The South Arrest Of 486 Nigerians Labeled “Boko Haram Terror Suspects”: Intersociety Warns Against Politicization, Malicious Labeling & Summary Justice & Extension Of Boko Haram Terror To
(Security & Safety, Onitsha Nigeria, 18th of June, 2014)-The attention of the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety has been drawn to the reported arrest in the blue hours (2.am) of Sunday, 15th of June 2014 of 486 Nigerians at Abia and Imo portions of the Port Harcourt-Enugu Dual Carriage Way, Southeast Nigeria. According to media, military and government reports, the 486 Nigerians in the age categories of between 16 and 24 years were being conveyed in 35 buses with undisclosed identities when the military road guards intercepted them and later impounded 33 out of the 35 buses carrying about 486 Nigerians of northern origins. The remaining two buses reportedly escaped. The sources labeled them 'Boko Haram suspects' and transferred them to the nearby 144 Battalion of the Nigerian Army where they were detained and later paraded before the media and further tagged ' Boko Haram suspects'. In another Southeast Nigerian State of Imo, two unexploded bombs were said to have been uncovered at the Living Ministry-Winners Chapel. The bombs were said to have been planted by unknown people.
For us at Intersociety, the labeling of the arrestees as 'Boko Haram suspects' without establishing preliminary facts about them is too hasty. This is likened to 76 indigent Igbo-Nigerians rounded up and deported in July 2013 to Onitsha Upper Iweka by the Government of Lagos State, which labeled them 'mentally challenged/destitute'. The 76 Igbo-Nigerians under reference were crammed in buses provided and escorted by the Government of Lagos State and dumped in Onitsha at about 3.am (hours of the blue law). Investigations later revealed that they were traders, hawkers and others begging for alms in the streets of Lagos or 'lands created from lagoons' originally by Benin warriors as war camps (Eko) and later by Portuguese settlers for urban dwellers.
Every civil or criminal investigation is usually composed of preliminary and tertiary elements. Conclusions drawn outside the two are usually speculative, unverifiable and unscientific and any labeling and actual punishment originating therein amounts to jungle justice or trial by ordeal. The preliminary findings that ought to accompany the official public pronouncements on the arrestees under reference should have included the names of the arrestees, their particular northern States and LGAs of origin or residency, their religions and marital statuses. Others are their venues of convergence and dispersal, the identities of buses conveying them as well as those of the drivers of the buses and those who hired or arranged for the buses. It is only when the arrestees have failed to furnish those carrying out these preliminary findings on them that it can validly and safely be concluded that the arrestees have malicious intents. Unfortunately, those who paraded the arrestees and tagged them 'Boko Haram suspects' did not publicly give out these basic facts about them. That they were being conveyed in the hours of the blue law is not a valid excuse to tag them 'Boko Haram suspects' especially if they are IDPs escaping insurgency zones.
Until recently, not many Nigerians are aware that most of the killing sprees and abductions embarked upon by the Boko Haram murderous squads in northern Nigeria are targeted and directed at communities with large Christian populations. It took the courage of a Christian Pentecostal Church leadership to publicly reveal that out of 180 of the 276 Chibok girls abducted by the violent Islamists on 14th April, 2014, 165 are Christians and only 15 are Muslims. The governing authorities in the insurgency areas including the authorities of the Nigerian security forces have for long hidden and refused to disclose the ethnic and religious identities of those abducted or felled by the violent Islamists' bullets or bombs.
In view of the fact that there have been a steady mass movement from northern parts to southern parts owing to ceaseless killings, maiming and property destructions under reference, caution must be applied to avoid infringing on the fundamental rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing from insurgency zones so as to safeguard their right to life and other constitutionally guaranteed liberties. We are aware that Christian northerners and other non northern Christians are fleeing their residences for safety. A number of them have re-settled in many Southeast cities including Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi, Aba, Umuahia, Enugu, Nsukka and Owerri. We are also in the know that a number of innocent young Muslims from the insurgency areas have relocated to southern cities and rural areas. It is to our knowledge as well that selected leaders of Christian communities and socio-political community leaders have been making efforts to facilitate relocation and possible evacuation of residents of minority Christian communities particularly young male population to areas considered safer so as to save them from Boko Haram's well coordinated ethno-religious cleansing and genocide targeted and directed at northern Christian communities and residents. In the last Gwoza Christian community massacre of June 2nd, 2014, for instance, all the male Christian citizens caught by the violent Islamist sect were nearly mass murdered.
