Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Condemns Baga Attacks

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The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)  Thursday in Abuja  condemned the killings and  declared that government should not have allowed it to happen.

NBA President, Okey Wali, said: "The NBA has repeatedly called for rule of law, we are in very difficult times, due to Boko Haram and other insurgents.

"What happened in Baga should never have happened in any civilised society where the security operatives killed many innocent Nigerians.

When the NBA called for amnesty, it was because of the love for the insurgents.  Our position has always been that law enforcement has failed and that was why we called for dialogue. We must shift attention to crimes prevention.

"The government has the responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians."

Wali, who spoke when he received the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), in his office also stated that the association was not comfortable with the punishment of Justice Abubakar Talba of the Abuja High Court by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

He said NBA had always called for adherence to the rule of law noting that there was an  urgent need to amend the nation's obsolete laws to save Nigerian judges from being intimidated in giving judgments.
The NBA President said that the punishment given to Justice Talba could cause judges to be intimidated.

He said: "We have always said that there was nothing wrong with the judgment; we are getting to a situation where our judges will be getting intimidated, we learnt that the prosecution had gone on appeal and we had thought that the NJC should have waited for the outcome of that appeal.
"It was a decision of the National Executive Council that the fault is that of the laws and not the judge, we can't throw away the baby with the bath water, the law on which Mr. Yusuf's was charged with was  made over a hundred years ago, we must amend these laws so that our judges will regain their confidence."

He commended the NIALS for carrying out an  amendment of the the penal codes saying the laws as they were had become obsolete.
The House of Representatives also yesterday, condemned the alleged  raid by soldiers  on Bama, a community in Borno State. The lawmakers said the Bama raid left the main market in the town completely razed.

The condemnation followed a  motion of urgent public  importance sponsored by  Hon. Abdulrahman Terab (ANPP/ Borno) in which the lawmaker criticised the security agencies over their alleged poor handling of their engagements with the Boko Haram sect in the state.

Terab  said the arson visited  on the market sent a devastating blow on the town which is the economic nerve centre of South-central district of  the  state.

According to him, the situation had brought "untold hardship to the people, forcing them to travel  as far as  to Maiduguri (80km away) in order to get food and other  daily needs.

He  urged the House to direct  the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to immediately provide relief materials to the victims of the attack, warning that unless some relief got to the victims, the  people of Bama may resort to self help and the situation could degenerate to anarchy.
Meanwhile, the  House  yesterday urged  President Goodluck Jonathan to  consider  Gombe State among the beneficiaries of  the 2011  post- election violence compensation.

In a motion  of urgent public importance, Hon. Yusuf  Swa (PDP /Gombe), told the House that  Gombe was  among the states  affected by the post election violence lamenting that it was  not included as a beneficiary of the presidential largese.

According to him, over 36 people lost their lives and property worth N1.5billion was lost during the crisis.

"In one house alone, the house of the PDP Chairman in the state, Jack Gumbi, about 11 people died  while  the chairman has not regained  his health till date.

“Submissions  have  been made earlier on, when the post-election violence committee visited Gombe state, and according to the report, the state was  among the victims, only to see that Gombe was excluded among the beneficiaries,"Swa said.

The motion was unanimously adopted  and a committee would be constituted  to visit the state in order to a ascertain the level of damage and report back to the House within two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has rejected the preliminary reports on the Baga tragedy submitted by the military high command and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), saying verifiable evidence has shown that the investigation that produced the reports was everything but thorough.

The party restated  its earlier statement that the killings in Baga may constitute crimes against humanity, hence the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary investigation of the Boko Haram crisis last year, must include the Baga tragedy in its investigation.

In a statement issued  Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party therefore called for an urgent and independent investigation into the incidents of April 16 at Baga to establish the truth, instead of an apparently shoddy investigation that could only have produced a convoluted report.

''Those who carried out that investigation apparently discountenanced the fact that in today's world, nothing is hidden. Thanks to the satellite imagery released by Human Rights Watch on Wednesday, the world is now aware of the massive devastation that occurred in Baga. It is actually worse than what has been reported!

''The satellite images support the conclusion by the rights group that 2,275 buildings were destroyed in the clashes. They also seem to support the statements credited to the Senator representing the area, Lawan Maina, who put the death toll at 220.

''Contrast this to NEMA's conclusion that far less than 1,000 homes were destroyed, or the military high command's finding that only 36 people were killed, and it becomes glaring that something is wrong somewhere," it said.

According to ACN, part of the report  of Human Rights Watch on the Baga tragedy said:  'The Nigerian military has a duty to protect itself and the population from Boko Haram attacks, but the evidence indicates that it engaged more in destruction than in protection…The glaring discrepancies between the facts on ground and statements by senior military officials raise concerns that they tried to cover up military abuses."

The party said while it would not conclude that all the destruction and the killings in Baga were carried out by soldiers, "the truth is that the military, an embodiment of state power, bears more responsibility anytime it is involved in a situation similar to that of Baga, or Odi and Zaki Biam before it.
''There is no doubt that Boko Haram, with its scorched earth tactics, may have engaged in actions that put the lives of civilians in jeopardy in Baga. But these insurgents have no rules of engagement like the military, and definitely do not value human lives."

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