Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Report: “Bring Attackers To Justice, Step Up Security” Human Rights Watch Tells Nigerian Government

The campaign of violence by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, including attacks on churches and suicide bombings in the first three weeks of 2012 that killed more than 253 people, is an indefensible attack on human life, Human Rights Watch said today. The January 20, 2012 attacks in the northern city of Kano left at least 185 police and residents dead and resulted in the highest death toll in a single day since Boko Haram began its violent campaign in July 2009. More than 935 people have been killed in some 164 suspected attacks by the group during this period, Human Rights Watch said.

The group has claimed responsibility for bombing churches, police stations, military facilities, banks, and beer parlors, in northern Nigeria, as well as the United Nations building and police headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Suspected Boko Haram members, often riding motorcycles and carrying Kalashnikov rifles under their robes, have gunned down numerous Christian worshipers, police officers, and soldiers, and assassinated local politicians, community leaders, and Islamic clerics who oppose the group.

“Boko Haram’s attacks show a complete and utter disregard for human life,” said
Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Nigerian authorities need to call a halt to this campaign of terror and bring to justice those responsible for planning and carrying out these reprehensible crimes.”

The group Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram, has carried out increasingly deadly attacks, including suicide bombings, which killed at least 550 people in 115 separate attacks in 2011. In the first three weeks of January 2012 alone, more than 253 people have been killed in 21 separate attacks.

Human Rights Watch has tracked media reports of attacks by suspected Boko Haram members over the past two years. The vast majority of these incidents have taken place in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, where the group had its headquarters, but attacks by suspected members of the group have also been carried out in Abuja and at least 10 other states in northern Nigeria.

Many of the attacks in the past month have specifically targeted Christians and southern Nigerians living in the north, including the Christmas Day 2011 bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, Niger State, which killed at least 40 people.

In response to the escalating attacks, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31, in parts of Borno, Niger, Plateau, and Yobe states. Boko Haram responded on January 2 with a three-day ultimatum to southern Nigerians, most of whom are Christian, to leave the North.

Three days later, on January 5, suspected members of the group attacked a church in Gombe State, killing six people, including the pastor’s wife. On January 6, Boko Haram gunned down 12 members of the Igbo ethnic group, from southeastern Nigeria, during a community meeting in Mubi, Adamawa State, and attacked a church in Yola, the state capital, killing 12 Christian worshipers. At a filling station in Potiskum, Yobe State, on January 11, suspected members of the group opened fire on a commuter van full of Igbo passengers leaving the north, killing four of the passengers.

Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, in a video released on January 11, claimed that the group carried out the attacks on Christians in retaliation for the killing of Muslims by Christians in central Nigeria, including Kaduna and Plateau states.

“Boko Haram is targeting and killing people in northern Nigeria based on their religion and ethnicity,” Dufka said. “The Nigerian government has an obligation under international law to protect its citizens. The authorities need to step up security, with additional police and regular patrols in communities at risk.”

The Nigerian police, on January 14, announced the arrest of a suspect in the Christmas Day church bombing in Madalla, but he escaped from police custody the following day. Several other Boko Haram suspects have escaped from custody in the past months in suspicious circumstances.

Boko Haram expanded its methods of attack in 2011 to include the use of suicide bombers, including the August 26 attack on the UN building in Abuja, which killed 25 people and injured more than 100 others. The group carried out a series of similarly coordinated attacks on police stations, banks, and churches in Yobe and Borno states on November 4. The attacks left more than 100 people dead.

The January 20 attacks, including apparent suicide car bombings, targeted the state and regional police headquarters, three local police stations, and a police barracks in Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s north, as well as the offices of the State Security Service and the immigration department. Armed men gunned down police officers and shot wildly at random passers-by, then engaged the police and soldiers in running gun battles. According to a police statement and media reports, the dead included numerous Kano residents, one Indian, two Nepalese nationals, a journalist working for Channels TV (an independent Nigerian television station), twenty-nine police officers, three customs and immigration officers, and three State Security Service agents.

Boko Haram seeks to impose a stricter form of Sharia or Islamic law in northern Nigeria and end corruption. News media reported that a spokesperson for the group, Abul Qaqa, took responsibility for the attacks in Kano, saying the group carried out the attacks because the government refused to release Boko Haram members who had been arrested.