These explain why we hold a strong view that it is totally hasty, speculative and fallacious for the governing and security authorities to label the 486 citizens under reference as 'Boko Haram suspects'. Besides, in modern military and warfare science, it is a total blunder for Boko Haram bombers and fighters to be conveyed in such manner, timing notwithstanding. In asymmetric war technology, which the violent Islamist sect has adopted against Nigerians and the State of Nigeria, it is toyish to apply such method. But for the fact that rooms are still given for war blunders, the impoundment of the 33 buses and arrest of the 486 citizens is not out of place. What is out of place is the hasty manner in which they were so maliciously labeled, which can earn them official mass murder (torture, enforced disappearance and extra judicial killing) or stigmatization in the hands of the host civil populace.
Our firm position is that they should be diligently investigated and if they are found to be those fleeing insurgency areas or refugees or IDPs, they should be apologized to and publicly quartered pending when they harmlessly integrate with the host civil populace. Profile of each of them should be built and kept by the government and relevant authorities of the Nigerian security forces for security reasons. We call upon leaders of Christian churches or communities, who may have been responsible for relocation of endangered Nigerian citizens from insurgency areas to safe areas to come out and speak concerning the subject matter under reference. If such an arrangement is made by moderate Muslim communities, we also call upon them to speak publicly as well. If the arrestees make it difficult to be investigated by refusing to volunteer useful information about themselves and circumstances of their blue law hour conveyance, then there can be reasonable grounds to imply that they are security risk, and as such, they should be sent back and be monitored round the clock.
They can only be tagged 'Boko Haram suspects' if there are pieces of credible evidence linking them with the activities of the violent Islamist sect, upon which they can be charged to court of competent jurisdiction within times allowed by law. A recent statement by the Nigerian military sources to the effect that one of the arrestees 'has been found to be one of those wanted for terrorism or linked with Boko Haram terror' may still be hasty and questionable and require further independent confirmation. Even if the statement is confirmed to be true, it is still an isolated case, which cannot be a valid premise to mass-label all the arrestees as 'Boko Haram suspects'.
We also wish to caution politicians particularly the top elected public office holders representing the Southeast zone at State and federal levels not to politicize the insecurity in the Southeast particularly by compounding the fears and apprehensions created by Boko Haram terror and threats. We understand that the 2015 general polls are around the corner and politicians of Nigeria extraction have world record of expertise in the politics of the graveyard. They are also artistic in human misery merchandise. Politicization of insecurity by these malicious public office holders is usually accompanied by steady bloated increases in security votes and creation of artificial insecurity all for selfish political goals or advantages. The politically oiled abductions and armed robberies in Abia and Anambra States in the immediate past are a clear case in point.
However, we wish to warn those radical Islamists and leftist northern politicians oiling the Boko Haram terror to steer clear of the Southeast zone and other parts of the south. If the rumor making the rounds that Boko Haram reins of terror will soon visit the Southeast geopolitical zone and other southern parts, holds water, then the Rwandan type of genocide is imminent in Nigeria. The country will be sunk and consumed in such a manner that at the end, there will be nothing left to be Islamized, not to talk of conversion of the Aso Rock into Boko Haram Sultanate. If a country of approximately seven million people could lose one million to genocide in hundred days, it will be thunderous and deafening to mention how many million lives that will be lost if Nigeria with approximated population of 170 million is plunged into a genocidal war of Rwandan category. Such genocidal war defies formal and modern warfare approaches as well as humanitarian control and truce until there are few people left to be killed. The governing authorities in Nigeria must quarantine and trounce Boko Haram menace and threats otherwise they, likewise Boko Haram commanders and sponsors will become casualties and refugees overnight if Nigerians are provoked under genocidal circumstances.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety
41, Miss Elems Street, Fegge-Onitsha 430003
Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria
+2348100755939 (text 24/7, call 9.30am-4.pm, Mon.-Friday office hours)