By Adeyemi Olalemi
Boko Haram members are also humans, despite their threat to humanity; they still remain a part of the human race it is sabotaging. With the towns now recaptured after an open battle with the Boko Haram terrorists on land and with airstrikes where collateral damages and loss of human lives on the side of the insurgents would not be questioned, the military then faced a major task of weeding out terrorists who may disguise as innocent civilians among returnees.
The Nigerian Army on December 8, 2014 announced that it was in full control of Mubi and other neighbouring Adamawa towns where Boko Haram had captured 40 days earlier, as life gradually returned to the city. Many who had fled the towns to Cameroun, Yola and other towns initially doubted Army’s claim, especially after their traumatic experience during the Boko Haram invasion where Soldiers also fled. It was difficult for the people to believe the Nigerian military. It was a major challenge as military had to restore confidence of the people in them after an embarrassing display few weeks earlier.
Residents began to return in January, 2015 and were shocked after seeing some of the damages and barbaric plundering of their towns. They began to count their losses while their wound grew even wider; it was time to rebuild the ruins of the towns, as government also called for humanitarian support. Till date, millions are still displaced internally in Nigeria due to the huge effect of insurgency.
At rebuilding the towns, the battle against Boko haram terrorist was, however, not over as the military doubled its effort to detect some Boko haram members who would probably infiltrate the towns disguising as returnees and again launch another attack.
Even when Military drove out suspected terrorists from the towns and villages, some residents who were trapped after Boko Haram invaded, remained in the towns. While some of them joined and pledged allegiance to the terrorists during their 40-day reign, some others claimed they never joined the sect but their claim remained doubtful to discerning minds.
The fate of these set of people was uncertain especially when the army would not leave anything to chance, knowing well enough that terrorists would explore every possible means to fight back, including disguising as civilians and using fifth columnists. The military had to ensure it completely rid the towns of Boko Haram terrorists. What the army did to some of these suspected terrorists could best be describe as mass killings or an act of genocide, according to residents who spoke in confidence with Greennews.ng. However, the killing of the terrorists may also be argued as collateral damages in the interest of national security.
It was gathered that as calm returned to the towns, men of the Nigerian military went from house to house in search of Boko Haram members, especially those who remained in the towns when Boko Haram invaded. There were speculations that they might have been radicalized by the terrorists.
According to residents, Nigerian soldiers literally went berserk in dealing with suspected members of the sect as they shot any suspect they found in the houses. This was said to be the case in Mubi and some other towns where army were fighting insurgence.
It was further gathered that during the killings, at sometimes, the army acted on intelligence reports, as they monitored calls of people occupying the towns and also place some others on security watch.
Although residents who spoke with Greennews.ng on the current state of security in the towns expressed satisfaction with the way military routed out the terrorists but some maintained reservations that some residents who were not terrorists were unlawfully killed by the Army.
A Cleric disclosed that a man residing in Mubi town was nearly killed by soldiers because he was mistaken for a terrorist, according to the Cleric, he had to plead on his behalf and further attest that he was not a terrorist but a committed member of his faith.
Amnesty International, a global human right watch group, had in July, 2014, accused the Nigeria military of violating fundamental human rights of citizens through alleged extra-judicial killings of suspected Boko Haram terrorists without being tried in a court of law.
The group further called for the arrest and prosecution of soldiers, middle and senior military commanders, including the former Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, and the erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, and their successors.
Where national security and fundamental human right are conflicting, the killing of suspected terrorists without trial by soldiers is matter for the court to decide, however, some legal experts spoke with Greennews.ng on the matter.
Barrister Babade Ayobayo noted that the right to life is an internationally protected right that should be upheld irrespective of the situation. He said no individual has the right to take the life of another unless a court of competent jurisdiction gives such rights, citing Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, there is however, a “method to the madness” of the Boko Haram situation in the country and that based on the havoc consistently wrecked by this Islamic sect, moves to forcefully clamp down on them have not been resisted by the public.
“A non-legal argument will be that their lives will sadly be used as collateral damage for the restoration of peace to the region and in the country but legally, that stance is wrong as it is better for 99 guilty people to be set free than for one innocent person to be unjustly killed, Babade noted.
Another legal practitioner, Toyosi Abikoye, said the issue is about trying to restore peace in the face of fundamental human right. She opined that “it is not the shot of one man, it is a Democracy and if our leaders in our interest have chosen this, it is for the greater good, people innocently or arbitrarily killed will be justified, forgiven and understood because the National safety as a whole comes first and if the soldiers can help it, the terrorist should be tried”.
The controversies trailing the war against Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria is unending, as vigilantes who collaborated with the military also showed prowess in taming the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists in the most mysterious manner.