Tag Archives: Nigeria

Human Rights Watch report on Boko Haram violence

The new Human Rights Watch report on Boko Haram violence against civilians is devastating. Some excerpts:

On the increased abduction of women:

The increase in the number of abductions since mid-2013 appears to mark a change of strategy by Boko Haram. From 2009 through early 2013, the group did not appear to target women and girls specifically. Instead, it primarily launched assaults against those it considered part of an unjust and corrupt system: members of the security services, politicians, civil servants, and other symbols of authority. By early 2012 schools and students became increasingly targeted for attacks [...] From 2009 to early 2013, according to Human Rights Watch’s research and monitoring of abuses, Boko Haram abducted individual women and girls from their homes or from the street during attacks on their communities. In most of the documented cases, married women were abducted as punishment for not supporting the group’s ideology, while unmarried women and girls were taken as brides after insurgents hastily offered a dowry to the families, who feared to resist. [...]

Videos released by Boko Haram’s leaders in January and May 2013 suggest three key motives for the initial abductions: to retaliate against the government for its alleged detention of family members, including the wives of the group’s leaders; to punish students for attending Western schools; and to forcefully convert Christian women and girls to Islam. Some of the victims and analysts interviewed by Human Rights Watch have suggested women and girls are also being used for tactical reasons, such as to lure security forces to an ambush, force payment of a ransom, or for a prisoner exchange.

[...] Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has [said] “Since you are now holding our women, (laughs) just wait and see what will happen to your own women … to your own wives according to Sharia law.”

Post-Chibok support seems to benefitting only former Chibok abductees, and even them not that much:

The federal and state funds, set up with support from international agencies and foreign governments in the wake of the high-profile Chibok abductions, have targeted the escaped Chibok girls but appear not to have widely benefitted the many other victims of Boko Haram abuses. [...]

However, the young women and girls interviewed described the counseling received as religion-based; they said the Borno State government had arranged for pastors and Muslim clerics to speak with about 30 of them in a group at the Governor’s office. One girl described the counseling she received:

“We were all in a big hall, with many people that we did not know. It was when one of the speakers quoted from the Bible that I knew he was a pastor but I cannot remember what he said. As he finished his talk, the microphone was handed to a man dressed like a Muslim preacher, who also recited some Islamic words. Some other people also spoke. No one asked us any questions. I don’t think any of my school mates realized either that we were being counseled.”

I didn’t know all schools in Borno have been closed:

In March, federal government-run secondary schools in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states closed and their students were transferred to schools in other northern states, while all schools in Borno, the worst-hit of the states under emergency rule, have been closed since then.

On Chibok:

[...] the lack of security [at the Chibok school] made it easy for the fighters to overrun the compound, seize the young women and girls from their dormitory, and organize their transport. Boko Haram did not arrive with a sufficient number of vehicles, and tried to arrange for more. The students said they believed the primary objective of Boko Haram’s attack was the theft of a brick-making machine as well as food and other supplies. However, this apparently changed once the men realized they had access to the young women and girls and faced little resistance.

The relative ease with which it carried out the Chibok abductions appears to have emboldened Boko Haram to step up abductions elsewhere.

On motivations for abductions:

Other men appeared to have been targeted for abduction because of their specific skills or occupation, which filled a need in the insurgents’ camp. This was the case of a 46-year-old pharmaceutical salesman abducted from Buni Yadi in March 2014 while he sitting outside his shop with a group of friends. [...]

A 19-year-old girl who was held in a Boko Haram camp in Gwoza told Human Rights Watch that she was offered thousands of naira as dowry to marry one of the insurgents:

“I refused the dowry, asking them to go pay to my father if they wanted to marry me. An insurgent who knows my family accepted it on my behalf. He told me he was afraid I would be killed if I continued to refuse. I became confused at the implication of being married to a Boko Haram member, so I pretended to be very ill, and the wedding was postponed until the return of the camp leader, who was travelling to meet the group’s overall leader in the Sambisa camp. He ordered that I should be taken to the hospital [in the local town] for tests before his return. It was the break I’d been praying for. I threatened the woman sent to take me to a hospital in town that I would scream and expose her to Civilian JTF. She quickly walked away as I made my escape.”

