PETITION BY CONCERNED NIGERIANS TO THE PRESIDENT ON BOKO HARAM
Friday, July 15, 2011
A PETITION BY CONCERNED CITIZENS TO HIS EXCELLENCY, GOODLUCK JONATHAN, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES
STOP THE BLOODBATH NOW!
Your Excellency, we, the undersigned, Citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at home and abroad, do hereby address the following Petition to you pursuant to peace and stability in Nigeria generally and particularly in the North Eastern part of the country where the Islamic sect, Boko Haram is presenting a security threat to the Nigerian state and the Nigerian people.
Sir, having thoroughly analyzed the situation and interacted with people on the ground, having listened to security officers and state functionaries and having considered fully the totality of government action on this matter, we discern a growing feeling amongst Nigerians that if we are unable to effectively handle what is essentially supposed to be a minor rebellion by a small religious sect, then we may not be able to cope with any form of external threat or more widespread internal unrest. Nigerians seek re-assurances coupled with real actions from the government to indicate that this is not the case.
As Concerned Citizens, on behalf of Nigerians at large, we make the following observations and demands with a view that you will consider them immediately and act to save our commonwealth:
(1) We acknowledge the efforts being made by the Federal Government under your leadership to tackle that insurgency, but we must make clear that we are not comfortable with the result so far. We are particularly concerned about the humanitarian crises that have resulted, especially with the activities of the Joint Task Force (JTF) led by Major-General Jack Nwaogbo.
(2) We condemn the leadership of the Joint Task Force for constituting the outfit into an occupation force, killing and maiming innocent citizens in supposed pursuit of Boko Haram militants. We condemn their intimidation and extortion of ordinary people and motorists and their burning and looting of private abodes, creating untold suffering and massive humanitarian crises in Maiduguri and environs. We believe that rather than engage professionally, certain members of the Joint Task Force have been allowed to use this exercise as a money-making racket, compounding the problem and winning no friends from amongst the populace. It is a tragic irony that as we speak, the JTF is more unpopular in the North East than the Boko Haram militants.
(3) Following from (2) above, we call on you, Mr. President to effect an immediate change in the current leadership of the JTF as a statement that you and Nigerians will not accept impunity and extra-judicial killing as a ‘proactive’ response to a law and order issue. Along with the change in leadership of the JTF would be the need to reorganize the outfit and the general security operations in the area with a view to training operatives on the demands and expectations on law enforcement in a democracy.
(4) We recall the attempt in 2009 to quell the sect’s rebellion and how the security forces then engaged in indiscriminate extra-judicial killings, including the killing of the leader of the sect, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, who at the time was securely in police custody. We are therefore not unaware that the poor handling and management of the 2009 rebellion is the primary reason we are back to confront the problem today. It is clear that this is no way to solve the problem. The facts are there for all to see.
(5) In order to avoid the tragedy of 2009 where almost a thousand lives were lost, most of them innocent lives, we demand that the JTF pulls back from communities and provide only back-up for regular police-led operations. We insist that every operational encounter with the public be recorded with visual and audio devices to maintain accountability amongst officers involved in any such operations. The lives of all Nigerians are valuable. No one should face extra-judicial execution.
(6) We are aware that the core problems allegedly experienced by security operatives on the ground is the fact that they are receiving very little information and cooperation from citizens. We say it is a fact because we can understand they are not likely to get cooperation from the way and manner they have been treating the law-abiding civil populace as described above. Thus, apart from the training of men of the proposed newly-organized JTF, your government should invest in public awareness and information dissemination, including provision of secured forums where civil leaders and security operatives can share information and build trust. There should also be provision of discreet and anonymous channels for members of the public to pass information to the security forces and it is important that these channels engage all available media avenues. One of such channels could be the provision of toll free phones where members of the public can leave information for the security and investigative authorities confidentially.
(7) To further support the measures advocated in (6) above and as a means of engendering better cooperation from individual members of the public and communities, we suggest that government should make more proactive use of traditional institutions, traditional rulers and community elders throughout the North East. They should not only report suspicious activities in their areas, they should also be encouraged to guarantee the safety and non-prosecution of fringe members of the sect who not only denounce the sect and its violent ways, but who, more importantly, cooperate with the security services by way of giving useful information about the organization’s activities, their leaders and their own role in it up to that point. The traditional rulers should be given the discretion to do this at first instance. This would give them better leverage in ensuring security of communities. However, to ensure that such a programme isn’t abused, independent overseers and assessors made up of credible members of civil society should be appointed by the President in consultation with the governments of the states in the region. This body should be the one to consider and make final approval of any recommendation by the traditional rulers. This is not amnesty, but a confidence-building measure to make the enforcement of law and order easier.
(8) We are aware that the word on the streets is that some former governors and politicians of states in the North East, as well as other persons nationwide, are complicit in the insurgency by way of providing funding to the group. However, there has been no official government information to suggest that these allegations have been (or are being) properly investigated, except the recent questioning of the former Governor of Borno, Ali Modu Sheriff by the State Security Service. Without prejudice to the ongoing investigation, we condemn Ali Modu Sheriff and Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, both of whom have showed such lily-livered disposition in making groveling public pleas to Boko Haram. They should be ashamed of themselves! They should be ashamed that they have betrayed the trust of the people that gave them the mandate to be the Chief Security Officers of their respective states. All that this indicates is that they have some relationship with Boko Haram and whatever the nature of this relationship, we are urging you, Mr President to also make sure that the investigative authorities and the security services get to the bottom of it.
(9) We observe that one crucial issue in the various communal disturbances that have bedeviled the country is the question of justice through the courts. Our democracy cannot afford to be unaccountable for genocides and unlawful citizens’ deaths. Mr. President, you have made countless promises at home and abroad about bringing perpetrators of this type of acts to justice, but Nigerians are yet to see a conclusive prosecution that gives hope that justice is being done.
(10) Therefore, pursuant to (9) above, we propose that the presidency, the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council put heads together immediately with the aim of creating Special Terrorism and Communal Violence Courts with the powers of a High Court to sit in Maiduguri and throughout the capitals of the North East with the mandate to only try cases of this nature. Appeals from this Court should go directly to the Court of Appeal. This would be a fast-track process that does not diminish the quality of justice or compromise democratic standards as all this would do is simply reduce time, focus resources, get results and return confidence to the citizenry.
Sir, we make the above observations and demands in the spirit of resolution of this crisis, protection of Nigerians, protection of our national honour and interests and a revalidation of our democratic credentials as a country operating under the rule of law. These are very worrying developments that need serious, decisive, critical and unequivocal action from you, Mr. President. Nigerians need you to assure them that you understand what the problems are and to show through action that you are actually tackling them. We cannot overstate the fact that there is the need to return confidence in government to the people of the North East particularly and Nigerians generally by taking actions that clearly indicate that the government considers their security and wellbeing paramount in this affair.
Thank you, Your Excellency for the opportunity to share our views with you in relation to such a critical national issue. It is our fervent hope that you will give this Petition the urgent and required attention it deserves.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
God Bless the Nigerian People!
(For and on behalf of Concerned Citizens)
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