By JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA — SENATE President, David Mark, yesterday, assured that nothing would be swept under the carpet in an effort by the Senate to unravel the circumstances that led to recent killing of nine suspected insurgents in the Apo District of the Federal Capital Territory.
Mark, who spoke at an opening session of the Senate Joint Investigative Committee on Alleged Extra-judicial Killings in Apo, Abuja, assured that members of the committee would not inject “biases or sentiments in the course of their assignment.”
He said: “There will be no biases; no sentiments and we have no preconceived ideas. All we are interested in is to get to the root of the matter. We are approaching the matter with an open mind to get the facts so that justice would be done.”
The Senate President therefore, appealed to Nigerians who have facts about the Apo incident to freely volunteer information about the killing just as he assured that the committee was not to witch-hunt anyone, saying it was rather, purely on fact-finding to address the problem and forestall any future occurrence.
He said: “This is not the time for blame game. It is time to find the facts. We must hear from all sides of the divide so that we can establish the truth and proffer solutions to the crises.”
Senator Mark regretted the ceaseless activities of insurgence in the country and reminded Nigerians that the war against terrorism was a collective fight of all if the battle must be won.
The Senate President noted that the current security situation had become worrisome and intolerable given that “we are now in a society where we do not know who the terrorists are in our midst.
“This is absurd and totally alien to us. We can no longer understand ourselves. We need to tackle this menace headlong. The insurgents now have international connections. That is why everybody must work hard to tackle the menace before we are doomed.
“Let me assure you that the senate is committed to ensuring lasting peace, peace that you could truly imagine, peace that all of us collectively that will make us one united nation.
‘The main reason why we think that we should hold this hearing is not just because of the outcry, not just because lives have been lost but to truly learn some lessons, so that those lessons can become truly useful to us.
“The current situation in the country you will all agree with me is totally unacceptable. A situation, you don’t know who is a terrorist anymore in our midst, amongst us. Our own brothers and sisters are the ones who are involved, that is not an acceptable situation; it is very alien to us, it is foreign to us. As Nigerians, that is not the way we were brought up. So we need to tackle it headlong. We must remain very steadfast in our fight against terrorism and the forces of darkness that threaten our people.”
“The fight against terrorism has become really complicated locally hear because all these terrorist groups now tend to have international connection, link to Al-Qaida, linked to Al-shabab and other terrorist groups. When these things all started, we underrated it, articulately regarding their international involvement. Unfortunately, they are people out there who do not want to see the unity of the nation, who do not want to see us progress beyond where we are now. Every Nigerian therefore must work hard to make sure that we conclude this exercise of getting terrorism and insurgency out of this country in the earliest possible time. We cannot just assume that it is only the NSA that has responsibility for it, both the NSA will get information from all of us to be able to fight it, so we need all hands on deck for this fight, it into an exclusive preserve of those in uniform or those who are charged with the direct responsibility,” he emphasised.
Mark continued: “The Apo killing has generated a lot of public utterances and public condemnations. But let me urge that before we engage in the blame game or rash conclusions, let us hear from all sides and let us be able to analyze all the stories we have heard, let us filter where the facts, because if we just go by the rumour, or of what we read, or by public opinion of individuals who have access to the media, we may not get the true stories. I urge that we exercise some form of restraints until we get all the facts that are available.”
“As responsible representatives of the people, the Senate and indeed the National Assembly, we will ensure that all the facts are provided so that justice, so that people can meet freely and talk freely, because we encourage all the witnesses to talk freely. Often, I notice that when we call for public hearing, people who talk behind the scene, they will not come, they will not attend, rather they will be engaged in more bickering and go to the media men to tell them their own side of the story.
“We want the witnesses to come and tell us their own side of the story so that we can take the right decisions. We, on our part, we are not going to sweep anything under the carpet. Let me assure you that not a single member sitting here has come with a preconceived idea or the belief that this person or that person is right or wrong, we all have an open mind.
“I know that this public hearing is on the Apo killings, but let me also use this opportunity to plead with every Nigerian that the war against terrorism is a war that all of us must participate in. I feel very sorry for our boys and girls in uniform who are in the north east geo political zone of the country at the moment who are confronted on daily basis by the terrorists and insurgents and the type of killings that happen in those areas on daily basis are totally unacceptable. There is no way we can carry on like that.
“We must take a decision to tackle the issue of terrorism once and for all with all our hearts and all our minds. People must exercise patience with those boys and girls who are exposed outside there. I accept human rights alright, I have no problem with human right, but human rights must be for everybody.
“No group should have a right to kill and then another group cannot even have a right to defend itself. I read on the pages of newspapers everyday that if they are terrorists, they should not be killed they should be arrested and all sorts of things, they advance all sorts of reasons. But when you are out there on the field and you are confronted with the type of situation, it is a different ball game, ”he insisted.
Mark added: “It is an opportunity for me to say that the National Assembly will make every effort to ensure that our armed forces and security agencies are properly funded. This is not cheap; you are not going to be giving information for free of charge. If our secure agents are not properly funded and they are not properly trained, then this war is going to be an endless war. So, I believe that our role as a National Assembly at this time is not just to make laws but to ensure that our security services are properly funded so that we can bring this to a quick end.”
Speaking earlier, Chairman of the joint investigating committee, Senator Mohammed Magoro, assured that the committee would do its job honestly, justly, fairly and with the fear God.
He said all parties in the crisis would be given fair hearing without bias, fear or favour.