1.1 The Code Group had issued a statement on the State of the Nation which was carried in Daily Trust, Leadership, Peoples Daily and Thisday newspapers between March 21st and 23rd 2012. The statement highlighted the security and other challenges facing the nation, including the danger posed by Boko Haram, and offered suggestions on how best to tackle them. Unfortunately, since that statement, many more deaths and destructions had occured again. Newspaper houses both in Abuja and Kaduna as well as university campuses in Kano and Gombe were bombed. Innocent people were either killed by the blasts or shot as they flee the carnage. We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms and offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. According to the teachings of Islam, no one is allowed to take another person’s life unjustly.
1.2 We note that, following that statement, some concerned citizens across the country had cause to wonder why the group is composed the way it is, considering the well-known disposition of members of the group towards diversity and religious tolerance. We understand these concerns, especially in these trying times when suspicion has become the norm and perfectly reasonable people have fallen prey to all manner of sentiments. But it is precisely in these times that responsible people need to step forward and take the flak in order to do what is proper and right. Hitherto, the main complaint was Muslims have not spoken enough. We believe progress is now being made whereby some Nigerians prefer that Muslims do not speak alone. We have come through quite a bit in this Nigerian journey and have come to accept that, in our country, there are simply no easy choices. There is never an easy way out for those who wish to make a difference.
2. Politicization of Boko Haram
2.1 However, we are also happy to note that most people understand that our composition is a fair price to pay to address more important and urgent concerns, which directly affect our communities. We have observed that it is the federal government, itself, which is encouraging these misrepresentations, through the utterances of some of its officials, in order to gain political mileage and score cheap political points. The government’s proclivity to place politics above everything else is at the root of its present predicament whereby critical stakeholders in the fight against terrorism, at home and abroad, neither trusts nor respects its questionable role and approach: stakeholders in the communities in which incidents of violence are taking place are not seen as part of the solution but are, instead, stigmatized and, where some consultation is attempted, it is half-heartedly done; security agencies are behaving like the criminals they seek to uproot by escalating the violence and engaging in extra-judicial killings of both suspects and innocents. In the process, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds which is crucial to winning the battle against terrorism and to achieving lasting peace. The entire saga has been reduced to a military operation involving the Joint Task Forces and suspected members of Boko Haram. In this situation, voices of reason and moderation have been sidelined and, consequently, the only voice that is heard is of gunfire and the explosion of bombs.
2.2 All attempts to get the authorities to adopt a multi-pronged approach to the crisis have been either outrightly rejected or frustrated by officials who stand to benefit from the perpetration and escalation of the violence through the award of security contracts and as part of political calculations for 2015. As a result, the security situation has been allowed to deteriorate leading to continued and needless loss of lives in the areas concerned, especially in Borno, Yobe, Kano and Kaduna States, where a massive bomb was tragically exploded on Sunday, March 8th, during the Easter holidays which took dozens of innocent lives. Last week, Gombe and Kano, once again, came under attack where several lives were also tragically lost. Before Boko Haram, the spectre of communal violence in Plateau State and the attendant loss of several thousand lives have been mostly ignored by successive governments even though sound recommendations on how to end the carnage taking place there are still yearning for attention in several abandoned reports.
3. Emasculation of Economic and Social Life
After a careful study of, and exhaustive deliberations on all the issues above, THE CODE GROUP has resolved to continue its open and public engagement with the authorities concerned and to make its contributions toward the search for lasting peace in our beloved country. In order to gain a fuller understanding of the nature and dimension of the problem of insecurity particularly in the areas where the Boko Haram insurgency is taking place, we have been able to generate information through a variety of means, including physical visits to those areas most affected by the problem, namely, Maiduguri in Borno State, Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe State, Kano in Kano State and Kaduna in Kaduna State. The data and information generated from those expeditions are both revealing and disturbing, and may be summarized as follows:
a. All the afore-mentioned towns and cities suffer from the physical and psychological trauma of a people simultaneous under siege from insurgents and military occupation by members of the Joint Task Force. Civilians are caught in a crossfire, whereby their lives are no longer safe while their social and economic activities have been brought to a standstill. Merely walking on the streets has become a major risk for law-abiding citizens. This appalling situation is more pronounced in Maiduguri, which has been under dusk to dawn curfew for several months now. Residents have reported cases where security personnel conduct house to house searches which often lead to abduction of persons, some of whom have not been seen again as we speak.
