President Goodluck Jonathan has again called on members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect to drop their weapons and come to the negotiating table to express their grievances.
Jonathan made the call yesterday during the â€œInternational Seminar on the Imperatives of the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Norms in Internal Security Operationsâ€, which was jointly organised by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), at National Defence College (NDC), Abuja.
His statement coincided with the warning issued by the All Progressives Congress (APC) against a rumoured plan to remove the elected governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, and appoint a military administrator to oversee the affairs of the state.
But the governor, who has refused to be cowed by the level of destruction visited on his state by the Islamic sect, stated yesterday that though it had been massive and soul wrenching, no one should underrate the spirit of the Borno people who are determined to overcome everything that had befallen them.
During the seminar, the president said the theme of the seminar was relevant to the country, as it sought to ensure that the security operations to contain the activities of the insurgents are done within the confines of the law.
He noted that while the timing of the seminar was apt, given the degree of the security threats against Nigeria with efforts being made to avoid human rights violation; the Boko Haram insurgents have operated in a very dastardly manner.
He said: â€œWe are fighting against a group of people that are so mean, brutal and primitive in their operations that they do not care about human rights violations.
â€œAs Commander-in-Chief, I am particularly concerned about the way members of the armed forces carry out their operations to ensure that things are done with the utmost degree of professionalism. I have therefore, directed the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to train and retrain our armed forces to observe human rights in their operations.
â€œI want to use this opportunity to appeal to the Boko Haram sect to lay down their arms and state their grievances, if any, so that we know how they can addressed.â€
Jonathan commended the international community for its enormous support to the countries fighting against terrorism and other forms of internal security threats.
He acknowledged that â€œNigeria has received significant support (from the international community) in terms of cooperation, collaboration, training and equipment in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgentsâ€.
Earlier, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Mohammed Dasuki, said the involvement of the military in internal security operations was a result of the sophistication of the insurgents which hitherto was dealt with in a civil manner.
Dasuki also disclosed that as of today, the demands of the emerging security challenges in Nigeria had seen the military deployed in 32 out of the 36 states of the federation.
He said as a consequence, â€œit has become urgent and vital to ensure that Nigeria as a matter of obligation teaches its armed forces on the rules and regulations governing the observance of human rights while carrying out their operations.
â€œWe must also appreciate the effort of the federal government in deploying the military for the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations and as well as the gallantry of our armed forces in discharging their dutiesâ€.
In his contribution, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN), said more than 40 Boko Haram members had been convicted for terrorism-related crimes.
Adoke said considerable efforts of government had been made possible through the prosecution of members of the sect under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 as amended in 2013.
The attorney-general commended the roles of members of the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies in containing terrorism and other related crises in the country.
He said the seminar was meant to sensitise the participants, particularly members of the armed forces, on compliance with the relevant human rights and international humanitarian laws and norms during internal security operations.
Adoke noted that the military had been effective in maintaining law and order and restoring normalcy to crisis-ridden areas in the country.
Meanwhile, APC has warned against any plan to remove Shettima and appoint a military administrator in his place to oversee the affairs of Borno State, under the guise of intensifying the fight against Boko Haram by the federal government.
The party said the presidency seems to be harbouring a hidden agenda, which might include allowing the insurgency to fester so that elections would not hold in the area in 2015.
Although the presidency had on Sunday denied the report alleging plans to oust the Borno governor, APC said in a statement issued yesterday by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that it found it difficult to believe the presidencyâ€™s position on the matter.
The party said no one should lend any credence to the denial by the presidency of the evil plot to remove Shettima, â€œbecause this presidency’s words have never been worth the paper on which they are writtenâ€.
â€œSeveral times in the past, this presidency has issued a straight-faced denial only to go ahead and do exactly what it said it would not. Against such blatant lack of credibility and integrity, we do not believe the presidencyâ€™s denial,â€ it said.
APC said it was becoming increasingly clear that the presidency might be using the state of emergency in the North-east to fight its own political battle and get rid of those it perceives as a stumbling block to its interest in 2015.
It said if that were not the case, the presidency would not be flying a satanic kite of planning to remove Shettima when it was clear that the governor had done everything humanly possible to support the federal government and the brave men and women fighting the sect, in addition to providing succour to the good people of Borno who had been terribly traumatised by the activities of the misguided terrorists.
â€œThe state of emergency has run its initial course and has even been renewed, yet the insurgency continues. That means the federal government must think out of the box to evolve new strategies to tackle the insurgency.
â€œOne of such is to heighten intelligence gathering that will make it possible for our security forces to preempt attacks. Another is to win the hearts and minds of the local population so they can do more to help fish out the insurgents.
â€œWe are sad to note, however, that the federal government seems to have its own agenda, which may include allowing the insurgency to fester so that elections will not be able to hold in the area in 2015. If anyone thinks this is outlandish, such a person underestimates the desperation of this presidency going into the 2015 elections,â€ it said.
The party said the presidency should realise that there is always a limit to impunity, and that if indeed anyone should be removed over the protracted insurgency in the state and the entire North-east, it is President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to APC, â€œGovernor Kashim Shettima and the entire people of Borno are the victims in the senseless war being waged by Boko Haram, and what they deserve are succour and support, not further victimisation by a federal government which seems to have run out of ideas on how to subdue the sect.
â€œWhat is happening in the North-east in general and Borno State in particular is failure of leadership at the highest level of government, especially because the imposition of a state of emergency in the three worst-hit states has given the president emergency powers to deal with the protracted crisis.
â€œAs the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Jonathan is in full control of all the instruments of coercion available to the country, which he can and has been deploying at will. If, therefore, some seemingly implacable dead-enders have continued to kill, maim and destroy in any part of the country, no one but the president should be held liable. Everyone knows a governor does not deploy troops.
â€œAlso, it is trite to say that the raison d’etre of any government is the protection of lives and property. This means that the moment any government fails in that key responsibility, it can no longer justify its reason for existence.â€
Also, the Borno State governor said Sunday that despite the level of destruction of his state by the Boko Haram sect, no one should underrate the spirit of the Borno people who would overcome in spite of everything.
Shettima said Borno has a rich history of resilience and survival, insisting the insurgence is a facet in its history that it is destined to overcome.
He said: â€œWe have a thousand years of history, some ignoramus can write us off but I can assure you that we will bounce back and bounce back big.â€
The governor, who made these remarks during a visit to Bama, where about 100 persons were killed by the insurgents last week, said he was seriously shocked by the high level of destruction and loss of human lives caused by the carnage. He urged the residents to consider the incident as an act of God and remain put in the area.
â€œI commend the people for not deserting the town as done by victims of the insurgency attacks in other areas. We are not going to desert our state due to the insurgency, rather, we should all join forces to see how best we can end this violence,â€ he declared.
As part of efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the surviving victims, the governor announced a cash donation of N250,000 for each household that lost an individual.
Similarly, he promised to rebuild and rehabilitate all public infrastructure and houses destroyed by the Boko Haram. Besides the sum of N200 million already earmarked for the purchase of relief materials for the victims, he equally directed the release of an additional N100 million.