Friday, 12 August 2011

News Release: Human Rights Atrocities Soar In Maiduguri, Borno State

The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) strongly condemns the human rights atrocities going on in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, North East, Nigeria where thousands have been killed either in the name of religion or "restoring order". Fundamental human rights and freedoms have been taken a back seat, while terror and bloodletting have assumed frighteningly alarming dimensions.

No week passes without the sounds of blasts and explosions ripping through various parts of the town, leaving in its trail a cesspool of blood and countless casualties. An Islamic sect, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad popularly known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most of the violent attacks that had targeted security officers, military facilities, community leaders and clerics in the northeastern part of the country. Equally worrying is that some of the attacks are purportedly being carried out with the connivance of fundamentalists from such radicalised nations as Sudan, Niger Republic and Somalia with the intent of destabilizing the nation and creating the impression of general insecurity. The Joint Task Force (JTF) constituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria in June 2011 to quell the Boko Haram insurgency in Maiduguri have also perpetrated massive human rights violations, by particularly launching direct attacks on civilians as prohibited under national and international law. This has resulted in a situation whereby the Boko Haram on one side and the JTF on the other side are now equally yoked in the gory killings and myriad of security challenges facing the state. Their clashes have left hundreds dead on both sides. The presence of the JTF in Maiduguri has also polarized the state, pitching the haves against the have-nots. While the non-muslims, persons engaged in formal employment and those living in the formal sections of the city insist on having military presence intensified in Maiduguri and environs, the inhabitants of slum and rural settlements such as Budum, Kaleri, Gomari and London Chiki are equally as vociferous in their call for the withdrawal of soldiers from the state.

The rising spate of insecurity and killings in the state has destroyed lives, businesses, deterred future investments, and frustrated important gains made in the realization of specific social and economic rights, especially the rights to housing, education, health, work and food in particular. Thousands have been thrown into the job market following the clampdown on motorcycle operators just as the productivity of the employed workforce has been considerably reduced due to constant panic and mounting insecurity. Security concerns have forced the closure of tertiary institutions like the University of Maiduguri and the Ramat Polytechnic. Not only that, the closure of schools, the death or forced relocation of parents have also seriously disrupted the education of youths and school children in Maiduguri.

Between July 24- 27, 2011, SERAC conducted a fact-finding mission to Maiduguri to gain a first-hand knowledge of the root of the instability plaguing the State, and document the social, economic and human rights abuses arising from the Boko Haram insurgency in particular. The mission forms part of a broader organizational strategy to gather and present useful information that can aid intelligence gathering and robust decision-making relating to a more effective security provisioning and human rights protection in Nigeria. During the mission, SERAC held extensive consultations with a cross section of state and federal officials, members of the Nigeria Police Force, the Joint Task Force (JTF) authorities, the civil society, representatives of national and international media, markets associations, traditional and educational institutions, corporate bodies, religious leaders, elder statesmen, residents, families and victims living in various communities, including Gomari, London Chiki, Kaleri, Budum where recent bomb blasts had occurred.

The mission established that the soldiers have employed the excessive use of force in carrying out its anti-insurgency operations. For instance, in response to a major bomb blast that had occurred in Budum community located near the palace of the Shehu of Borno in Maiduguri about 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2011 and wounded three soldiers, JTF personnel set 6 cars and shops numbering over 42 ablaze and shot directly at residents fleeing the scene of the blasts. Uniform narrative accounts shared by several eyewitnesses put the number of the wounded and dead between 23 and 45 persons. However, SERAC identified and visited the homes of one wounded victim and four persons allegedly killed by JTF soldiers: Late Mallam Goni Tijani,(55), Late Babakura Zakariya (18) Late Idris M, and the woman in whose shop the improvised explosive device (IED) was planted.

SERAC learned that victims are often forced out of their rooms before they are shot. Late Babakura Zakariya’s friends who witnessed his killing and his aged father tearfully told SERAC how JTF soldiers dragged the deceased out of his mother’s room onto the streets. He died on the spot after he was shot on the head, chest and waist by the soldiers. SERAC found that similar executions had happened in sub-urban Kaleri community near Osas Private School. Homes close to the site of the Kaleri blasts were raided and occupants allegedly murdered in cold blood. Although the Joint Task Force (JTF) authorities vehemently denied the arson and killings, the pattern of executions corresponds to its combat policy of designating any area used by the sect to perpetrate their operations as military targets. “Persons who allow their surroundings or frontage to be used by the Boko Haram sect to attack people or security agencies would be considered as collaborators, and will be treated as criminals,” JTF told SERAC.

