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The killing of 7 foreign hostages – Thisday

By The Citizen
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The killing of the foreign workers is bad enough. It is even more embarrassing to assume that they are alive. The recent killing of seven foreigners kidnapped in Jamaa're, Bauchi State, by ANSARU, a splinter group of Boko Haram, once again showed how dastardly these terrorists can be. Without any consideration, and making no demands on their captives, the organisation made good its threat to execute the foreigners who were employees of Setraco, a Nigerian construction company. In executing them, ANSARU said it did so because there were plans by the Nigerian government and Britain to stage a rescue attempt to free the hostages, something both governments instantly denied.

The victims comprised of four Lebanese and one citizen each from Britain, Greece and Italy. A statement from Italy’s foreign ministry said the Italian government viewed the incident as 'an atrocious act of terrorism' for which it expressed 'firmest condemnation, and which has no explanation.” Italy also denied the claim by ANSARU that the hostages were killed before or during a military operation by Nigerian and British forces, saying there was “no military intervention aimed at freeing the hostages.”

The Premier, Mr Mario Monti identified the slain Italian hostage as Silvano Trevisan just as he promised that his government would use “every effort” to stop the killers. On his part, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the killings “an act of cold-blooded murder” and identified the UK victim as Brendan Vaughan. Greece’s foreign ministry said families of the victims had already been informed, adding: “We note that the terrorists never communicated or formulated demands to release the hostages.”

Unfortunately, against the background of all the affirmative statements from the victims' home countries, very few people were amused to hear Nigeria's Interior Minister, Mr. Abba Moro, declaring that nothing of such had happened. The Minister was in complete denial about the killing of the seven hostages, arguing that he could not confirm whether the hostages were dead or alive, even in the face of video evidence believed to have been released by ANSARU. 'I want us to think that belief is quite different from confirmation. Maybe the affected countries believe that was what happened, but on its own part, the country where it is said to have happened, based on what it sees, is doing the best it can in ensuring the men are freed, who it hopes are alive,' said Moro.

We find it difficult to believe that our own Interior Minister could be completely ignorant of the facts about the killing of the construction workers that was already confirmed by their home governments. For him to make the statement about 'belief being different from confirmation' indeed made a mockery of what was as at then public knowledge and was already in circulation vide the internet. We believe that Abba Moro ought to have saved himself and Nigeria the embarrassment of this crass incompetence in the face of such a big tragedy.

Yet the killing of the construction workers indeed once again exposed the lapses evident in Nigeria's security system. Between February 16 when the men were abducted and March 9 when they were executed not much was known or heard about efforts to secure the release of the hostages or apprehend the culprits. Even now, there is still a blanket silence on the whole matter. It is therefore pertinent to ask Moro whether he can now confirm that the victims are 'dead or alive'.

As we wait on our security agencies to ensure they bring the perpetrators to justice, we wish to commiserate with the families of the construction workers and their home governments. In the same vein, we would like to reiterate all we have been saying these past months about the need for all critical stakeholders to put heads together in order to help find lasting solution to the security challenges presently facing the nation. The urgency of such action cannot be over-emphasised.