Unmask those using Boko Haram as political franchise, NSGF tells FG

By The Rainbow

The Northern State Governors' Forum (NSGF) Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and Security has recommended that the Federal Government should mandate security agencies to unmask individuals and groups using Boko Haram as a franchise to settle political and economic scores, THE NATION has reported.

The panel, however, asked the Federal Government to end alleged impunity within security forces and review its counter-insurgency strategy to protect innocent citizens.

It demanded the establishment of special border patrol units, consisting of a combined operation of military,  immigration and customs, to check influx of aliens promoting insurgency.

It also urged Northern governors to abolish all discriminatory state policies towards religious  groups.

These recommendations are the highlights of the report of the panel which was submitted to the Chairman of the NSGF, Governor Babangida Aliyu, in Kaduna on Thursday.

The panel was headed by a former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim.

In the report, exclusively obtained by THE NATION, the panel asked Northern governors to carry out a comprehensive assessment of losses and damages to insurgency between 2007 and 2012.

It made a strong case for compensation to victims of violence in the North in the last five years.

The report said: 'Security agencies must work to unmask and bring to justice the  individuals and groups using the Boko Haram insurgency as a franchise for political violence, economic rivalry and criminal  activities in the states in the North.

'The NSGF should liaise with the Federal Government of Nigeria to end impunity within the security forces by  undertaking a review of its counter-insurgency strategy and conducting independent  investigations and expediting  the prosecution of cases of those against whom there is evidence in accordance with the tenets of the rule of law.

'Restoration of confidence in government and the justice system as well as compliance with the rules of engagement

'This is urgent and must be sustained. Accountability of officers  or institutions must be demonstrated to the full extent of the law in line with natural justice, equity and good conscience.

'The NSGF should demand for the immediate release of innocent persons (individuals and institution representatives) from detention centres across the country, as well as where appropriate, to expedite the completion of investigations  for prosecutions.

'There most be enforcement of the rule of law and accountability standards. This is a priority if the trust and confidence of any aggrieved party is to be gained for sustainable peace.

'A letter may be written to Mr. President conveying the demand and relevant government and civil society entities copied in.'

The panel asked Northern governors to prevail on the Federal Government to ameliorate the conditions of victims of counter-insurgency against Boko Haram.

The report added: 'The NSGF should demand  of the Federal Government to assume its responsibility to ameliorate the condition of victims of collateral damage arising from the counter -insurgency operations

'To ensure accountability of the  Central Government  to the acts of commission and omission of security agents. This recommendation is in line with international best practice. It is also in cognizance of the constitutional responsibility  where deployment and control of security apparatus is the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government.'

The panel, however, urged Northern governors to raise an independent body to facilitate dialogue and reunite Northerners.

It said: 'To chart a common  vision for the development and  unity of the Northern Region, The NSGF should facilitate the emergence of an independent  body to promptly facilitate dialogue/mediation/ reconciliation among all aggrieved groups.

'The body/membership of the NSGF Committee could (on voluntary terms) form the nucleus of this independent body.

'The NSGF should, therefore, extend recognition and liberty to the committee to undertake the complementary interventions that support any other in initiative of the NSGF. Activities proposed here are for an inaugural meeting and one meeting by the end of 2013.

'The NSGF should convene a  high-powered dialogue of key stakeholders of the North.  This dialogue could be facilitated by a post -implementation  committee or coordinating group with a specific mandate from  the NSGF.

'Among those to be invited are key actors, past and present, in  the judiciary, executive, legislature and organized private sector.

'The NSGF should promote interstate visits, dialogue and co -operation among governors. The NSGF may consider hosting its earliest statutory meeting in Borno during which both Borno and Yobe states can be visited. Subsequently the meeting rotates to Bauchi or Plateau  such that two states can be covered at any meeting.

'The NSGF should promote the  culture of exchange of visits  among top-class traditional rulers; the students exchange programmes and other business and agricultural groupings.

'The budgetary implication of this should be part sponsored by the NSGF and the structure of the hosting community/institutional/social platform.

'State governments should also embark on symbolic reparation  by extending psychological and social support to victims,  including erecting headstones, building memorials, renaming  public facilities and establishing days of remembrance.