Direct attacks on civilians are prohibited under national and international law and show a complete disregard for the right to life. Not only that, the soldiers brazenly violated not only the right to life and integrity of the person, but also, the right to human dignity and to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In very strong terms, SERAC condemns the alleged arson and killings by JTF personnel as well as the bombings by members of the Boko Haram sect.

The mission established that the mixture of impunity, the lack of accountability, dearth of political will and corruption continue to stand in the way of genuine efforts at building lasting peace in the region. The signature failure of the Nigerian authorities to address the legacy of past human rights violations by both military forces and ethnic insurgents offers little hope that such violations will not be repeated and prevents victims and survivors from reconciling and rebuilding their lives. Secondly, the total absence of transparent and accessible platforms that allow aggrieved people articulate their grievances and demand accountability has deepened hate lines and animosity between the government and the governed. Perhaps, most telling is that absolute mistrust, suspicion, and fear characterize the relationship between the security operatives and the civilian populations, undermining intelligence undertakings that would lead to the definite identification and extirpation of the sect’s members and activities.

SERAC is outraged to learn about what appears to be a selective compensation regime in Bornu State that has favoured muslims against non-muslims. This perception is fuelled by the Bornu State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima’s signature practice of hastily providing monetary compensation to victims of the crisis who live in predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods, and not extending the same magnanimity to non-Muslims whose relatives died or properties were destroyed in similar circumstances. SERAC calls upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to:

Immediately constitute an inclusive working group to serve as Emissaries of Northern Rebirth (ENR) comprised of Northern political and religious leaders, government and legislative officials, human rights and development leaders, reputable journalists, representatives of women and youth organizations drawn from all the Northern States. The group's main goal is to undertake a working assessment of the growing violent conflict in the region, facilitate true reconciliation, and develop a work plan for expanding democratic engagement and developmental progress in Northern Nigeria.

Take urgent and concrete measures towards reviewing and re-directing the operational methods, processes and procedures of the Joint Task Force to be in tune with the democratic environment and attributes of the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights. The review must be supported by a well thought-out strategy and timetable for the withdrawal of military troops in Maiduguri.

Conduct investigations into human rights violations perpetrated by both state and non state actors in Maiduguri since July 2009, especially by members of the Nigerian Police Force and the Joint Task Force, while ensuring that all indicted persons are held to account. Such an enquiry must ascertain the identity and number of ALL the victims, including civilians and security officers, who lost their lives and sources of livelihood in the Maiduguri crisis, ensuring that they receive adequate remedy, not limited to monetary compensation for the wrongs they suffered.

Constitute a special covert security squad comprising the most outstanding brains in intelligence that will undertake strategic, covert and vigorous surveillance operations nationwide in order to unearth the roots of terror and neutralize the propensity for enemy and insurgency attacks within and beyond borders. The team will be responsible for assessing all perceived existing and emerging threats to national security, and providing all-source intelligence gathering and analysis exclusively to the office of the president.

Greater awareness, education and capacity building are required to increase the capacity of religious, community and youth leaders to manage information, communicate and conduct negotiations on issues of concern to their communities through non-violent means. Emphasis should be placed on designing programs that promote learning in educationally disadvantaged States in northern Nigeria, training teachers, increasing community involvement and supporting infrastructure improvements for schools.

To guarantee and respect the rights of aggrieved persons to express themselves freely and to associate with others to contribute to development and public decision-making on social and economic policies and programs that affect them. Steps must be taken to improve the public grievance redressal system at the local, state and national-levels by strengthening the civil and criminal justice systems and enforcement mechanisms for addressing the serious violations of human rights.

Thank you.

