Wednesday, August 4, 2010

One year after Boko Haram

The scars are still visible, the people are still scared, Governments are still cautious, and the victims are still waiting for some kinds of relief, one year after the sectarian insurgency that claimed thousands of lives in Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano states. The mention of a planned anniversary protest by members of the dreaded sect, Boko Haram, recently was enough to cause a lot of panic, with the deployment of intelligence officers to fish out suspected members across Borno state. Nobody is ready to take another chance with Boko Haram, even with the death of its leaders.

Suspects arrested during the crisis have not been convicted, while their victims still cry for justice. Those who lost properties are claiming that they have not been compensated. Religious leaders are still busy trying to reorient their followers and build their confidence in adherents of other faiths. Islam as a religion which name was dubiously employed to execute that devilish act has been trying hard to clear its name and make others realize that it is indeed a religion of peace. Indeed, Boko Haram has left a sour taste in the mouths of Nigerians, especially in Borno state where it had its operational headquarters.

The Nigerian Police, the biggest casualty of that war, is still suffering with its personnel being dismissed for their alleged roles in the elimination of the ring leaders of the sect, even as it is being cajoled to pay compensations to aggrieved families of the supposed victims of the violence. At the last count, all principal officers of the police who held sway during the crisis have suffered some form of punishment or deprivations, even as the fate of many junior officers hang in the balance. The same police that sacrificed their lives to save citizens from the sect are today being persecuted, and nobody seems to have any kind words for them.

As Nigerians mark the first anniversary of that mindless war, the police have become increasingly passive and apparently uncooperative because of what has befallen its officers and men in the aftermath of the uprising. The second in command to the sect leader is reported to be hiding out somewhere within the shores of Nigeria from where he gives instructions and even granted press interviews, with apparently no fears of any possible arrest. With the agency that is supposed to arrest him decapacitated, it is very unlikely that if a similar crisis occurs today, no security agency will be willing to intercede for Nigerians given the fate that has befallen the Nigerian police for suppressing the Boko Haram insurgency.

Members of Boko Haram are having the last laugh, now that they are no longer under any sort of threat. Even those arrested and are being prosecuted do not appear to be under any threat whatsoever of being convicted for killing fellow human beings, given the shoddy manner the prosecution is going on. More worrisome to many people, especially victims of the carnage, is the apparent sympathy those facing trial for involvement with the sect seem to be enjoying from highly placed Nigerians. And against a recent judgment to the effect that the Police and Borno state Government were ordered to pay money to the family of a suspect killed during the fracas, Nigerians are beginning to despair in fighting Boko Haram.

Whether adherents of Boko Haram mark the anniversary or not, and even if their victims mark one of the demise of their lost one, and attendant loss of property or not, the fact remains that the post Boko Haram era is being badly managed, and the Nigerian police that deserves a pat on the back for suppressing it are being persecuted. Short of defending the Police, I hasten to say that the authorities are gradually killing the spirit of gallant men and women in the Police who are willing to lay down their lives in the defense of citizens.

Policemen, as the initial primary target of the sect, coupled with the fact that the force lost men and officers, including trainees while the crisis lasted was enough provocation for the police to kill their attackers, no matter the mode of killing. That today residents of Borno state are clamouring for a return of the Anti Crime squad, Operation Flush II, following renewed threats of another insurgency and other related security problems, is an ample pointer to the fact that the police did the right thing after all. It is rather unfortunate that people failed to appreciate the actions of the police within the context of the threats to it as an institution, and to the lives of individual policemen on or off duty in Borno state at that time.

In a war situation like the one the police found themselves, there are no ground rules; those killed deliberately or mistakenly fall under what is regarded as casualties of war. I know as a matter of policy that there are provisions for casualties in crisis situations and nobody bears the blame for incurring casualties, especially in trying to suppress an insurrection against the state. I know that those who lost their commissions or jobs as fallout of the boko haram crisis have grudgingly accepted their fates, but the truth remains that they are victims of a wrongly conceived situation.

Perhaps, the confidence of many other policemen who may be called upon for similar assignments may be restored if those punished or dismissed are treated as gallant officers, called to duty as a response to an obvious threat to national security. I think the police authorities have been playing to the gallery in punishing their men over the Boko Haram debacle.

Daily Independent

Related stories: Police on alert over Boko Haram mayhem anniversary

Tension in Borno over Al-Jazeera Boko Haram video

Video and transcript of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf interrogated before his execution

Residents worry about their future in Jos, Nigeria

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