'Initiate a comprehensive  study on the damages and  losses incurred as a result of violence throughout the region in the last five years (2007-2012) to document and guide the provision of token monetary and non -monetary relief.

The panel  came up with 22-point solutions to the crisis in the North.

The report added: 'The NSGF should implement this recommendation in phases as follows:

•First, commission a desk review/audit of documentation of losses and recommendations for compensation from previous reports/white papers to generate data for concrete and symbolic actions.

•Commission study into whole regime of violence to guide the  establishment of long-term structures/interventions, including establishing a Rehabilitation Fund under the aegis of sons and daughters of the North and with contributions from all levels of government, the private sector, donor agencies and  individuals.

•Sponsor 10,000 youths  from each of the 19 northern states within a year  for leadership and development training.

•Engender rehabilitation, de-radicalization, empowerment and inculcation of positive family values

•Preparations and logistics for this can be done in 2013 with a strengthening of any existing youth empowerment initiatives. In  2014, the budgetary provisions for this can be made and the first batch of trainees enroll and graduate in 2014. Batch will be admitted in the 1st quarter of 2016.

•Put in place mechanisms for regulating registration of marriages  and the reckless abuse of divorce to protect and preserve family values and the sanctity of marriage.

•Each state government  should secure existing grazing reserves, and where expedient, create new ones, thereby, defining their own cattle grazing routes which will then be harmonized with those of adjacent states.

•To accommodate the livelihood of pastoral  Fulani and reduce the frictions and recurring tensions between them and farmers.

•Institute process for securing existing grazing reserves with  active participation of both Fulani and farmers in affected areas. Determine the need for additional or new grazing reserves and create them in consultation with adjacent state(s)

•Appoint a committee to work with the FGN to come up with a long-term research -driven framework of settling nomadic  Fulani pastoralists and changing the methods of raising their livestock.

•Support security agencies to commence community-based intelligence systems. Promote the utilization of safe spaces like palaces, public schools, LG  secretariats, zauren shawara to engender dialogue between security forces and citizens.

•To engender citizen participation in  security management  and peace building while using less costly mechanisms

•Delegate partial responsibility to traditional rulers whose  structure fits the intent and methodology for the attainment of the recommendations. Tangible motivation and empowerment of all the traditional  rulers in the North to support them in the effective and efficient performance of their complementary roles in the maintenance of law and order, security management and, most especially, monitoring the influx of people within and across their domains. Existing community monitoring initiatives should be strengthened.

•Liaise with the Federal Government to find practical  and non -confrontational ways of addressing the  indigene/settler divide  nationwide.

•Attainment of the  constitutional  freedoms for citizens. The ongoing constitutional review process presents an opportunity for addressing the underlying issues of this challenge.

•The Northern governors should support religious  organizations to develop a code of ethics to self-regulate their behaviour. Enhance accountability and curtail incidences of incitement of adherents/followers of the different faiths. Self-imposed regulations will reduce apprehensions against government, especially oversight agencies.

•Enforcement to be secured by the legal endorsement of the  regulations as integral charter of incorporation.

•Urgent expansion of the structure and scope of the NIREC and  similar interfaith agencies within Nigeria to all levels of government in the Northern states.

•Guarantee the rights of all citizens to the freedom  of religion and ensure that the constitutional rights of those who convert to one  religion or the other are protected.  Northern governors must promote a sense of belonging  for all and protect the rights  equitable treatment of all citizens

•Abolish all discriminatory state policies towards religious  groups, particularly in the areas of access to lands for places of worship, or access to media spaces for religious broadcasts. The teaching of Islamic and Christian religious education must become an enforceable part of the curriculum of all schools,  irrespective of how many children there are of each faith.

•Discourage the use of derogatory and offensive language  which has the effect of denigrating human dignity and  freedoms of any person in all northern states.

•Federal Government to urgently establish special border patrol units consisting of a combined operation of military, immigration and customs equipped with tracking and monitoring devices.  Effectively respond to the challenges of human infiltration and movement of arms and ammunition into and across border states.