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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Discourse 321. Boko Haram and the Military: A Dialogue of Bombs and Bullets

Discourse 321
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Boko Haram and the Military: A Dialogue of Bombs and Bullets

Events during the last fortnight have disproved the assurance given by the Chief of Army Staff that the military will soon end the Boko Haram insurrection in the Northern part of the country. The group went about its activities in complete disregard to his words. It escalated its attacks unimpeded, leaving the nation in the safety of generals whose superficial measures depict the incapacity of the nation’s security apparatus to execute its most fundamental duty.

Inexperienced in urban warfare, the military mounted, with little success, roadblocks with the hope of intercepting weapons and arresting the insurgents. Abuja, for example, suddenly became inaccessible to workers as a result of the measure. Vehicles were moving at a speed of a kilometer per hour. It was such an embarrassment that the checkpoints on the arteries leading to the city had to be removed before the following day. Corruption and indifference also came into play. During the period, I drove from Bauchi to Abuja and back to Bauchi through Kaduna and Kano without my booth checked at any point. In spite of the situation, security personnel at the roadblocks were more interested in a tip than in discovering any arsenal I might carry. Nigeria we hail thee!

Before I returned to Bauchi, however, militants suspected to be members of the dreaded Boko Haram stormed the divisional police station of my local government in Toro. To the delight of the police, the militants allowed them to disperse unmolested, abandoning, without hesitation, the station for their dear lives. The militants missed the Divisional Police Officer who had left the station two minutes earlier and upon hearing the gunshots there, was reported to have hid in the neighbouring secondary school. Though they missed their target, the DPO, the militants were able to cart away with rifles and ammunitions, without harming anyone in town.

Five days later, similar militants attacked a bank and razed down a whole divisional police headquarters at Alkaleri. They distributed part of their loot, as they did in Katsina a month earlier, to the villagers who scrambled over it, causing the death of one boy. In Maiduguri, the headquarters of Boko Haram, bombings of apparatus of coercion have virtually become a daily occurrence. Two days ago, a bomb for the second time exploded in Suleja, though no group has claimed responsibility, as was the case in the first instance during the election campaigns. Yesterday, another bomb exploded at a drinking joint in Obalande, Kaduna, killing six people and injuring seventeen.

However, it is the unfortunate turn of events at the epicenter of the crisis that is beginning to catch the attention of the world. There was a shootout between Boko Haram members and members of the Joint Task Force (JTF), a collection of military, police and State Security Service personnel deployed to Maiduguri to crackdown on the insurgents. In revenging the killing of some of its personnel during the Sunday shootout and under the pretext of harboring Boko Haram members and refusing to divulge intelligence, JTF men cordoned some sections of the town and set ablaze houses and cars, allegedly raped women and killed all men they could find in the houses that they broke into. There had been rumours making the rounds that the military has vowed to kill 50 civilians for every soldier killed by Boko Haram members. According to a source, this is exactly what they went about doing two days ago. The reports aired on foreign media like the BBC, VOA, RDW, and RFI throughout yesterday, Monday 11 July 2011, have corroborated these accounts.

To Nigerians familiar with how the military boys behaved in Zaki Biam and Odi, this gross violation of human rights is typical and did not come as a surprise. The Nigerian military still thinks that it reserves the right to take the lives of ‘bloody’ civilians with impunity. It must have known that it must lose some personnel in the course of its duty in Maiduguri. So to organize the killing of as many civilians as possible in retaliation to the death of a soldier or two would be the most unfortunate thing any officer could contemplate. In an interview he gave to the BBC Hausa Service, a spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Col. Raphael Isa, did admit, in the usual carefree tone of a Third World soldier, that an unknown number of civilians were killed.

A force sent to protect civilian population did not even care to know how many people it killed and could, without the slightest sign of remorse, look at a foreign correspondent and acknowledge his ignorance of the number of his victims. His celebration of successfully killing eleven Boko Haram members at the end of the unfortunate operation casts a thick shadow of doubt over claim by a government spokesman last week that the roadblocks measures have enabled the arrest of a hundred members of the sect. Not a single member was paraded before the newsmen, in contravention of Nigerian tradition and Boko Haram has not corroborated the claim either.

