Opinion: Baga – You cannot justify a ‘massacre’

by Israel Mark Ademola-Oguntuase

Displaced still homeless after clashes in Baga, Nigeria

The terrorism war in Nigeria has given rise to unprecedented level of human rights violation in the history of the country. Only the civil war witnessed a higher degree.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state north eastern part of Nigeria is fast becoming the most popular city in the country. Unlike Lagos, which is known to be the economic power house of the nation, Maiduguri can best be described as the terror capital of Nigeria; it is the stronghold of the notorious terrorist sect popularly known as Boko Haram.

The Boko haram insurgency has claimed the lives of hundreds of Nigerians; mostly uniform men and civilians. Churches, Police posts and government buildings are primary targets for attacks.

The military, though doing its best, has not been able to contain the activities of this terrorist group. In fact, it is becoming more frustrated by the day.

Human Rights Violation.

“When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.”

The terrorism war in Nigeria has given rise to unprecedented level of human rights violation in the history of the country. Only the civil war witnessed a higher degree. Both the military and the militant sect according to the US reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria for 2012 are guilty of these violations. The report blames the sect for the bombings, kidnappings, and other attacks throughout the country. It also accused the military of abuses such as extrajudicial killings by security forces, summary executions, security force torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman treatment of citizens.

“According to credible accounts, JTF members committed illegal killings during attempts to apprehend members of the extremist group Boko Haram in several states”, including Borno, Kano, Kaduna, and Yobe states and surrounding areas. “Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international rights groups, and political and traditional leaders from affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings”, the report stated.

The Baga ‘Massacre’

Recently, the people of Baga, a hitherto unknown fishing community in Borno state witnessed the rain of fire. The military engaged the terrorist in a gun duel without putting the civilian population into consideration. According to human rights organizations, about 200 people lost their lives, the dead were mainly women and children.

Politics of Figures

Recently, the people of Baga, a hitherto unknown fishing community in Borno state witnessed the rain of fire. The military engaged the terrorist in a gun duel without putting the civilian population into consideration. According to human rights organizations, about 200 people lost their lives, the dead were mainly women and children.

Both the government and military, in sharp contrast have claimed the casualty level was far less. Commander of the Multi-national Joint Task Force, Brig-General Austin Edokpayi said: “During the encounter, one soldier was killed and 5 other soldiers were injured. While 30 Boko Haram terrorists lost their lives, five were arrested and many escaped with bullet wounds. Unfortunately, six civilians lost their lives and 10 other civilians were injured in the crossfire”.

I find it difficult to believe the government’s version of the story. It is notorious for lying to the citizens.

Justifying a Massacre

Some of my friends have argued that the military has a right to defend itself and there should be no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them. Others accused human rights campaigners of bias; they claim the militant sect is as guilty of abuses as the military.

My Argument

There has to be a distinction between a terrorist group and a nation’s Army. A terrorist’s aim is to harm the citizens, the Army is supposed to protect them. It would be stupid for the army to violate people’s rights just because Boko Haram does same.

According to eyewitness account, soldiers set homes on fire in order to dislodge the militants. You do not wipe out a community of one thousand because ten criminals live within them. You must prove to them a friend, so that together you can dislodge the ten felonies. Burning down people’s homes certainly does not constitute ‘defending’ themselves. It’s inhuman to try to justify the deliberate murder of women and children under any guise.

“When you burn down shops and massacre civilians, you are pushing them to join the camp of Boko Haram.”

If this war must be won, the military must see law abiding citizens as an important ally; an essential element needed to defeat terrorism. They must therefore not be alienated.

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Israel Mark Ademola-Oguntuase tweets from @Ademola_israel

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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