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Nigeria Group Meets Thursday Over States of Emergency

  • Peter Clottey

Nigerian soldiers are seen on the outskirts of Maiduguri in the north-eastern state of Borno in this May 13, 2013, file photo.

Nigerian soldiers are seen on the outskirts of Maiduguri in the north-eastern state of Borno in this May 13, 2013, file photo.

The Nigeria’s Northern Elders Forum (NEF) plans to meet Thursday to review a strategy toward the state of emergency recently declared in three northern states by President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Jonathan recently declared states of emergency in three northern states following an upsurge in violence carried out by the militant sect, Boko Haram.

Forum spokesman Ango Abdullahi says the government did not consult the northern elders before declaring the states of emergency, despite seeking the group’s help to resolve the country’s internal security crisis.

“The proclamation of the state of emergency came to us as a surprise because of the way it came about soon after a change of policy and strategy, which incorporated dialogue and reconciliation,” said Abdullahi. “We thought the proclamation was ill-advised and ill-timed because if really the government was serious about reconciliation and dialogue he won’t declare war on his on people.”

The elders have condemned the states of emergency as a declaration of war with residents of the country’s north. The government denies the accusation.

“There is no reason why President Jonathan will declare war on any part of this country,” said Doyin Okupe, senior adviser to President Jonathan. “If there is anything that has been declared, it is a war against the insurgents, the rebels and the terrorists that have engaged in mindless killings of Nigerians, bombings of religious places of worship and institutions and killings of security agents.”

Abdullahi says the elders will also meet with the forum’s legal team, which has been gathering evidence about the recent killing of civilians at Baga.

“They are working hard to ensure that our facts, evidence and so on, are sufficient on ground for us to be able to bring those that have been responsible for human rights violations, including criminal activities over this period,” said Abdullahi.

The NEF wants to file a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after accusing Nigeria’s government of human rights abuses.

Abdullahi says the government is to blame for the growing security crisis in parts of the country.

“I don’t think anybody can convince me that Boko Haram has killed more people than the Nigeria military and the police as at this point in time. Yes, the government is mandated to protect life and property, but in doing so the government must not be seen to be the one that is killing more people than the insurgents that they are trying to attack,” said Abdullahi.

Some human rights groups have accused the military of using excessive force. Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram-related violence has killed an estimated 3,000 people since 2009, a toll that includes killings by security forces.

The government has denied security agents are to blame for the security crisis.

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