Killing innocent civilians under any circumstance is a massacre. It is a war crime punishable under the Geneva Convention. One really wonders what our military officers learn at their staff colleges. They refuse to learn from the methods of their contemporaries. Americans and other NATO forces are losing lives daily in Afghanistan. But they have not gone about killing innocent civilians. They take their time to patiently locate and target their enemy with a precision that would ensure a minimum collateral damage. And they are quick to apologize where a missile hits a civilian population due to a technical or human error. We have also seen the masterly skill they employed in waiting for ten years before reaching their main target, Osama Bin Laden. When they finally got him, not a single person in the neighbourhood was killed or arrested for harbouring the most wanted person in the world. It is this degree of professionalism that we expect from our soldiers. Indiscriminate killing of Nigerians, destroying their property and raping their women leaves us with little doubt that textbooks on the primitive methods of Royal Niger Company and Nigerian Civil War remain the predominant reference materials in Jaji and War College.

If America is too distant, our military officers would have learnt from the consequences of the brute force used to subdue the same Boko Haram militants in 2009. They were shot at sight in Maiduguri, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Kano States. The army then prided itself with the evidence that it handed over the leader of the group alive to the police. The police did not spare him in his cell, just as they executed Mohammed Foi in public glare. The direct consequence of those murders was the metamorphosis of the group into an underground movement and a revision of their methodology from open confrontation to urban guerilla warfare. By the time they resurfaced, the world was quick to acknowledge the sophistication of their means and the fatality of their devices. The political class took their threats seriously: Three governors knelt before them, seeking their pardon. Immediately after the Inspector General of Police escaped from their suicide bomb by a whisker, the scared President rushed to reopen the hitherto forgotten murder case of their leader and ordered the prosecution of the culprits. The IGP learnt the hard way how to keep his mouth shut and the President soon abandoned the reflection that Boko Haram should be left to decimate the North to his political advantage. With the attack on the police headquarters, the President realized that he is within the range of its bombs.

With these abundant lessons, I wonder how the military thinks that terrorizing civilian populations will help it in anyway to extinguish the fire of Boko Haram. Its indiscretion is already producing a boomerang, attracting the civilian animosity that was hitherto directed at Boko Haram. The hate now is for the military that goes about mass killings and other human rights violations against civilians, not the Boko Haram whose bomb could unintentionally kill only few people when it successfully detonates. Youths in Jajere ward, as reported by one of my readers have vowed to join Boko Haram after the public execution of one of them who was a footballer. It is clear who is winning the battle for the souls of Nigerians between the military and Boko Haram.,The military has started with one enemy, now it has many: Boko Haram and civilians. Boko Haram, on their part, started with many enemies, now it has just one: the JTF.

Before concluding this piece, it will not be out of place to suggest three things. First, it the President must calm down and understand that Boko Haram is a philosophical organization, with demands that ultimately borders on the national question. Others since Sultan Attahiru have made similar demands during the last hundred years. Even in contemporary Nigeria, there are organizations from various regions asking for a revision of our colonial burden. May be Nigerians of various origins are tired of this impractical Lugardian marriage. After a hundred years, many are ready to end it without walking the extra fifty years of Southern Sudan. Therefore, it will not be out of place if Jonathan, from the oil rich Niger Delta, considers becoming Africa’s Gorbachev. He would definitely be supported by the oil rich but disgruntled and underdeveloped South-south, the enterprising but impeded Southeast, the 'racially' superior Southwest and, finally, the complacent and 'backward' North. A promise of that alone, better than bullets and rapes, may be the dialogue that will end the Boko Haram revolt instantly. The international community will also be relieved of the failure that threatens its economic interest in the Niger Delta.

Secondly, there is the need for the President to immediately review the military operations in Maiduguri. Sending a Mladic there is not in the best interest of the administration and the nation in general. It will lead to unnecessary escalation and earn Boko Haram more foot soldiers and sympathizers. The Kanuri are people with sufficient measure of pride. One cannot but envisage a more volatile situation if the current spate of human abuses is not ended. A general who is ready to respect the rights of Nigerians living there, taking into consideration their cultural sensitivities, is urgently needed to replace the present one. By the way, where is Maj. General Maina? This was the fine officer that led the JTF in Jos without a single complaint of murder or rape against his soldiers. So much was done on the Plateau to frustrate and provoke this gentleman, including an ex-general calling him 'idiot' over the radio, but he did not waver. He should be deployed to Maiduguri or, if retired, someone of no lesser professional mien should be sent.