Insurgents later took revenge on her family for her escape, arresting her brother and burning her family home and the churches in her village.

On accountability:

[A 22 year old woman said] “I did not bother to report to security or police after my escape because they are aware that these abductions have been happening. And even when others had reported to them in the past, they did nothing.”

PDP-APC clashes in Port Harcourt

From Control Risks:

Clashes between supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) party on 13 August in Port Harcourt (Rivers state) underline the credible risk of politically motivated unrest. Activists fired shots and threw stones and bottles during the disturbances, which began in the Rumuepirikom area and spread to other areas of the city, including Rumuokwuta and Rumuigbo. At least eight people were injured, several shops damaged and traffic disrupted in the affected areas. Riot police were deployed to quell the violence.

It is unclear what triggered the clashes. However, some reports indicate that the deposed traditional ruler of the Obio-Akpor local government area (LGA, Rivers) shot his son, who is a member of the PDP, and supporters of the party confronted APC activists who had gathered in Rumuepirikom to attend a meeting held by Governor Rotimi Amaechi as part of a tour of Rivers state that began in mid-July. The police arrested the former Obio-Akpor chief and several members of the APC.

Ekiti elections

Africa Confidential on the Ekiti elections, ungated at the moment:

The most obvious conclusion is that a well-financed and highly aggressive campaign with a bad policy record backed by state security will trump a decent policy record presented by less ruthless campaigners. [...]

State security also intervened to stop Fayemi’s fellow governors [...] from going to Ekiti on the eve of the poll. Under such security conditions, Lagos State Governor and opposition kingpin Babatunde Fashola questioned whether the vote was really free and fair as did northern activist Shehu Sani. Fayemi had conceded, they said, to avoid a bloody confrontation. [...]

From the effort and finance that the PDP put into the Ekiti vote, it’s clear that its leaders are determined to break the opposition’s grip on the south-west. [...]

Fayose’s team ran a textbook negative campaign – well funded and personally targeted.

“It’s not where you have the rich and mighty people doing their shopping.”

On the attacks on two markets in Jos, from the New York Times:

[Gad Peter, who works in the Jos office of the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Program, an activist group] was near the blast site on Tuesday. “It’s a business area, but it’s for the very poor,” he said. “There are women selling tomatoes. It’s not where you have the rich and mighty people doing their shopping,” he said.

Africa Confidential on Chibok

Gated:

This week, the government has been trying to extend the state of emergency for another year in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, all held by opposition parties. Few think the state of emergency has achieved anything, least of all a reduction in attacks. Yet Jonathan’s advisors, such as veteran Ijaw leader Edwin Clark, want to replace elected governments in those states with military administrators.

The crisis has also wrong-footed Jonathan’s political opponents in the All Progressives Congress. Jonathan’s advisors have convinced him that Boko Haram, a multi-sided organisation with local and regional ties, works with northern opposition politicians to destabilise the government. With the State Security Service closely monitoring oppositionists for any remark or action that gives succour to the insurgents, the APC coalition is keeping a low profile while policy, strategy and tactics change by the day. [...]

Politicians of all parties ask how the counter-terrorism campaign, which on average has cost over US$2 billion a year for the past three years, can have had so little effect. Millions have been spent on high-technology gadgetry procured through no-bid contracts and often useless in local conditions. Training and equipping commandos has come a very poor second, say military insiders.

Much of the blame is directed at the politicisation of the High Command. Major Gen. Kenneth Tobiah Minimah, the Chief of Army Staff appointed in January, replaced Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika: both are reputed to be friends of First Lady Patience Jonathan.

