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Nigeria: Counterproductive Counterterrorism

AfricaFocus Bulletin
June 5, 2013 (130605)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

As Nigerian security forces increase their drive against extremist Islamist groups in northern Nigeria, a wide range of Nigerian and international critics, from human rights groups and scholarly experts to the United States government, have been speaking out. The critics argue that the indiscriminate nature of the counterterrorism efforts not only results in violation of human rights and deaths of innocent civilians, but also fuels the violence rather than reducing it.

Such counterproductive policies to fight terrorism are hardly unique, whether within Nigeria or in other conflict zones around the world. But the regional influence of Nigeria and the interaction of the conflict in the North with other countries of the region, make the negative example particularly threatening. The critique of counterproductive hard-line measures is well known, and the debate takes place within governments as well as among government critics. But the critical question for the future is who in fact controls the policies and practices actually used.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a commentary and a declaration from the Nigerian civil society coalition NKatalyst (http://n-katalyst.com/), released on May 24, 2013.

Additional recent commentaries with relevant background include:

http://carllevan.com/2013/05/northeast-states-of-emergency/

http://carllevan.com/2013/05/baga-massacre-in-nigeria/

http://library.fundforpeace.org/20130529-nigeria

http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/nigeria-securitytracker/p29483

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/nigeria.php

For ongoing coverage of news on the Nigeria, including the security situation, see http://allafrica.com/nigeria and http://saharareporters.com/

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

The State of Emergency and Rights of Nigerians - Jibrin Ibrahim

24 May 2013

N-Katalyst
http://n-katalyst.com/

Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, on the 14th May 2013 declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. He was responding to the incessant terrorist attacks and other security challenges that have recently plagued Nigeria, The declaration is in accordance with the provisions of section 305(3 (c) (d) (f) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

The President in his speech argued amongst other issues that the terrorists have established control over several parts of the nation, destroyed state property and hoisted strange flags suggesting the exercise of alternative sovereignty in some parts of the country. The insurgents have been killing innocent Nigerians as well as security agents and government officials thereby. They are well armed and appear to have received good training.

In this context, the State has a responsibility to take steps to re-establish public safety. At the same time, the State in its actions cannot join the insurgents in expanding the violations of the rights of Nigerians. The human rights of citizens should not be secondary to the provision of security. Public safety and human rights should be promoted in tandem.

This was the theme of a retreat organised by N-Katalysts this weekend. The organisation is a Pan-Nigerian non partisan network of individuals across different sectors that have deep commitment to the promotion of Nigerian unity and are committed to progressive change as well as the promotion of justice in the social, political and economic spheres.

In its Declaration, N-Katalysts argued that state of emergency should not be limited to sending in more troops into the affected states and equipping them with sweeping powers of arrest, detention, search etc. The utility of this approach remains doubtful especially within the context of the recent Baga debacle where over 200 citizens were allegedly murdered by security agents and thousands of houses were burnt and destroyed.

We cannot have a lasting solution to the problem of rising insecurity if the security forces continue in their approach of massive violations of human rights and non-adherence to the principles of the rule of law. The on-going struggle to defeat the insurgency should be used as an opportunity that the state and its security agencies has to start the process of winning the hearts and minds of Nigerians by ensuring that the wider population do not fall victim to the operations conducted by the security forces.

For N-Katalyst, it is important that all Nigerians realise that what is going on is a national, and not just a northern problem. The social, economic and political factors that fuelled the rise of militancy and fundamentalism in the Northern states are present in other parts of Nigeria and may engender similar security challenges if not addressed in a timely and holistic manner. The escalating insurgency in the Northern States of Nigeria by the Boko Haram sect and other fundamentalist elements, which has culminated in the current crisis, has revealed the lack of preparedness of our security agencies to rise to the challenge.

The Declaration by N-Katalyst observed that the prevailing security situation in the North East of Nigeria is characterized by militant insurgency and the government's counter-insurgency operation amounts to a situation of Non-International Armed Conflict (NAIC), although the Nigerian government is unwilling to admit to such categorization.

Indeed, the Nigerian government appears unwilling to fit the security situation in the North East into any of the clear categories of armed conflict defined by law, with the disturbing effect that the counter-insurgency seems to be conducted outside the ambits of both Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law. The group noted that the lack of clear legal categorization of the conflict has led to the absence of a legal framework within which the conflict may be defined and regulated, and has made it difficult to determine the appropriate standards of accountability and responsibility by which to assess the conduct of Nigerian security forces in the theatres of conflict.