Thirdly, in addition to investigations that the Federal Government should conduct as a statutory obligation, civil society groups should assist in taking an inventory of human right abuses presently going on in Maiduguri. Victims and their relations must be forthcoming in this. They should index them and submit them to the government as quick as possible. If it fails to stop the abuses or bring the culprits to book, then the groups can avail themselves of the appropriate organs of redress under the United Nations. I am glad that Civil Rights Congress under Comrade Shehu Sani is already working on this. He has my blessings. FOMWAN, MSO, NACOMYO, CAN, JNI and all the churches and mosques in Maiduguri must also come on board. Citizens with modern communication hardware should also gather evidence and post them on the Internet. That was what irrefutably attested to the extrajudicial killings in 2009. Few hours after posting this article, a video was posted Youtube depicting once more the manhandling of suspects by police. We need many of such conclusive evidence on abuses by the military.

Finally, I would like to appeal to 'Boko Haram' leaders to reiframe their arguments and project them as a demand for restructuring this country, just as other groups are doing. This is what their opinion against the constitution and demand for full implementation of Shariah logically culminate in, given the demographic composition of the country. Baked in this more palatable language, their demand would be understood better and accommodated fully within the wider spectrum of the national question. If they adopt this strategy, they will definitely be amazed at the millions of supporters they will gain overnight. This is a demand that negotiations in a conference room can meet. This is the only way to end the ongoing dialogue of bombs and bullets that is claiming the lives of innocent Nigerians.

12 July 2011


Dr. Ahmad said...

Dr. Aliyu you have spoken my mind. Boko haram is becoming a phenomena which can never be defeated by force. FGN is using wrong strategy which may soon metomophise into wider carnage. your suggestions demand no addition, however, the religious leaders, traditional rulers and other community leaders including retired public and civil servants from maidugri should meet and submit formally these deamands. My fear is that with Gaddafi being fired by NATO possibly he may seek shelter down the Sahara and any place were there is no peace will be his destination.

Anonymous said...

A wondeful contribution with so many attractions. The one that catches my eyes most is the Lugadian amalgam of what is unfortunately called Nigeria today. Nigerians have for a very long time learned how to hate themselves. It will not amount to doing disservice to the Nation if the President should take presidence in working towards formulating simultaneous equations to gather all like terms in one place and solve. As you rightly pointed out, this would be a healthier solution than taking the path of the olden Sudan. The bulk of the Northerners are Moslems and are treated with indignation even by their fellow Southern Moslems. The Northern Christian leaders as much as their Southern counterparts have held hate mongering as a devisive tool being used against the Notherners at the slightest opportunity. So why the glue? I wonder! Let the country break up! Allah ya hada kowa da rabonsa.

Thank you. Please give us more!

muhammad A. kumo said...

Sir you have said it all boko haram is an idiology and believe that cannot be elliminated bythe barral of the gun rather by the means of dialogue, i appiel to the govt to step their arrogant head down and bow to face those and like suggested waysout.

Salisu said...

The Ideology of BOKO HARAM is wide spreading day by day. These was caused by the increase brutal killings of the innocent citizens by the soldiers in Maiduguri. Until and unless this situations were look into, and the suggestions and recommendations by Dr. Tilde, the Country will never be in peace.

Sheriff Muhammad Ibrahim Almuhajir said...

Alhamdulillah dr have said all my mind, may Allah make it easy for Nigerian govrenment to see on how to stop this, military from their deadly attacks on civilians, else many youths will turn to boko haram, to make it difficult for them to achieve any thing other than the bloodsheds.

Anonymous said...

What a beutiful & objective piece! We are looking forward 2 seing more of educative write-ups like this.

Salisu Jibrin,Kaduna said...

Dr i think you are the first to said the mind of many Nigerias. Mu yan Arewa mun gaji da wannan auren zoben...Allah ya hada kowa da rabon sa,Amin



Y. Garba said...

Dr. you have said it all, i hope the government and all stakeholders will heed to the suggestions offered.