Fashola denounces VIP intros

Not for the first time, Lagos state Governor Fashola has denounced certain Nigerian customs in an article discussing his thoughts on the World Economic Forum in Abuja. (H/t to Lola Shoneyin, author of one of my favorite books)

He praises the Forum for the absence of prayers and VIP introductions. He praises the photographers for not blocking the view of the audience with iPads. And he praises the Transcorp Hilton for getting its act together to meet high hospitality standards: “They must choose whether they want to be part of the global Hilton brand name or a bad imitation where all types of stragglers roam about the reception, lobby and even corridors of what should be a hospitality facility of the highest repute.”

If a non-Nigerian had written this article I would scoff at them for focusing on the length of prayers and not more serious issues. But because Fashola wrote this…I don’t know. It’s hard to know what to think.  Complaining about the quality of one of the most expensive hotels in the country, though, is pretty elitist, whether it comes from a Nigerian or foreigner.

It’s really interesting to read this article. You can hear Fashola letting loose a rant that has clearly been building up inside him for years. Some excerpts:

The reason is that this was not a Nigerian event; it was a global franchise hosting in Nigeria.
Think of how many minutes we have spent on prayers at economic and business meetings that are Nigerian. Now multiply them into hours and days and calculate how much productive time we have lost. [...]

I did not see sessions being interrupted to announce the ‘late arrival’ of a VIP who was being led to a front seat where somebody who is not a VIP, but who arrived on time, will have to yield his seat for a person who at best should have been kept out of the venue for tardiness or, at worst, given a vacant seat the BACK of the hall. [...]

I did not see any Ipad and camera-phone totting Mamarazzi and Paparazzi and their better equipped competitors standing in front of particpants and panellists in the ‘Nigerian Way’ and obscuring the view of the audience in the hall.

Full article.

“We know the Nigerian Government…will not bring back out girls.”

Tolu Ogunlesi on Chibok: h/t Carmen, Glenna, Katie

Somewhere between being unwilling and being incapable, we know the Nigerian Government / military / authorities will not bring back our girls. There are those within the government who either do not believe the abductions took place, or who believe it was staged by the enemies of the President and his government to cause embarrassment on the eve of the World Economic Forum. [...]

We know that Boko Haram will not let go of the girls. Boko Haram has proved to not be the sort of terrorist organisation that is open to negotiations. In September 2011, President Olusegun Obasanjo paid a negotiation visit to the family of the late Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf. Less than 72 hours later, the man who hosted Obasanjo was dead, in a hail of bullets. Unlike al-Qaeda, there’s no publicity too bad, or no action too extreme, for Boko Haram. [...]

But in the end, this is a crisis that Nigerians will have to deal with by themselves, and not leave to outsiders who are not equipped to understand the nuances that make difference between temporary and lasting success. The world thinks of #Chibok and recalls #Malala, and instinctively casts this as a battle between Islamists and young girls seeking an education. We know that it is far more complicated than that. We remember Mubi and Buni Yadi and all those innocent boys whose slaughter didn’t generate any hashtags. We know that even if we found every single one of our girls today (and I hope and pray we do), we’d still be as far away from true victory as we are now.

Military had advance notice of Chibok attack but did not send reinforcements

A new short Amnesty briefing provides evidence (verified by military officials themselves) that the military–both a local command and headquarters in Maiduguri–was alerted repeatedly, hours of advance, that Boko Haram was heading toward the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, and failed to do anything. On the way to Chibok Boko Haram militants told villagers they were going to Chibok, and in one case asked for directions to the school. Vigilante groups informed the military and the Borno State Governor’s Office. They were assured help was on the way.

Two senior officers in Nigeria’s armed forces confirmed that the military was aware of the planned attack even prior to the calls received from local officials. One officer said the commander was unable to mobilize reinforcements. He described to Amnesty International the difficulties faced by frontline soldiers in north-eastern Nigeria:

“There’s a lot of frustration, exhaustion and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hotspots…many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts.”

I’ve read competing reports as to whether the military who were stationed at the school fled in advance or stayed. This report says they stayed but were overpowered, and that one soldier might have died.