This situation could lead to a dangerous prolongation of the crisis especially because of the developing political economy around the security challenges in Nigeria that is creating opportunities for mega accumulation of financial benefits by certain players in the security arena who are profiteering from the conflict, either directly from the counter-insurgency budget or from harassing the population and would like it to continue as long as possible.

N-Katalyst also argued however that Nigeria's Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been equally illprepared to react to the situation and confront the challenges that have been thrown up. The lack of preparedness on the part of civil society is manifested in the inadequacy of humanitarian response to the trauma faced by victims, the paucity of information on the true state of affairs inside the theatres of conflict, especially on the experiences of civilian populations trapped in these theatres, and the absence of the necessary mechanism for the provision of legal remedies to aggrieved persons. It is sad to note the silence and general ineffectuality of the legal profession in addressing the legal challenges associated with the conflicts especially the pursuit of legal redress for infringements on human rights and the abuse of the rule of law especially in the North East where lawyers have been cowed into silence, or scared away.

N-Katalyst also expressed the concern that there seems to have developed a culture of silence with respect to the impacts of these conflicts on civilian populations in theatres of conflict, with the effect that the severe trauma to which the victims of the conflicts are subjected are not being addressed or even acknowledged. Some of the reported features of the conflicts in some of the Northern States include: law enforcement extremism and impunity, violence against women and sexual violence against both male and female genders, rivalry between and amongst the security and law enforcement agencies and the lack of an adequate victim identification process, leading to a failure to identify the victims of the conflict both among the civilian populations and the security operatives.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the prevailing security situation may portend grave consequences for the general elections in 2015. In this regard, it is imperative that governments and the electoral agency begin to establish the necessary structures to forestall and apprehend electoral violence in 2015. The Federal Government must also define the legal framework within which the counter-insurgency operations in several parts of Nigeria are being prosecuted, as well as the rules of engagement for the conflicts. N-Katalyst also called on the government to demarcate and streamline the areas of engagement and authority of the various law enforcement and security agencies to eliminate or at least reduce incidences of inter-agency rivalry and conflict. This must be accompanied by ensuring the enthronement of a higher degree of professionalism in the security agencies, including their indoctrination on the cardinal tenets of humanitarian law and human rights law.

Those of us in civil society must rise up to the challenge of meeting our responsibilities to the civilian populations in theatres of conflict and to the victims of the conflicts amongst both the civilian population and the security and law enforcement agencies. The Nigerian Bar Association must awaken to its obligations to the people and to the law and boldly confront the legal issues thrown up by the prevailing security situation in Nigeria.

Nigeria must win the war against terrorism. This would require addressing the root causes of the menace, primarily poverty, unemployment and bringing to book perpetrators/violators of human rights, particularly security agents accused of extra judicial killings. It is this approach that will instills confidence in the nation's security architecture.

Secondly, special attention should be placed on training and retraining of our security agencies on human rights and counter terrorism. Our security agencies need to improve their information sharing and government should invest in providing equipment and logistical support. Thirdly, our security agencies should collaborate more with the local communities rather than antagonizing them. It is acknowledged that the scale of violence today is unprecedented since the Biafran civil war. The containment strategy we adopt should therefore seek a path that will lead to an early resolution. It is on this basis that we call on the National Assembly to reflect seriously on providing the legal framework that will guide the rules of engagement of our anti-terrorism strategy and action.


N-Katalyst: Declaration on the Security Situation in Nigeria

24 May 2013

http://n-katalyst.com/

Introduction

I. The N-Katalyst Forum ("The Forum") is a non-partisan, non-profit, non-governmental association of progressive Nigerians drawn from across different backgrounds, professions and persuasions, united in their vision of an undivided and indivisible Nigerian nation, and in their commitment to the enthronement of good governance, and social, economic and political justice in the Nigerian State, and the respect and advancement of the fundamental human rights of all Nigerian citizens.

II. The Forum held its second annual retreat at Abuja on 17th to 19th May 2013 during which it reviewed the affairs of N-Katalyst in the intervening period following the Forum's inaugural retreat in Abuja in March 2012 and charted a course for progress.

