Archive for July 2nd, 2018

Plateau killings and Presidency’s you-too fallacy 

July 2, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Nigeria is currently on edge. Almost on a daily basis, people are being hacked to death. In Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and many other States, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen have made human life worthless. The recent killings in Plateau State claimed the lives of at least 86 people. Unofficial figures put the number at over 200. Amnesty International estimated that since January 2018, at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states. This is double the 894 people killed in 2017.

My concern here is not the killings per se. It is the impunity with which these acts are carried out. For instance, the gunmen in Plateau State reportedly attacked 11 villages for at least seven hours without intervention from security forces. They also destroyed over 50 houses. Rather than fish the culprits out and deal with them decisively, the authorities in Abuja have regaled us with undue excuses and you-too fallacy.

Last week, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, tried to rationalise the Plateau carnage. According to him, more people died when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power than now that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in the saddle. To justify his statement, Adesina reeled out the spate of killings from 1999, when democracy smiled on Nigeria again, up until 2015 when the PDP lost to the incumbent government.

Recall that the PDP had declared seven days of mourning and also announced that its flag would fly at half mast in honour of the victims of the Plateau carnage. The party urged the people of Plateau State to exercise their rights as global citizens. This they could do by working with other public-spirited Nigerians and groups and taking President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for acting helpless in the face of continuous mass killings in Nigeria.

This statement riled Adesina. To him, the pot was calling the kettle black. He noted that there was no declaration of national mourning for the deaths that occurred during the time of the PDP; and that the opposition party was not only shedding crocodile tears but was also playing cheap, infantile politics.

Adesina added, “Those who take pleasure in twisting statements from the Presidency may claim we are saying that many more people were killed under the PDP than under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be unconscionable to do so.”

He said the intendment of his statement was to show that wanton killings had been with us for a while and that the incumbent government was working towards enduring solutions.

Adesina is right to an extent. There were also killings during the reign of the PDP. But the Presidential spokesman got it wrong when he started comparing what happened when PDP was in power with what is happening now. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Any student of critical thinking will tell you that Adesina’s argument is nothing but you-too fallacy or tu quoque.  This is a type of argument in which a person turns a charge back on the accuser. That is, when a person does something and tries to rationalise it by claiming that his accuser did it as well. Politicians are very good at this. Mr. Adesina is not a politician. He is a thoroughbred journalist but his job as the spokesman of the president has invariably made him speak like politicians.

It has also become the stock-in-trade of this government to engage in blame game. Almost every anomaly in the country today was caused by the PDP. To the ruling party, the PDP was the reason behind our poor economy. The opposition party was responsible for the hike in exchange rate. And soon, the PDP may be accused of being behind marital and intra-party quarrels within the APC.

The truth of the matter is that what the PDP said about the Plateau killings is in order. The fundamental duty of government all over the world is the protection of life and property. Does the ruling party expect the opposition, nay Nigerians, to continue to fold their arms while innocent citizens are being daily hacked down by marauders?

Any person or group with conscience will condemn what is going on in the country currently. The carnage is such that even some world institutions have broken their silence. The United Nations, for instance, expressed concern over the increasing frequency, intensity, complexity, and geographic scope of violent conflicts across West and Central Africa. It wants the Federal Government to take action and put a check on the wanton killings. It also called on all concerned governments, regional organisations, civil society and other relevant actors to work together to find acceptable and lasting solutions to the conflicts.

On its part, the Amnesty International said its investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers. According to it, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappearing without a trace. By failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government, the agency regretted, was encouraging impunity that was fuelling rising insecurity across the country.

Groups like the Nigerian Governors Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, PENGASSAN Jama’atu Nasril Islam and individuals like Prof. Wole Soyinka have all condemned the Plateau killings. Even the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the murders. They all called on security agencies to ensure the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.

PDP’s crime, perhaps, is that it is in direct opposition to the ruling party. It is also unfortunate that not even our President, Muhammadu Buhari, inspired hope and trust in his own statements. He simply called for God’s intervention and attributed the Plateau killings to desperate politicians. These politicians, he noted, had increasingly cheapened human life in their quest to establish a reign of instability and chaos in the country for political gains. Buhari said through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, that those behind the killings hoped that it would give them an advantage in the coming elections.

When it comes to human life, we should learn to do away with hypocrisy and doublespeak that are the hallmarks of politicians. The questions are: are politicians also behind the killings in Benue and elsewhere in the country? Have the security agencies interrogated the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN) to ascertain the involvement or otherwise of herders in the killings? Will God’s intervention or prayers push our soldiers to take action against the terrorists?