Victoria Ohaeri
Program Coordinator

U-Report: UN Labels Boko Haram A Terrorist Organization

Reported By Daniel James(Field Officer to UN Terrorism Monitoring Unit)
The last is yet to be heard of the threat to national security by the Boko Haram sect, an Islamic Extremist group as they have allegedly written to the Emir of Bauchi, Alhaji Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu in a telephone interview with the sect spokesman, Abu Zaid pertaining to the release of the names of targeted people.
Investigations revealed according to Agency reporter as well as Nigerian times reporter that the Part A of the targeted people are the prominent Nigerians which includes: Vice-President Namadi Sambo topping the list, others on the list were Emir of Zazzau, HRH Shehu Idris, governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi state, Senator Sheriff, the former Borno state governor, and former speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Masari.
Sources said that while the former governor of Borno state, Senator Sheriff was originally handed five conditions by the sect, he has only fulfilled one of them by publicly apologising to the sect. The Part B of the targeted people by dreaded Boko Haram sect includes; Hon. Kazeem Konitan, Mallam Usman Abubakar, Taju Yusuf, Pastor Emmanuel, Imam Moshood, Pastor Sunday I. Peters, Bishop Moses, and Bashiru Ahmed.
Though the Federal Government has constituted a committee to dialogue with Boko Haram to ensure peace in the country. The group was still on the prowl, leading to the death of five persons and injuring of two soldiers in Maiduguri, Capital of Borno state.
But already, the International focus on the Boko Haram's spate of bombings and killings in Nigeria are growing as the United Nations (UN) disclosed that the world body is keenly monitoring the situation. The United States, United Kingdom, and some European countries have warned the Federal Government not to enter into any negotiation with Boko Haram who have killed many innocent citizens and destroyed properties worth millions of Naira in many parts of the country since the beginning of the year.
The fear of attacks by Islamic militants in Nigeria is spreading South to the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, where city buses are being checked for bombs. This followed a text message purportedly sent by the group warning people not to take government buses because they are a target.
Managing Director of Lagos Bus Service, LAGBUS, Mr Yemi Odubela, was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, as saying the firm was aware of the threat and was asking passengers to remain vigilant and cooperate with spot checks of their bags. The report noted that at the Eko roundabout bus stop on Victoria Island, a passenger said her bags were checked when she boarded the bus.
She said: “They checked us before we entered at Leventis. They checked us to see if anybody was carrying any equipment inside their bags. So they checked us before we entered. Men check men. Women check women.”
Asked if the new measures made her to feel safer, she said: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We are afraid. We are afraid. Everybody is afraid to enter; you see that blue bus and this red one. We are afraid. They checked under all the seats before we entered.
However, pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373, some ''associated individuals and entities'' engaged in terrorist activities are labeled terrorists and placed in a list maintained by a UN Counter Terrorism Committee. This Security Council Committee established pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated individuals and entities oversees the implementation by States of sanctions measures imposed by the Security Council on individuals and entities associated with the Taliban, and the Al-Qaeda organization.
Boko Haram has been officially declared a terrorist organization by Security Council Committee and maintains a consolidated list of individuals and entities subject to the sanctions measures.
In a statement issued in Hausa language moments before the Abuja attacks and in response to the Nigeria Police Chiefs' threat to wipe out Boko Haram within weeks, the group said some of its members have just returned from Somalia where they went for training. If this claim proves true, it will be the first time a bomber trained in Somalia was used again showing how Africa's most failed state largely under control of Jihadists inspired by Al-Qaeda, is capable of exporting terror tactics far beyond its borders.

News Release: MEND Says “Shell Sponsored UN Report ON Niger Delta”

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) views the shell petroleum sponsored, U.N report on the degradation of the environment of the Niger delta and its inhabitants by the deliberately irresponsible activities of western oil companies as a pathetic attempt  at trivializing the wave of destruction wrought on the ecology of the Niger delta, the lifestyle and dignity of its people by criminal oil companies occupying the Niger delta forcibly for the sole purpose of plundering the resources of its people.

In accepting the results of the dubious “investigation” Goodluck Jonathan has again proven himself to be complicit, powerless or simply the village idiot of the Niger delta. All this drama is an attempt to reclaim Ogoniland for shell.

The Ogoniland forms a minuscule past of the Niger delta and reckless exploitation of the resources of the delta is widespread. It will take centuries for the ecology of the Niger Delta to near restoration while its people remain scarred. This will cost hundreds of billions of us dollars; after all how much did just one spillage in the United States cost British petroleum? The ecology of the Niger Delta has persistently borne the brunt of numerous spillages of catastrophic proportions yet our moron of a president has the audacity to publicly embrace the levity with which the concerns of the people of the Niger Delta are treated by western oil companies.

The traditional sources of livelihood of the people of this region; fishing and farming have been obliterated by the activities of western oil companies. Young men of the Niger Delta are reduced to menial labourers while their sisters attend to the concupiscence of expatriate workers just for food and daily survival.

We are not deceived by shell’s pretence of concern and MEND, forewarns all oil companies in Nigeria of the battle that is to come. Shell and its counterparts in the oil industry should not waste their booty on irrelevant studies of an environment they chose to destroy.

Oil companies in Nigeria should save as much as they can for the days of darkness which are not afar.

Jomo Gbomo