Last week, from 7-9th of May to be precise, Nigeria took centre stage by hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa with over one thousand participants from all over the world in attendants.
Though, the World Economic Forum on African opened under long shadow by the plight of abducted schoolgirls from the Government Girls School, Chibok, Borno state, North-Eastern Nigeria and unstoppable mayhem of innocent citizens by the Boko Haram sect, events which have tarnished the image of the country that has come of age.
In April, 2014, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council and chairmanship of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council and still in April, esoterically, news flooded the world that Nigeria had also dethroned South Africa to become the continent’s largest economy.
Yet, while its role regionally and globally may never have been greater, recent events – most notably the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram – show that Nigeria faces a serious domestic test of its stability which also threatens regional peace and security.
More than three weeks after the girls were taken from a secondary school in Chibok, their whereabouts remain unknown and frustration is mounting at the inability of the government to find them. Indeed the only arrests so far made related to the kidnappings have been of two women protesting against the slowness of the government’s response.
The horrific abduction shows the serious nature of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being committed by Boko Haram. It is imperative that Nigeria acts swiftly and firmly to secure their safe return – with international support if needed – but the process must also demonstrate a commitment to human dignity, human rights, transparency and accountability. To do this Nigeria needs the help of all its friends who attended the Abuja World Economic Forum.
Security agencies, both foreign and local must recognize the fact that human right of everybody must be preserved.
In May 2013, following a deepening campaign of violence by Boko Haram, in north-eastern Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
But a year on, the violence has intensified in both scope and casualties and the population are becoming increasingly vulnerable not only to abuses by Boko Haram but also to violations by the state security forces who have regularly responded with heavy-handed and indiscriminate violence of their own.
In the first four months of 2014, more than 1,800 people have been killed in the conflict. In April, on the same day that the schoolgirls were abducted from Chibok, Borno state, a car bomb planted by Boko Haram in Nyanya bus station killed more than 70 people, and fourteen days (14) after the first NYANYA bombing, the part-two of NYANYA bombing was released, killing another scores of lives. In the light of this protracted killings by the Boko Haram sect, Several institutions, including Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) etc,recognise that the situation has deteriorated into a non-international armed conflict and the Muslim community in Nigeria and world at large have described Boko Haram’s actions as unislamic, crimes against humanity, war crimes and a menace that must be stopped at all cost.
No responsible government can sit back and do nothing in the face of such unfolding horror, not undermining the effort of the present administration in fighting the Boko Haram sect. The challenge, however, is to respond in a way that enhances instead of diminishes the resilience of the country and its institutions, upholds the dignity of the affected communities and does not involve state actors in serious violations of International human rights and Humanitarian Law.
So what should happen? While The country’s counter-insurgency strategy should be anchored on recognition of human rights and support for community resilience, the residents of the trouble-ridden areas must provide the necessary security information to the security operatives, it is not the matter of hiding identity because of being picked by the insurgents, they must identify the insurgents as their worse enemies.
Office holders, from the governors to the counsellors in the troubled states must desist from politicizing the Boko Haram and stand up in defense of their citizens. Federal government cannot do it alone.
The government in coordination with the National Human Rights Commission should carry out a transparent investigation into all allegations of abuses on both sides, those who have been fingered to have provided some kinds of aids to the insurgency should be adequately and carefully questioned. National institutions for accountability must be supported – with international assistance if needed. Nigeria has distinguished herself as a strong promoter of international peace and justice, therefore, accepting offer of assistance from foreign countries in the fight against Boko Haram sect is not out of place.
As the world holds its breath for safe return of the abducted schoolgirls, we also must hope that the kidnappers will be brought to justice and that Nigeria can lead the way on human rights protection as well as economic development.