Anonymous said...

Dr Tilde, good one! However your article weighs more on the consequences of the intervention of the military which you perceive as causing human right abuses and not what caused the intervention in the first place- the mindless killing of innocent citizens and unwanton destruction by the Boko Haram Sect. You and some other opinion moulders in the North can do more - mobilize traditional, political and religious leaders in the north to discourage members of the Sect from killing people by putting a barn on clerics that preach hatred and proper interpretation of the Islamic faith; and educating the public that achieving a peaceful society where everybody has the freedom to flourish irrepective of faith is much realizable than an ismalic Shariah State. In that way, there will be no need for military intervention and all of us collectively will focus our attention on government in demanding for good governance and the pursuit of happiness which is the desire of all of us!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Dr Tilde for this very enlightening and interesting piece. Although the title is about the Military and Boko Haram, it captures the essence of the whole saga. However, I would like to point out that the spokesperson for the Joint Task Force is Colonel Victor, while Brigadier General (not Lt Col) Raphael Isa is the Director of Army Public Relations. I doubt very much the allegation of rape, please check your facts very well. As for Major General Saleh Maina, he is still in service at the Defence Headquarters. Again, you were too mild on the Boko Haram because whatever they are doing does not in anyway tally with teachings of Islam therefore, they must desist from killing innocent people forthwith. I quite agree with you that it is about time to really sit down and talk about this union called Nigeria; whether it should continue and if so, under which term?

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

The inaccuracy of ranks of officers not withstanding, the allegation of rape has been corroborated by Borno Elders Forum in the Daily Trust today:

"The elders said military intervention was not the best option for the problem in Maiduguri. “The soldiers have been burning down cars, killing innocent passersby, looting private property, harassing innocent passerby and even rapping young girls.”

The names of these elders is noteworthy:
"The forum’s statement was signed by Shettima Ali Monguno, the Imam Idaini of Borno Imam Baba GanaAsil, Alhaji Garba Abba Satomi, Alhaji Bukar Bolori, Alhaji Usman Gaji Galtimari, Alhaji Kyari Sandabe, Brigadier General Abba Kyari (rtd), Air Vice Marshal Al-amin Daggash (rtd) and Shettima Ali Kidaji. Other signatories were Ambassador Ahmed Yusufari, AIG Zanna Laminu Mamadi, AIG Muktar Alkali, Alhaji Tijjani Bolori, Alhaji Bulama Mali Gubio, Alhaji Umar Abba Shuwa, Alhaji Ibrahim El-Zubairu, Mallam Ibrahim Mustapha and Alhaji Gambo Gubio"

I will advise the army to take this allegation seriously.

Thank you for the corrections and the information that Maina is still serving. Please let him be sent to Maiduguri. I believe he will make a difference.

Enejo said...

Nigeria is only together because of the external factors

Shamsuddeen said...

A good write up.The Army should clear itself from these terrible allegations.Those advising the governmment not sit down with Boko Haram are not doing any good to the government and Nigerians.If Nigerian Government can sit down on a round table with the Niger Delta militants what 's wrong in sitting down on negotiations table with the Boko haram.Pumping Billions to the security agencies will not save the situation, buying armoured vehicles and other weapons will not solve it too.The more the military comfront these youth the more they are getting experience and the more they get recruits.As suggested in the write up if we are going our own ways we better do it in peace rather than in pieces.What held Nigeria togather ' in the past was some relative justice.In my veiws, the FG should sit down and discuss with them, they are Nigerians.If America can sit down on a dialogue table with Taliban of Afganistan on one side and and the American representative on another side, I see no reason why the FG will not sit down with the Boko Haram representatives to discuss the matter.In my veiws if this issue is not properly handled it will lead to a much bigger problem than we are seeing today To the Boko Haram I want them to consider the lives of the innocent citizens being lost every day by stating their grivances and the solutions to the debacle in their own veiws, by so doing then the Government will look in to these grievances one after the other.We should also note that this Boko Haram started in Just Maiduguri, now its in Niger State,Kaduna and so many places.My major fear is this some bad elements might take this opportunity to start attacking places of worships just to escalte the mayham.