b. The same situation is slowly but inexorably building up in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest metropolis. With a population of over ten million people, it goes without saying that if the insecurity situation in Kano State continues to deteriorate at the prevailing speed, the consequences would be, to put it mildly, severe and grave. The tragedy of Kano is almost beyond belief. Until January 20th this year, Kano was completely normal and safe. However, on January 20th, the city came under simultaneous attacks, at five different locations, by suspected members of Boko Haram using small arms and exploding, by some accounts, upward of 30 bombs. For five and a half hours, between 4.30 and 10 pm, the city was brought under siege at the end of which 186 people were reportedly killed, according to official accounts. With two army barracks at Janguza and Bukavu, and an air force base less than 10 minutes drive from one of the major theatres of the attacks, the State Police Command, not one soldier was mobilized to help the police and members of SSS repel the attackers. The police and SSS personnel were left to fend for themselves only for the authorities to mobilize soldiers the following day to take over their job of policing the city, after the harm has already been done. In one of his many provocative statements, the National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew A. Azazi, was to say that the Kano attacks took the authorities by surprise. What he has not explained is what paralyzed the authorities for five and a half hours while the attacks were going on. The families of the victims and the general public are entitled to know.
c. The security situation in Kaduna and the role of the security authorities there is different only to a lesser degree. The memory of Pastor Isuwa Kiforo, a Director in the state civil service who was shot and killed by overzealous security men at the gate of the Government House, is still fresh in our memory. We recall the mobile policeman, Sgt Sunday Badang, who was asked to detonate a bomb with his bare hands and was blown to smithereens before the eyes of spectators who gathered around to witness his heroic act. That policeman and the pastor after him were victims of state overzealousness and incompetence. They and their families have been let down by the system, not to talk of the dozens of victims who perished in the bomb blast during the Easter break.
d. It is unfortunate that the federal government has declared State of Emergency in some local government areas across the North without going to the National Assembly for ratification. No date or criteria has been announced during and since the declaration for the lifting of the state of emergency. It is part of the absurdity of this policy that since it was announced, a number of other local governments have been hit by Boko Haram attacks yet the federal government has not declared a state of emergency in these local government areas because, in truth, the policy is politically motivated, not well thought out and, in practice, is unsustainable. Also, since the declaration, the local governments involved have not been receiving their statutory allocations. Workers in those local governments have not been paid since January even though they have not been laid off. No development projects have been taking place in these local governments, thereby increasing the level of poverty and desperation among the people there.
4. Catalogue of Discordant Tunes
4.1 While all of this is going on, THE CODE GROUP has observed with great dismay and apprehension how highly placed officials in the federal government have resorted to speaking in discordant tunes, working at cross purposes and reacting to the situation as it unfolds. A sample of some of these can be gleaned from the following:
a. On 27/3/12 while attending a summit on nuclear energy in South Korea, President Goodluck Jonathan in an interview with Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, declared that the Boko Haram insurgency would be a thing of the past by the middle of 2012. For some very curious reason he also added that the crisis is localized to only a particular section of the country suggesting that, in the President’s mind, Nigeria is in sections: one which is violent, where investors may well avoid or ignore, the other which is safe where investors may feel at home. The notion that Nigeria is in “sections” may be true but that notion must not be reinforced by a president whose constituency is the entire nation, especially at a time when the country is tense and going through one of its toughest crises yet. The other unfortunate part of the President’s statement is announcing to the world that the insurgency will come to an end at a particular date. Those whose job it is to contain the insurgency in the field must have been enraged by this kind of indiscretion especially if, doubtful as it may be, the date is, indeed, part of the plan to bring the insurgency to an end. Now that the President has publicly announced a date, he has unwittingly placed the insurgents on notice and has given them a clue as to what the intentions of the government are. It is no wonder the attacks have now intensified and the President must take partial responsibility for this.
