Senate Orders Probe Of Baga Killings

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…House Wants FG to Investigate Attacks

…Number Of Deaths Unacceptable – Mark

ABUJA, April 23, (THEWILL) - A distraught Senate on Tuesday mandated its joint Committees on Defence; Police, National Security and Intelligence to probe the 180 - 200 deaths recorded in the shoot-out between the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) and suspected Islamic extremists, Boko Haram, in the fishing town of Baga, Borno State, last weekend.

Senator Maina Ma’ aji Lawan (Borno, ANPP) tabled the matter under personal explanation.

He told the Senators that there was already a humanitarian crisis as a result of the attacks, saying “The attacks bear the hallmarks of Odi (scene of a similar attack carried out on November 20, 1999, by the Nigerian military on the predominantly Ijaw town of Odi in Bayelsa State).”

This came on a day the House of Representatives also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the killings.

The advice was given after adopting a motion brought by Hon. Mohammed Tahir Mongonu who raised the alarm on the urgent need to probe the circumstances that led to the killing as a matter of urgent attention.The motion was unanimously adopted.

The House presided by the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, adopted the motion without debate and also called on the Boko Haram sect members to embrace the amnesty offered by the Federal Government, just as it further urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to the victims who lost their property.

In his submission at the Senate, Lawan said a multinational task force comprising armies of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun carried out the reprisal on Baga after unknown gunmen previously shot dead a member of the taskforce on routine patrol. The Joint Task Force, Lawan said, has maintained a base in Baga for years to check cross-border conflicts in the region. He called for full scale investigation into the attacks.

“Baga is today in total ruins, with 180-200 human lives lost and numerous others unaccounted, 2,000 homes, 62 cars and 284 motor cycles and tons and tons of food stuff destroyed. At this stage, I do not want to immerse myself in the blame game of whether it is the multinational task force, JTF or the insurgents that carried out the atrocities …

“Whoever did it, that level of atrocity is condemnable and is hereby condemned. I call for a full scale investigation to unearth the truth, as this is a recurring decimal in all such past instances in Borno State,” Lawan stated at plenary.

Going by monitored reports, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy gunfire bombarded the remote town for hours on Friday evening . Some 40 per cent of the town was destroyed by fire, one rescue worker said. However, the army has disputed the reported death figures.

Lawan called for “genuine dialogue” between government and extremists to end the heightened terror campaigns. He said, “Guns and bullets cannot solve the problem. Let us take advantage of this amnesty request and solve this problem.”

Senate President, David Mark, described the number of deaths as “totally unacceptable”.

According to Mark, “There must be standard rules of engagement and those rules must not include mass killing and extrajudicial killings… We cannot have this large number of people die at anytime.”

The Senate joint committees are expected to submit its report in 14 days.