by Temie Giwa
Here is the remarkable fact, they are killing us. All of us. They kill us in our cars, at our shops, in our homes sometimes just negligently but often deliberately. If it hasn’t touched you, it is easy to dismiss this…
On April 16th 2013, a small town that normally wakes to the smell of smoked fish and wet earth woke to smoked huts and animals. Corpses were littered all around the ground and some in the forest, and reports showed the smokes were visible from satellite images. For three days, the town was under siege from murderous extremists and avenging soldiers. Unfortunately for the 200 women and children who were to die, the soldiers were not on their side, they were there to punish a community they felt protected the insurgents and allowed one soldier to die. For that, they killed 200, burnt thousands of livelihoods and sent scores more to the hospitals.
Weeks later, many homes and goods were destroyed when innocent civilians were caught between the guns of Boko Haram and the Joint Task Force in Bama also in Borno state. Soon Federal Armed Forces imposed a state of emergency for 3 states, and that was the end of reports of atrocities committed directly or indirectly by state security forces. It is not clear that the JTF suddenly got human rights focused and took steps to protect private citizens from the natural horror of warfare or if the silence is meant to mean all is well with Borno, it is not clear because no one knows. The state of emergency brought with it a curfew on movement, which seems needed in a war zone but also on all communications. A use of a mobile phone requires that one travel interstate in situations like this, the press is no longer welcome. No one to bear witness, no one to testify.
All was quiet until last week when 10 people were gunned down by security forces during the day with many others gravely injured in the Federal Capital Territory. Their death, according to the Army, was because they were terrorists hoping to bomb an important location in Abuja and thus fired directly at Army personnel which led to their executions. Residents around the area claim that the victims were squatters in an uncompleted building and they worked as petty traders and small scale transportation business folks. The Army claims that it killed these men in our name, and considering how little they have fulfilled their responsibility to uphold human rights and dignity in the past, it is a little hard to believe their justification for these deaths. In this case, the witnesses are all dead, killed by the Army itself, it is the word against the grave, and the grave is more likely to be truthful.
Extrajudicial killing is a regular occurrence in Nigeria even before terrorism came to stay. Common police regularly and deliberately shoot to kill in broad day light all over the country. They kill and mostly they get away with these murders because there is no one to hold them accountable. A local human right organisation released a report last year that every day, security agents kill around 6 people all under 35 years of age, without lawful trials or any other consideration for the rule of law. This year, Amnesty International also released a report that supports this fact. Not only do they kill, they torture too. Residents of places where Boko Haram continues its reign of terror testify that, the army is almost as bad as the terrorists: ‘“They are just killing men, any youth from 16 Years old, if something happens in that area you are gone.”
Here is the remarkable fact, they are killing us. All of us. They kill us in our cars, at our shops, in our homes sometimes just negligently but often deliberately. If it hasn’t touched you, it is easy to dismiss this to folks living in war zones but what the changing faces of modern terrorism shows is that nowhere is safe and in a country that seems allergic to the rule of law, no life is safe either.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.