b. On 8/4/12, the Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Halliru Mohammed, contradicted the President in an interview with the newspaper, Leadership. In that interview, the Minister said the deadline given by the President, Commander-in-Chief is not feasible and then confounded matters by declaring, in the same interview, that “Boko Haram has been contained”.
c. Maj. Gen. Sarkin Yaki Bello, coordinator of the newly established Counter Terrorism Centre had, in an interview with SOJA, a military publication, and in an apparent attempt to justify the military occupation of the communities concerned, stated that the military’s role in the world has changed and that its role in internal security operations in Nigeria has come to stay. By making such a profound and revisionist statement, the General has not only redefined the traditional role of the military world-wide, he has also undermined our constitution which never envisages a permanent role for the military in the containment of crime and the maintenance of law and order within the country. Our country should be concerned that, by the last count, the military has been deployed for internal security duties in 28 out of the 36 states of the federation with all the attendant professional, social and political consequences for the institution and the nation at large.
d. To make an already bad situation worse, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejerika, while declaring open a First Commanders workshop in Kaduna on 11/4/12, charged the military to be “in war mood” in the way they deal with the insurgency, thereby redefining the military’s limited role in internal security operations and expanding its mandate and scope. Many newspapers, including Vanguard and Daily Trust, justifiably interpreted this statement by the COAS as a declaration of war when they reported as their lead stories, “WE ARE AT WAR WITH BOKO HARAM”. The doctrine of going to war to contain a local insurgency is an exceedingly provocative one. It has the net effect of changing the rule of engagement and inciting soldiers to deal with local communities, not as victims, but as enemies.
e. Two days later, on 13/4/12 the Minister of the Interior, Comrade Abba Moro was reported on the front page of Daily Trust as saying, “federal government is ready to resume talks with Boko Haram”, without explaining why the previous effort at dialogue has failed, who was responsible for the failure and what steps the government has taken to prevent it from happening again. Later, in a Voice of America interview on 25th April 2012, the same Minister of Interior was to say “You do not dialogue with terrorists, you only pursue and crush them”. It leaves one to wonder whether the government has any strategy at all for dealing with this problem.
f. By far the most disturbing statement, so far, was the one made last week by Gen. Azazi, using the platform of the South South Economic Summit in Asaba, Delta State. The NSA had declared that Boko Haram was a Northern response to its loss of power to President Jonathan in the 2011 presidential contest arising from the Peoples Democratic Party abandoning its zoning arrangement. In his words, “How come the extent of violence did not increase in Nigeria until the public declaration of the people that were going to contest election by the PDP?… Is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win and that if he could not win, there would be problem in the society?… I believe there is a strong element of the politicization of the crisis where some people were assured they would win 80% and they did not win.” Before now, Azazi’s Conspiracy Theory has been a murmur in the corridors of power in Abuja. It is a national tragedy that the NSA would pick a sectional platform to announce this ridiculous theory in order to inflame passion and further pitch sections of the country against each other. Other than political mileage, what did the NSA wish to achieve by making this statement? How does it further the cause of national security for the NSA to accuse a section of the country of promoting Boko Haram? Where are his facts? Is it enough for an NSA to think up theories in his head without supporting evidence and proceed to announce it to a section of the country? If he has any evidence, why did he not cause the “culprits” to be arrested for the crime of terrorism and prosecuted according to the law? Although President Jonathan has attempted some damage control by distancing himself from this careless statement, the cat has been let out of the bag. We shall return to this subject matter and address it properly at the appropriate time.
