trust to a large extent. It is the lack of mutual confidence and mutual trust that led to the failure of the first attempt to engage the group (Boko Haram) in dialogue.
The only worry in some quarters is about the independence and neutrality of the committee because of its chairman and secretary.
We the Northern elders had earlier recommended to Mr President that sheer force and the use of soldiers would not solve the problem. Soldiers are not trained to deal with civil society. They are trained for war and wherever they are, the mentality is that of war and at a smallest provocation they act like they are in a state of war; this country is not at war and it couldn’t be at war with its own citizens.
Senator Maina Ma’aji Lawan of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, representing the people of Borno State.
The attacks have similarities with what happened in Odi Bayelsa State on November 20, 1999, by the Nigerian military.
Baga is today in total ruins, with 180 to 200 human lives lost and numerous others unaccounted for, 2,000 homes, 62 cars and 284 motorcycles and tonnes and tonnes of foodstuff destroyed.
At this stage, I do not want to immerse myself in the blame-game of whether it is the multinational task force, JTF, or the insurgents that carried out the atrocities. Whoever did it, that level of atrocity is condemnable and is hereby condemned.
Instead of a mere probe, I call for a full-scale investigation to unearth the truth, as this is a recurring decimal in all such past instances in Borno State. There is need for genuine dialogue between government and extremists to end the heightened terror campaigns. Guns and bullets cannot solve the problem. Let us take advantage of this amnesty request and solve this problem once and for all.
Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary-General, Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, an umbrella group of Nigerian Muslims
The attack, reportedly carried out by a joint military force, was intended to unleash terror on helpless citizens.
The way things are unfolding now, Muslims have been put at the receiving end. We, therefore, call on them to come out with a loud voice and condemn the attack, which is uncalled-for, senseless and barbaric.
After all, why should a villager in Baga, whose fellow Muslims had disproportionately suffered in the hands of the security agents in Maiduguri, be hacked to death as a result of sporadic gun attacks?
From information made available to us, the dastardly act continued unabated for over 30 hours with several sprees of painful attacks on innocent residents of Baga, leaving behind hundreds of Muslim lives lost.
We call on the Federal Government and the Borno State Government to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime and punish them according to the law; the pervasive way security upheavals are being handled in Nigeria needs serious introspection.
JNI further calls on security agencies to curtail the violence guided by the rules of engagement of the military by not using excessive force on the citizenry.