Boko Haram Oiled Ethno-Religious Cleansing In Nigeria: Intersociety Commends ICC & Catholic Bishops & Calls For More Actions(Part One)
(Security, International Justice & Human Rights, Onitsha Nigeria, September 21, 2014)-On Thursday, 18th of September, 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) wrote us. The reply letter under reference was sequel to our earlier letter to it dated Sunday 14th of September, 2014 over the sponsorship of the Nigerian Insurgency Violence orchestrated majorly by the duo of Boko Haram and Fulani Islamist terror groups. The ICC's letter to the Intersociety is second in three months. Its first letter bordering on the same ethno-religious atrocity criminality in Nigeria was dated 2nd June, 2014 in response to our forwarding letter to it dated 30th of May 2014. The forwarding letter was in reference to our (now) four-part letter to Mr. President of Nigeria, dated 29th and 31st May, 2014(Boko Haram Terror & Other Unlawful Killings In Nigeria).
In its September 18, 2014 letter to us, the ICC Prosecutor states as follows: “on behalf of the Prosecutor, I thank you for your communication received on 30/5/2014, as well as any subsequent related information. The office is analyzing the situation identified in your communication, with the assistance of other related communications and other available information. Under Article 53 of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor must consider whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed, the gravity of the crimes, whether the national systems are investigating and prosecuting the relevant crimes, and the interest of justice. Analysis will be carried out as expeditiously as possible, but please be aware that meaningful analysis of this can take time. As soon as a decision is taken on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, we will advise you promptly and we will provide reasons for the decision.” The ICC letter was signed by Mr. M.P. Dillion, Head of the
Information & Evidence Desk of the Office of the Prosecutor.
In our recent letters to the Pope and the Nigerian Christian leaders including the Catholic Church its Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), dated 17th and 18th July 2014, we had, among other demands, called upon them to continuously break their silence and take detailed stock of the ceaseless killing of Christians and burning of churches in the northern part of the country by the two murderous groups above mentioned. On Monday, 15th of September 2014, the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, spoke publicly through its Director of Social Communications, Rev. Father Gideon Obasogie. The Church shockingly and chillingly revealed that its diocese of Maiduguri covering Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States has documentarily lost over 500 members including over 170 children in the insurgency violence waged by the Boko Haram terror group since the beginning of 2009. It also revealed that over 50 of its parishes and rectories have been destroyed or burnt down; that
over 500 women and 1,500 child members of the Diocese have been made widows and orphans respectively; and that over 90,000 parishioners are displaced.
The Church further revealed that its parishes and outstations in Pulka, Barma, Gamboru Ngala, Maffa, Gubio, Darnasak, Madayi, Baga, Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak and Shuwa all in Borno State as well as Michika, Bazza, Mishara and Mubi in Adamawa State have been under siege. These, according to the Church, amounted to over 100 parishes, outstations, local churches and other small Christian communities. Also adversely affected by the Boko Haram anti-Christian terror attacks are some churches within Potiskum and Damaturu in Yobe State. The Church cited the example of such calculated and well coordinated bloody and destructive attacks to include the January 25, 2014 attack at an outstation attached to the St. Denis Parish in Chakawa community in which the outstation was completely burnt down and 60 worshippers slaughtered. The 23 nursery and primary schools and 10 secondary schools belonging to the Church in Maiduguri Diocese have also come under heavy Boko Haram terror attacks leading to desertion of the schools by pupils, students and teachers and present takeover and militant occupation of St. Joseph Minor Seminary, Shuwa, St. Joseph Nursery & Primary School, Gamboru Ngala and St. Michael Nursery & Primary School, Maiduguri by the murderous terror group.
The Church lamented that the Catholic faithful in the area are leaving in enmasse for safety as the Diocese is facing a moment of fierce persecution. This has also led to the closure of 15 adversely affected Catholic missionary schools in the area. The Church concluded thus “the adverse effects of these incessant attacks can be seen clearly in the dwindling number and mass exodus of people from the area. Every aspect of the diocese is shrinking by the day and the number of masses celebrated in large parishes has drastically been reduced. Our St. Denis Parish in Madagali is presently occupied by the Boko Haram”.
The Archbishop of the Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Oliver Dashe Doeme gave further insight into difficulties afflicting the Diocese of Maiduguri. In a press engagement on Friday, September 19, 2014, the Archbishop cried thus “our people are dying every day and in most cases with no one to bury them decently, they are left to rot; their homes and properties looted; they have become slaves and prisoners in their fatherland, here is a government that cannot safe guard the lives of its citizens and indeed life has become so cheap that it can be wasted any moment. We used to think that salt is the cheapest commodity in the market, well, life is cheaper now especially in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. We are faced with a huge humanitarian crisis; people are sleeping on the streets in Maiduguri, despite the seven or more camps within the city for the IDPs. We are again witnessing a mass exodus of our brothers and sisters from the East, South and West. Many
people are relocating to other parts of Nigeria; even the soldiers are moving their families out of the barracks to safer towns and cities in Nigeria. This is our current situation in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri”.