4.2 In light of the tardiness of the government’s response to the dire insecurity situation in the land, we would like to urge the authorities to have a rethink, first, by removing politics and pecuniary interests from the scheme of things and placing the interest of Nigeria, its peace, unity and stability ahead of everything else. The general elections have come and gone and the next elections are three years ahead of us. Between now and then, we have a nation to govern comprising, mostly of innocent and ordinary citizens who just want to live in peace. The needless loss of life and the emasculation of social and economic activities in the North are totally uncalled for. This situation has been allowed to persist without due regard to the responsibility of the government to protect all citizens, outside toxic political considerations, and to create an enabling environment for them to pursue their economic and social life. Political leaders have sworn to uphold the Constitution and to be fair and just to all manner of people without affection or ill will.
5. Urgent Need for a Workable Strategy
5.1 What all these contradictions, discrepancies and inconsistencies indicate is a total absence of a strategy to bring this insurgency to an end. If anything, Azazi’s conspiracy theory suggests that there is a commitment to allow it to fester as a useful political tool towards re-election in 2015. We urge those in charge of our policy on national security to have a rethink, live up to their oath of office and channel their energy towards finding a genuine national solution to this national tragedy. This they can do by overhauling and effectively utilizing our intelligence-gathering capability, drastically reducing the visibility of the military, especially at checkpoints, and engaging relevant stakeholders in the affected communities. Those who have no genuine desire to bring this insurgency to an end should please help this nation and its suffering people by getting out of the way.
5.2 We commend the initiative and vigour of the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. MD Abubakar, and his fresh approach to containing the insurgency. The removal of road blocks is a move in the right direction. His “on the spot assessment” of the situation and, in particular, his visit to one of the flash points, Maiduguri, is worthy of emulation by other services and by the political leadership. We also note that the IGP is working hard to deploy his men to the more productive work of intelligence-gathering, the protection of population areas and the winning of the war of hearts and minds. It is our fervent prayer that the Government will give the IGP unconditional support to equip and re-orient the police to tackle this menace because, ultimately, this is a job, not for the military, but for the Nigeria Police.
5.3 The most effective and lasting strategy, however, is for the authorities to address the root causes of this insurgency, which is corruption in high places, impunity, poverty, unemployment and the total absence of hope among segments of the citizenry. The authorities must keep in mind that as long as we live in the same country, we cannot condemn a section of the citizenry to poverty and hopelessness while others revel in affluence and the reckless squandering of our public wealth. Mr. Johnny Carson, American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs had, in a remark at the Centre for Strategic and International Affairs in Washington DC, accurately placed his finger on the problem when he urged the relevant authorities to take endemic poverty and deprivation in the North seriously and design specific programs to lift the people of the region out of poverty, despair and hopelessness. The 2011 report of the National Bureau of Statistics has clearly laid out the major issues in no uncertain terms if the federal and state governments are serious about tackling these problems.
The politics which led to the decisions and actions of the government to militarize the North and destroy its economy in the name of crushing Boko Haram, has been pursued against all reasonable counsel and wishes of citizens in the areas concerned. The government needs to realize that decisions and actions have their consequences beyond our shores. Contrary to the letter and spirit of our constitution and other laws, some of the crimes being committed by security personnel in the areas concerned fit squarely into the definition of Crimes Against Humanity and are not statute-barred. Sooner or later, the perpetrators will be brought to answer for their role at the International Criminal Court long after they might have left the comfort of public office. The trial of former President Charles Taylor who declared war on his own people and promoted one in other people’s country should be an eye-opener and a lesson for temporary wielders of state power. It is a lesson they are well advised to reflect over deeply.
THE CODE GROUP
Engr. Bello Suleiman
Mallam Adamu Maina Waziri
Engr. Suleiman H. Adamu
Dr. Aliyu Modibbo
Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim
Dr. Usman Bugaje
Mal. Nuhu Ribadu
Dr. Kabir az Zubair
Balla Bilya Bala
Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed
Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i
Alhaji Aminu Nahuche
Lawal Tukur Batagarawa
Engr. Hassan Hussaini
Dr. Yahaya Abdullahi
Alhaji Ibrahim Kofa
Mallam Abba Kyari
Dr. Auwalu Anwar
Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande
Hajiya Amina Ladan-Baki
Garba Deen Muhammad
Prof. Abubakar S. Mohammed