This is why people like the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, feel emboldened to vomit trash without qualms. The other day, he attributed the killings by herdsmen to the anti-open grazing laws in some states. The law is currently operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States. According to Dan-Ali, the suspension of the law would reduce tension. But the law is not in operation in Plateau State; so can Dan-Ali tell us why the marauders still visited mayhem on Plateau?

With a Defence minister like this, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you why the security situation in the country is comatose. And it is still inconceivable why Buhari has not deemed it fit to rejig the security architecture of the country. It is either that our security chiefs are incompetent or they are sympathetic to the cause of the attackers.

Currently, there is serious suspicion arising from the fact that almost all the heads of security agencies are from a section of the country. Little wonder, the former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, submitted recently that the military was biased and had embarked on ethnic cleansing in different parts of the country.

Rather than cry wolf and engage in unnecessary name calling, the Presidency should find lasting solutions to the herdsmen crises in the country. The President himself is the patron of the Miyetti Allah. I don’t understand why he cannot call them to order. He is unwittingly giving credence to the suspicion that he sympathises with them because he is one of them.

Nigeria is for all of us. It does not solely belong to any particular group. So, whoever is claiming superiority over others and even acting as such is an enemy of the state and should be treated as such. You cannot proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which has not fired any shot at anybody and turn a blind eye to the atrocities of herdsmen who parade the streets with AK 47 rifles and engage in killing spree across the country.

Human life is more precious than that of a cow. Security agencies must begin to arrest and prosecute all those threatening the peace and unity of this country. Enough of this bloodshed!

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ISIS and other threats to Nigeria’s security

July 2, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Nigeria has serious security challenges. One of them is Boko Haram insurgency. The other one is Fulani herdsmen terrorism. There is great fear that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is gradually joining the fray. The greater fear is that our government and top military hierarchy appear not coordinated and sincere in the fight against these terror groups.

A few examples here will suffice. Recently, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alleged that the Federal Government planned to recruit ex-Boko Haram terrorists, who recently underwent de-radicalisation programme, into the army and police.

The President of CAN, Dr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, through his spokesman, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said CAN was visibly disturbed at the reports. It condemned such a policy in strong terms and asked the Federal Government, especially security agencies, to withdraw the directive capable of compromising the nation’s security system.

The government has not denied this allegation. If it is true, then there is a problem. It is pertinent to note that one of the strategies insurgents like Boko Haram employ when the heat is on them is to pretend to have repented of their sins. With this strategy, they infiltrate the society and get more information that will help their future plans. When they are done, they become deadlier and more vicious in their attacks.

The questions are: how committed will an ex-Boko Haram member recruited as a soldier be in fighting his former colleagues? How deep is this so-called de-radicalisation programme? Will it change their murderous and evil orientation and indoctrination? Is the government telling us that they have renounced their long-held view that killing in the name of Allah catapults one to paradise?

Honestly, the atrocities these people have committed and continue to commit do not give room for any sympathy for them. They have dispatched thousands of innocent citizens to their graves. They have destroyed property worth billions of Naira. They have also displaced many people from their homes. Even, they still visit some Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps in the North-East with terror. To the evil doers, nowhere is sacrosanct.

The worst is that they kidnap young girls and turn them into suicide bombers. In April 2014, they invaded a school in Chibok, Borno State, and kidnapped hundreds of female students. These innocent girls remained in their custody until recently when the Federal Government secured their release. Of course, some of them died in the custody of the terrorists. Some were raped. Many of them may never recover from this trauma for life.

We were still celebrating the release of some of the Chibok girls when the evil ones struck again. They went to a secondary school in a town called Dapchi in Yobe State and kidnapped over 100 girls. Some negotiations led to the recent release of the students. Unfortunately, one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, is yet to regain her freedom. She refused to renounce her Christian faith and embrace Islam. For this, her kidnappers still hold her hostage. It is heart-rending.

As if the evil of Boko Haram is not enough, the country now has ISIS to contend with as well. Recall that Boko Haram had pledged allegiance to them. Now, there are reports that these ISIS fighters are sneaking into Nigeria to plot devastating attacks.

According to The Sun of UK, the fear is that IS will exploit regular flights between Lagos and London to export more evil to the UK. As part of their new global terrorism strategies, ISIS Spokesman, Abu Hassan Al-Muhajir, reportedly said in April that the terror group was plotting to “bring bloodshed to the skies.”