Violence by Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, can be traced to five days of clashes in July 2009 between the group and members of the security forces in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, and Kano states that left more than 800 people dead, including at least 30 police officers. The police summarily executed the captured Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, along with several dozen of his followers in front of the police headquarters in Maiduguri. Boko Haram has said that its attacks on the police are in revenge for these killings. 

News Release: United Kingdom’s Current Travel Advice For Nigeria

On 20 January, a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks took place in Kano targeting police and other government buildings. Reliable reports indicate that more than 100 people were killed.  The Islamist group, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility.  As at 1200 hours (local) on 22 January the city is calm. 
The Nigerian authorities have lifted the post-attack curfew in Kano city during daylight hours on Sunday 22 January, but have announced the curfew will be in force from 1900 hours on Sunday 22 January until 0600 hours on Monday 23 January.
In the light of Friday's attacks, we are currently advising against all but essential travel to Kano city and for those in Kano city to remain vigilant and to exercise caution.  DFID and British Council have limited their operations in Kano pending further assessment of the situation.
 Nigeria’s two main trade unions, the Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Labour Congress, called an indefinite general strike which, commenced on Monday 9 January 2012, to protest against the removal of the subsidy.  The declared aim of the strike was to close all offices, airports and seaports, banks, markets and petrol stations. The strike was officially called off on 16 January, but the possibility of further protest and disruption exists.
There have been demonstrations and rallies in a number of Nigerian towns and cities against the removal of the petrol price subsidy.. Some of these have resulted in clashes between the police and demonstrators, with fatalities reported. You are advised to avoid all such demonstrations.
A number of curfews are being enforced across Nigeria.  British nationals are urged to comply with all curfews.
On 31 December, following the recent bombings claimed by the Islamist group, Boko Haram, the Nigerian Government declared a State of Emergency in some areas of the country. The State of Emergency covers the following: Five Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Borno State - Maiduguri, Gamboru-Ngala, Banki-Bame, Biu, Jere; Five LGAs in Yobe State - Damaturu, Geidam, Potiskum, Buniyadi-Gujiba, Gasua-Bade; Four LGAs in Plateau State - Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi, Riyom; Suleja LGA in Niger State (which includes Madalla). The exact ramifications of the state of emergency remain unclear but it is reported that the international borders of these states have been closed.
There is a high threat from terrorism in Nigeria.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places such as markets, hotels, shopping centres, places of worship and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  Government and security institutions as well as international organisations have been attacked by Boko Haram.
25 December 2011 A series of bomb attacks took place in Nigeria on two churches in Madalla (Niger State) and Jos (Plateau State) resulting in a reported 32 deaths and many other injured. Three separate attacks also took place in northern Yobe State which left four other people dead. The Islamist group, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility. Reprisal attacks cannot be ruled out so extreme vigilance is advised especially in the Jos area.
Localised outbreaks of civil unrest can occur at short notice.  You are advised to avoid large crowds, demonstrations and obvious political gatherings.  Trouble on the streets can be spontaneous, and can quickly lead to violence.  Details and advice are circulated via the British High Commission's Community Liaison Officers' network.  We advise British nationals staying in Nigeria for three months or more to register with the British High Commission.
There is a threat of kidnapping throughout Nigeria. Westerners have been the target of kidnaps. On 12 May 2011, a British national was kidnapped alongside an Italian national in Kebbi State.
In recent months the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has threatened to carry out attacks on oil and gas assets in the Niger Delta. The latest such threat was issued on 6 June 2011.
Curfews are used on a regular basis in Nigeria following incidents and unrest, and can be imposed with short notice.  You should be aware and take notice of any curfews. We advise that you pay attention to local media to find out about curfews that are being enforced.
Nigeria experiences heavy rainfall during the wet season (June - September) and flash flooding can occur.  Water-borne disease poses a greater risk during the rainy season.
52 British nationals required consular assistance in Nigeria in the period 01 April 2010 - 31 March 2011. Violent crime is also prevalent in the south of the country, including Lagos.
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.