The Archbishop revealed that 25 towns in Borno State have fallen to the Boko Haram terror group including his Diocese's parishes, outstations and rectories. The towns are Damboa, Buni Yadi, Madagali, Gwoza, Gujba, Gulak, Bama, Gulani, Shuwa, Marte, Kukawa, Michika, Dikwa, Bularafa, Bazza, Gamboru Ngalla and Buni Gari, Banki, Bara, Pulka, Bumsa, Ashgashiya, Taltaba, Limankara and Njibulwa. He further revealed that close to 20 priests have been taken refuge by Boko Haram terror group in Yola, Adamawa State. The church cried out saying that Maiduguri, the Borno State capital “is sitting on a keg of gun powder, with the fall of Bama which is about 71 kilometres away and Konduga, the next major target is Maiduguri”.
According to the Archbishop, “there are conflicting reports about Bama as to whether it is in the hands of the terrorists. But the number of civilians that have migrated into Maiduguri on foot from Bama, Kawuri and Konduga is suggestive that the terrorists have an upper hand in the fight. The last one month has seen the intensification and aggressive devastation of the Boko Haram activities in northern, central and southern parts of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri. The brutality and callousness with which people are killed can only be compared to that of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Many of our people are being forced out of their ancestral homes, villages and towns”.
“Right now, thousands are living in caves on the mountains, some in the forest; the few who were able to escape are being absorbed by friends and relatives in Maiduguri and Yola. Thousands have managed to escape into Cameroun and are living under very difficult conditions of lack of food, shelter and medication. What is very worrying and discouraging in the whole scenario, is the attitude of the military that we mortgage and depend on for security. In the face of these attacks, they flee and ask civilians to do the same. The level of sophistication and capabilities that these terrorists have attained within five years is very revealing and scary. The mastery and tact with which they fight is unequalled by our military. Their resilience can be compared to that of trained Marines. That is why they are able to over-run towns and villages almost unchallenged. They can boast of armoured tanks and armoured personnel carrier (APC), rocket launchers, anti aircraft and anti tank destroyers, sub-machine guns, new and latest guns AK 47 and an inexhaustible boxes of ammunitions and bullets”.
“We are sinking fast in the quick sand, let us swallow our empty pride as Nigerians and ask for international assistance in tackling this problem. After all, if we have been assisting other countries and nations restore peace and order, why do we feel that it is humiliating to ask for help now that our house is on fire? The near inaction of the government, the lukewarm attitude and the silence of the government is very disturbing. There is a total disconnection between what our so called leaders in Abuja report in the media and the reality on ground. We wish they have the courage to fly into these areas and see things for themselves. We might shy away from it, we may be silent and unable to speak up or speak out now against the plan to Islamize the North-east and eventually Nigeria. But what we are witnessing in Northern Adamawa is a clear confirmation and the unfolding of this agenda”
Collectively, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) also spoke strongly against the ongoing ethno-religious butchery in the country and ceaseless attacks on Christians and churches in northern Nigeria in particular. Rising from its Second Plenary Conference in Warri in Delta State on Friday, September 19, 2014, the CBCN observed sadly “first –hand and horrifying reports reaching us from Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Kano and Kaduna States about the mass slaughter of fellow Nigerians; the burning and sacking of whole villages, churches and rectories”. It lamented precarious situation in the North-eastern Nigeria, where killings, burnings and fleeing of defenseless Nigerians have created heightened sense of unrest and siege to the whole nation”. It asked the Federal Government of Nigeria to “do more than it is currently doing to fight off and disarm these destroyers of Nigerians and Nigeria”. It said that the Federal Government
“must do more than it is currently doing to prevent segments of our nation from drifting, anarchy and mutual self-destruction and bring the criminals to justice”. The CBCN's statement was signed by its President, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama and its Secretary, Archbishop William Avenya.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and the body of the Catholic Church in Nigeria through its Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) are commended for these commendable bold steps under reference. The recent public accounts given by the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri through its Archbishop and Director of Social Communications as referenced above, particularly gladdened our heart and are absolutely in line with our earlier call in July 2014 through our letters addressed to them in which we called for an end to “silence of the graveyard” condemnably maintained by Nigerian Christian bodies in the midst of the ongoing Islamist groups' butcheries and property violence. The leadership of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), which earlier revealed that “over 750 of its churches have been destroyed or burnt down in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram terror group since 2009” is still being commended. We still call on other Christian bodies and leaderships in the country including the Anglican Communion in Nigeria to open up and speak out in the same or similar directions.
While the steps taken or roles played so far by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and the Nigerian Christian bodies and leaderships in respect of exposing the atrocities associated with ongoing ethno-religious violence in Nigeria and atrocity criminals behind them, are worthy noting and commendation, they are not good enough. More actions are steadily expected of them.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Onyinyechi Angela Nwankwere, Esq., Deputy Head, International Justice & Human Rights Program