Anonymous said...

Dr Tilde, Thank you very much for your write up. Unfortunately, you have decided to toe the line that has perpetually escalated similar problems in the past. While accepting the fact that the fight against Boko Haram is predominantly an Intelligence war that might not necessarily be won by simply putting soldiers on the streets, I would suggest that you refrain from comments that would depict our soldiers as babarians thereby causing them to lose the public support they require to carry out their duties effectively. In case you want to know what they are taught in staff and defence colleges, please take a trip to these colleges and you would be surprised that these men, who have sworn to pay the supreme sacrifice for your sake and my sake, are well knowledgeable in war crimes than you can imagine. They certainly do not deserve the castigation you are pouring out to them.

In the case of reported attrocities by these soldiers, I will suggest you take your time to investigate before you go public and not base your write up by hearsays. Dont forget that Boko Haram has elements in several quarters of this country, who are ready to sponsor propaganda to discredit the military in order to reduce its potency by depriving it of public support. Maybe you are still ignorant of how Al Qaeda operates, or maybe you think that Boko Haram does not have affiliation to international terrorism as pepertrated by Al Qaeda. Please look closely in between the lines. Except we put all hands on deck to fight this extremism, we will be worse off than Afghanistan or Iraq. Your suggestion of appealing to the leaders of Boko Haram is laughable to say the least. The reason is that these guys dont reason like normal human beings. So u need to know their psyche to be able to tackle them effectively. Please ask the Israelis and you will know better.

The military may have made some mistakes in handling certain issues. But I believe we are not training hoodlums in the military, though they are bound to over react when the civilians they have sworn to defend now end up attacking them. The deployment of the military will not immediately halt attacks by Boko Haram, but it will reduce the effeciency of their activities until they can be stopped.

Arms are being imported into this country by high people in the society, who are supporting thius sect. Our spiritual leaders are indoctrinating these youngsters, who are mostly uneducated, to fight western education for which they are beneficiaries of. I can tell you this, for those that are formenting trouble in this country, they will be the first victims when this country eventually begin to implode.

GIM said...

Well, I believe Dr Tilde was right in his castigation of the Police and Military tactics in quelling riots and the Boko Haram-like incidents in this country. The Army and Police only succeeded in showing to us that they never understood their lessons in those institutions, or that they forgot that they were not a revenge mission. Defending here, those misadventures and clear human rights abuses, by anybody won't help matters.

Kabeer M A said...

This Boko Haram menace will consume this whole country if something is not done about. It is only Allah that can deliver us from the clutches of evil

muhalisu said...

Thanks a lot Dr. Aliyu for such an exhaustive article , it put things in the right perspective .
To be honest to everyone, deep inside my heart, I hate the call for division of this country, not because I feel the north will be at disadvantage(at least, nothing will stop the kind of Buhari from becoming the president), but, because I feel that it may not favour anyone and that the evil forces that is pulling us apart, is not in anyway stronger than the actual force that put us together. But if that is the solution to all these innate hatred against the northerners (hausa/fulani/kanuri/e.t.c)let it be!
Dr. Aliyu in your article you accurately described every region of this country, and I must say, I like the right adjective you used to describe the north "complacent"! It is sad to notice that even the most enlighten southerners hardly understand the nature and norms of Nigerians other than their regional people, this is contrary to what is noticeable among the northerners, even the illiterate northerner is well informed. That was why from the first beginning, the late Sir Ahmad Bello warned their leaders that it is better we understand each other before coming together, rather than the claimed by some of their leaders that we should forget our differences and come together.
However, I am happy that at last the Borno respectful elders have spoken, keeping mute and seeing the ancient city been devastated is no in anyway the best decision. I appeal to them to go down to the root of the crises by exposing their unscrupulous sons whom were allegedly accused to be the cause behind the crises and bring them to book(is better to sacrifice few sons, than entire people), only this will resolve this crises and restore order.
Finally, Dr. Aliyu I disagree with you for appealing to Boko Haram leaders to "refine their arguments and project them as demand for restructuring of this country". I think the Boko Haram have a wrong starting, their intention is clear and plane, it has completely contradict our (the like of you and me) visions for the north, we condemn their actions when they started and now we are condemning the actions of Federal Government aftermath; following the killings of innocent citizens alongside their leader, because both are wrong! Instead let the well meaning northerners(those with remains of respect and people like you)to champion this course for restructuring the country !