A senior Nigerian Air Force (NAF) officer, Group Captain Isaac Subi, was said to have informed the UK newspaper that ISIS trained their fighters in Nigeria and that some of our insurgents too were granted access to their training in Yemen and Syria. He described the situation as a virus that spread across our borders, leaving trails of blood, tears and Sorrow.

Similarly, in a recent report, a specialist global risk consultancy, Control Risk, said Sub-Saharan Africa suffered under a sharp rise in the number of Islamist militant attacks. In the report, Control Risk discovers that the number of incidents rose from 317 in 2013 to 1,549 for the period April 2017 to April 2018. In West Africa, where 36 per cent of the incidents were reported, Nigeria suffered most (220 incidents), followed by Mali (194) and Cameroon (96).

Many Nigerians have ascribed most of the recent attacks, especially in the North-Central, to Fulani herdsmen. But it is possible that some of them were inspired by the so-called Islamic State (IS). President Muhammadu Buhari had alluded to this fact when he blamed the rise in attacks by suspected herdsmen on foreign militia once trained by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Besides, the United States military recently expressed great concern over incessant attacks by foreign extremists in Nigeria and other West African countries.

The Commanding General of the U.S. Army, Africa, Brig-Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf, said at the recent African Land Forces Summit in Abuja, that the invasion of foreign extremists in the West African region had fuelled insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria and other neighbouring nations.

The other day, the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested two Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) commanders in Kukuntu village, Gwgwalada, Abuja. The suspects are Bashiru Adams and Rufai Sajo. On April 28, the service also arrested one Umar Dogo, a suspected member of ISWA at Muda Lawal market in Bauchi. The suspects reportedly intended to collaborate with Boko Haram to carry out heinous violent attacks on innocent persons.

Following some of these threats, the FG alerted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Customs Service to intensify stricter passenger screening and tougher security measures for commercial flights. In line with this directive, FAAN said it had beefed up security at the major airports in the country. The move was aimed at forestalling any untoward occurrence at the airports.

It is disturbing to note that amid these threats to the security of the country, the military hierarchy is singing discordant tunes. Last Wednesday, the acting director of defence information, John Agim, reportedly said Nigeria was not under any threat by ISIS.

Agim stated categorically that “there is no concrete evidence on the ground to back the claim.” He assured Nigerians that the military was capable of defending the country. Hence, he urged the citizens to disregard what he calls the ill motivated stories, clips and their claims.

On the contrary, the Minister of Defence, Alhaji Mansur Dan Ali, said the government was aware of the infiltration of ISIS, as the issue topped the agenda of the Meeting of the Ministers of Defence of the Community of Sahel Saharan States (CEN-SAD) which held in Abuja between 20th and 22nd of June. He said it would be elaborately discussed with a view to finding lasting solutions to it.

Even the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Gabriel Olonisakin, also observed that the need to combat terrorism, arms proliferation and extremism had become imperative given the wave of attacks in recent times.

So, who do we believe? Agim who said there was no cause for ISIS alarm or Dan-Ali who said government was aware of the threats and was trying to find lasting solutions to them?

In the current situation Nigeria finds herself, there is no need to deny the obvious. What the various security agencies in the country should do is to collaborate and adopt a unified approach when dealing with internal and external threats to the country. This is why the reported decision by the Federal Government to outlaw the training of private security guards by consultants is a welcome development. Now, the government will closely monitor their training. One way or the other, these private security outfits can be of help in the entire security architecture of the country.

We cannot afford to compromise our national security in any way. Realizing that our uniformed men are overstretched, every stakeholder in the Nigerian project needs to collaborate to tackle our security challenges. Citizens should volunteer information to relevant security agencies when they notice any security breach in the country.

Government, on its part, should overhaul the intelligence network of the security agencies. It should endeavour to block the sources of funding and weapons for terrorist organizations. It should also continue to seek international assistance in the war against terrorism. Although Britain has deployed 150 troops to assist train Nigerian soldiers in counter-insurgency operations, it can do more than that.

In all, the Federal Government should beware of how it handles sectarian crisis in the country. It should ensure that no group is favoured against the other and no individual should be unduly maltreated or persecuted on account of their belief. Feelings of marginalization and persecution could force a group to align with a terrorist organization to cause havoc in the country.

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, June 25, 2018.