III. The Forum also reviewed the state of affairs in Nigeria, especially the severe security challenges confronting the nation, and analyzed the escalating insurgency in the Northern states, which has culminated in the recent declaration of a State of Emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan in the North East States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

Declaration

Preamble

Following a comprehensive review of the security situation in Nigeria, N-Katalyst

  1. Found the prevailing security situation in several parts of Nigeria, especially in the Northern states, extremely troubling.
  2. Noted with alarm that the militant insurgents appear to be very well armed with the most modern deadly weapons and have deployed these sophisticated weapons, and their familiarity with the local terrain to inflict heavy casualties on both the security forces and the civilian population.
  3. Noted with concern the obvious initial unpreparedness of the Nigerian State to respond to and apprehend the insurgency in the Northern States.
  4. Concluded that the prevailing conflict situation in the North East of Nigeria characterized by militant insurgency and the government's counter-insurgency operation amounts to a situation of Non-International Armed Conflict (NAIC), although the Nigerian government is unwilling to admit to such categorization.
  5. Noted that the government appears unwilling to fit the security situation in the North East into any of the clear categories of armed conflict defined by law, with the disturbing effect that the counter-insurgency seems to be conducted outside the ambits of both Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law.
  6. Noted that the lack of clear legal categorization of the conflict has led to the absence of a legal framework within which the conflict may be defined and regulated, and has made it difficult to determine the appropriate standards of accountability and responsibility by which to assess the conduct of Nigerian security forces in the theatres of conflict.
  7. Found very disturbing allegations that some of the features of conflicts include human rights abuses and other horrendous crimes in the theatres of conflict, including Law enforcement extremism, unaccountable or 'rogue' law enforcement, general violence against women and sexual violence against both male and female genders, all of which crimes are encouraged by a pervasive sense of impunity.
  8. Noted with concern the prevalence of reports of rivalry and mistrust between and among security and law enforcement agencies which impair the operational capability of the agencies and occasionally degenerate to inter-agency violence during which innocent Nigerians are put at grave risk.
  9. Noted with concern the pronounced lack of effective victim identification processes, leading to a failure to identify and name victims and casualties of the conflict whether from amongst the civilian populations or from amongst security operatives.
  10. Noted with concern that a 'political economy' may have developed around the security challenges in Nigeria, with the effect that certain elements may be deriving financial benefits from the prevailing state of insecurity, especially from the resources budgeted for the prosecution of the counter-insurgency and from the extortion of citizens.
  11. Noted that there seems to have developed a culture of silence with respect to the impact of the security conflicts on civilian populations in the theatres of conflict, with the effect that the severe trauma to which the victims of these conflicts are subjected are not being addressed or even acknowledged.
  12. Noted with particular concern that Nigeria's Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) appear to have been equally ill-prepared to react to the situation and confront the challenges that it has thrown up.
  13. Identified as some of the consequences of the lack of preparedness on the part of the CSOs the inadequacy of humanitarian response, the paucity of information on the true state of affairs inside the theatres of conflict, especially on the experiences of civilian populations trapped in these theatres, and the absence of the necessary mechanism for the provision of legal remedies to aggrieved persons.
  14. Noted that the legal profession in Nigeria has been rather silent on the conflicts raging at various theatres all across the nation, and has been generally ineffectual in addressing the legal challenges associated with the conflicts, especially the need for legal redress for infringements on human rights and the abuse of the rule of law.
  15. Expressed concern that the organized bar may have been intimidated, cowed into silence, or scared away from the North East region.
  16. Noted with great concern that the prevailing security situation in Nigeria may portend grave consequences for the general elections on 2015.

Now therefore, the N-Katalyst Forum hereby formally:

  1. Calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria ('the government') to define the legal framework within which the counter-insurgency operations going on in several parts of Nigeria are being prosecuted, and define the rules of engagement for the operations.
  2. Calls on the government to demarcate and streamline the areas of engagement and authority of the various law enforcement and security agencies to eliminate or at least reduce incidences of inter-agency rivalry and conflict.
  3. Calls on the Government to ensure the enthronement of a higher degree of professionalism in the security agencies, including their indoctrination on the fundamentals of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.
  4. Calls on CSOs to be alive to their responsibilities to the civilian populations in theatres of conflict and to the victims of the conflicts amongst both the civilian population and the security and law enforcement agencies.
  5. Calls on the official bar to awaken to its obligations to the people and to the law and boldly confront the legal issues thrown up by the prevailing security situation in Nigeria.
  6. Calls on the government and the Independent National Electoral Commission to commence with urgency the processes for erecting robust legal and logistical structures to forestall and apprehend electoral violence in 2015.
  7. Declares its willingness to work with the government, the security agencies and other CSOs to address the several issues raised in this Declaration, and hereby offers its hand of partnership in this regard.

Issued at Abuja, Nigeria, this 19th Day of May, 2013

Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, John St Claret Ezeani, Saka Azimazi, Maryam Uwais, Chris Kwaja, Ahmed Baba Ahmed, Asma'u Joda, Dr Otive Igbuzor, Aisha Oyebode, Hubert Shaiyen, Yusufu Pam, Prof. Mohammed Tabiu, Ayo Obe

For more information on N-Katalyst Visit http://www.n-katalyst.com; Email:nkatalyst@gmail.com


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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