Abubakar Bala Garba Muri said...

The 1990 constitution state the duties of the military as follows
a. Defending the country from external aggression
b. Maintaining its borders from violation
c. Suppressing insurgency and acting in aid of civil authorities to resolves order and
D. Performing any other functions as may be determined by the national assembly.
As you can see the military intervention in Borno state is in line with the constitution, The Nigerian constitution has clearly spell out the minded the military need to suppress insurgency and to restore order, the military option may not be more than a show of force, which seeks to remind the adversary of the possibility of the physical application of force if the need, arises.
Richard Haass argues that military interventions can be classified by other purposes than offensive or defensive; these are deterrence, coercion, punishment, peacekeeping, war fighting, humanitarian goals and rescue missions.
On the other hand, John Stuart justifies forcible intervention in two cases. One is the case in which one of the parties is of high, and the other of very low grade of social improvement. The other case is that of a people struggling against a foreign yoke, or against a native tyranny upheld by foreign arms. Outside intervention by force is therefore, advocated on the basis of self-determination, but not for self-government.
The first precautionary principle that could justify military intervention is ‘right intention’ which requires that the primary purpose of any intervention must be to halt or avert human suffering. This is regardless of all other motives an intervening state may have. The second principle is the ‘last resort’, which demands that all non-military options for the prevention or peaceful resolution of crisis be exhausted before intervening.
Nigeria army is regarded all over the world as a conventional force to reckon with, a force that adhere to military discipline and role of law to highest standard. Attest to these claims is the number of United Nations missions the force undertook, this professionalism earns her 4th position on United Nations ranking. All these will not come easy handed, if all the allegations people made were true, in all her missions abroad no one particular incidence where the force is indicted, either on rape or looting as claim by the people of Borno state.

Here one is not exonerating the military completely, some of them may not control they emotions seen they fallen comrade in pool of bloods, this may leads to excessive use of force, bearing in mind, all soldiers on any type of mission must carry with them AIDE-MEMOIRE (SOLDIERS CARD) therein enshrine Roles of engagement (ROE) which clearly state that.

1. Any force used must be limited in its intensity and duration to what is necessary to achieve the authorized objective and must be commensurate with the level of the threat. In some cases, operational urgency may dictate the immediate use of deadly force.

2. Use force only when absolutely necessary to achieve your immediate aim, to protect yourself, it further state that,

3. The use of force, including deadly force, shall only be resorted to if all other means to control the situation have failed or do not hold any promise of achieving the authorized objective.

4. The decision to open fire shall be made only on the order and under the control of the on-scene Commander, unless there is insufficient time to obtain such an order. Before opening fire, give a final warning at least three times, either in Hausa, Kanuri or Arabic, which is the widely spoken national language in the mission area, or in English which is also an official language of the National Government:

In addition to above mentioned roles, the principles of minimum force and proportionality are applied at all times and in all circumstances.

Salsal said...

Abubakar Bala Iam amazed by your line of reasoning. We are talking about practical incidents that happened; you are quoting theories that might not even be genuinely believed by those that invented the quotes. You retorted to blindly defending the military instead of investigating all the allegations leveled against them first. We are not saying Nigerian Army are not resilient or not rated high in the eyes of the world, neither are we attempting to degrade their triple “A” rating, but all we are saying is that this time around, some of them committed atrocities in Maiduguri. For God’s sake sponsor a comprehensive investigation and come out with your findings. By so doing, we measure you with high esteem and quantum. Common sense told us that we believe more where there is clear evidence and disbelief you serious if you retorted to blind defense of military. To me your action is akin to someone cautioning you that there is snake under your bed and instead of waking up to take precaution, you busted: “No snake dim fit enter my room” till the following day you were found bleeding. Which one is better, waking up and searching under the bed to reassure yourself that there is no snake and by extension saving yourself and your family or continue defending arrogantly the un-defendable. I hope you understand the above parables Abubakar, my brother.