The latest claims by the Nigerian Government through the Nigerian Army that “some Boko Haram insurgents are Christians” have clearly and further confirmed that the so called “counterinsurgency operations” in the country’s Northeast Region by the armed forces or the military are not far from being done in full glare of State cover, complicity, conspiracy, censorship, falsehood and propaganda. The Government of Nigeria, by this, is also parading itself before Nigerians and those beyond borders as if it is a branch of Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen jihadist insurgents.
The above was the position of Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, as contained in a statement issued today in Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria and signed by its four principal officers: Emeka Umeagbalasi (Board Chair), Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law), Ndidi Amaka Bernard, Esq., (Head of Int’l Justice & Human Rights) and Comrade Samuel Kamanyaoku (Head of Field Data Collection & Documentation).
The Government of Nigeria has also acutely become incorrigible and conspiratorially stained. Instead of rising to the occasion by facing squarely the jihadist insurgency and other forms of insecurity running riot on the country and its defenseless citizens, the Government is busy propagating falsehoods, creating confusion and misleading itself and Nigerians, by attempting to christianize’ the clear-cut Islamic jihadist insurgency, Intersociety added.
If for any reason, any of the insurgents bears a ‘Christian name’, then it is either that his or her name is officially faked or he or she is a captured defenseless Christian ordered or indoctrinated at gunpoint or under captivity to bomb or terrorize or kill; all designed to be directed at churches and their worshippers. These a captured Christian must do in order not to be executed or beheaded by his or her jihadist captors. It is on indisputable record that one of the reasons why Islamic jihadism persists around the world is because most, if not all Christians still hold on to the principle of pacifism, Emeka Umeagbalasi, a criminologist further explained.
It is recalled that the ‘secularity challenged’ Nigerian Army had through its coordinator of ‘Operation Safe Corridor’, Major Gen Bamidele Shafa, claimed that “some Boko Haram insurgents are Christians”. The Major General made the claims (widely believed to be officially scripted) during his interview with the Sun Newspaper over the weekend. Mister Bamidele Shafa; who is the Nigerian Army’s ‘Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor’, is saddled with responsibility of “de-radicalization and reintegration” of “repentant” Boko Haram members”.
The widely dismissive claims by the Nigerian Army come two months after the same Government of Nigeria through the Nigeria Police Force made failed attempts to ‘christianize’ Boko Haram insurgency in the country and its deadly attacks including killing of Christians and bombing of churches and other Christian facilities. Church members and their vigilantes had two months ago arrested a suspected suicide bomber inside their church located at Sabon Tasha in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State. The suspect was said to have been arrested with a bag containing Improvised Explosive Devices and was handed over to the Police after a preliminary investigation carried out by the church during which he identified himself as ‘Mohammed Sani’.
Surprisingly, the Nigeria Police Force reportedly twisted the preliminary findings of the church and its members and announced the suspect as “a Christian”, named “Nathaniel Samuel”. The Police twisted narrative immediately attracted supportive stance from the Presidency and some leftist Muslim bodies; thereby raising strong suspicion that the Government of Nigeria was behind the NPF action or script. Despite several pressures from powers that be for the Kaduna State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Rev John Hayab) to retract, the Christian Reverend refused and maintained his stance till date.
Intersociety had severally raised serious concerns over Nigerian Government’s seeming “hand of Esau, but the voice of Jacob” in the country’s insurgency and counterinsurgency activities. In our latest research report: Nigeria: A Killing Field of Defenseless Christians, the Nigerian Government was strongly accused of ‘providing a safe corridor’ for the atrocious and genocidal Boko Haram and Herdsmen jihadists. The Government has also conducted itself as if it is ‘the mouthpiece’ of the two insurgency groups-the Boko Haram and the jihadist Fulani Herdsmen. This is clearly done through policies and conducts formally and informally supportive of the insurgents and their terrorist activities.
Therefore, the latest statement of the Nigerian Government through the Nigerian Army is shocking but not surprising. The Government of Nigeria is so conspiratorial, by policies and conducts, that in a normal setting, it has earned itself both custodial and reparative guilty verdicts in courts of special and general jurisdictions. That is to say that in the context of State cover, the Government of Nigeria is inescapable; likewise in areas of complicity, conspiracy, censorship, falsehood and propaganda.
Integrity and legitimacy question also trails the Nigerian Army’s “de-radicalization and reintegration program for the repentant Boko Haram members”. The Nigerian Army program is acutely below the international standards. This is because in the world over, especially in modern intra state or internal armed conflicts and their post conflict eras, it has never been found where ‘a partisan’ or ‘conspiratorial’ party, whether ‘symmetric’ or ‘asymmetric’ organizes or is allowed to organize “de-radicalization and reintegration of former or self surrendered combatants”, not to talk of captured and hardened Boko Haram combatants. The action of the Nigerian Military and its Army has led to‘re-radicalization’, ‘insertion’, ‘repeat offenses’, ‘returned wars’ and ‘pollution’ of the military.
Those who genuinely surrender their arms and discontinue their armed struggle against Nigerian state and its defenseless citizens (i.e. timed out or exhausted Boko Haram insurgents, if any) ought to have been sent or transferred to international or UN humanitarian agencies-that are neutral, better equipped and trained to handle ‘demobilization’, ‘disarming’, ‘resettlement’, ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘reintegration’ in war or post war zones. On the other hand, those genuinely captured or forced to surrender ought to have been transferred to ICC or be prosecuted locally and can never be treated as “repentant” or “low risk” combatants.
Under the Geneva Conventions of 1948, ‘self surrendered combatants must be treated as ‘Prisoners-of-War’ who must face war crimes in the end. Also, in the eyes of the Geneva Conventions and other relevant international laws applicable in the present situation in Nigeria and its Northeast, the Nigerian Military and its Army is not allowed to be ‘a judge in its own case’. By the provisions of the Laws of War or Armed Conflict including internal armed conflict such as ‘counterinsurgency operations’ in the Northeast, the Nigerian Military and its Army is partisan and an active party and must be subjected to thorough scrutiny under the three war principles of ‘jus in bellum’, ‘jus ad bellum’ and ‘jus post bellum’.
In other words, the roles of the Nigerian Army or the Military in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations in Nigeria must also be subjected to international criminal, civil and diplomatic inquiries including whereby the vulnerable and culpable members of the Military, at the appropriate time, must pass through processes of ‘demobilization’, ‘disarming’, ‘resettlement’, ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘reintegration’ or ‘prosecution’ for war crimes-where their conducts clearly and evidentially provide.