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Enough of rhetorical rules of engagement

THE headlines have all been about news of the attack on innocent students of the Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi, in Yobe State by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.

Yobe is one of the states where the state of emergency is ongoing. The only offence of the children was that they were Nigerians who believed in the importance of acquiring Western education. The females who were spared were threatened with death if they do not abandon their educational pursuit and get married.

The recent victims of the marauders were children of secondary school age. Meanwhile, before this development, about 20 girls were abducted at Konduga village, to be coerced into marriage. Though the military have confirmed the rescue of the girls.

The latest attack seems to be a taunt at President Goodluck Jonathan who barely a day before the latest incident had extended another olive branch by stating that the government was still open to constructive dialogue with the sect. He also urged them to table their grievances before the FG so that a solution and an end to the insurgency could be achieved. The seeming courteous gesture was made at an International Seminar on the Imperatives of the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Norms in Internal Security Operations in Abuja.

With the latest strike, the insurgent simply sent a strong message that they were not interested in any peace or dialogue. In the light of the attack on innocent students, the FG should realise that this is not a sect that wants its olive branch and now is the time for the FG to deal decisively and promptly and stop pussy-footing. They have shown that they are here for business and nothing short of absolute power is their goal. How can you negotiate with that? When the former American president, George Bush Jnr said America does not negotiate with terrorists, he knew what he was talking about and the rate at which the insurgency is going, all hands must be on   deck to tackle it before it goes beyond even the military’s control. All that the military needs to win this war must be given to it. Financial, moral, technical assistance must not be jettisoned on the altar of corruption. A clear and total victory is what is needed in this case so that the people of Nigeria can breathe a sigh of relief!

Despite what others may think, I believe that the presence of the military has reduced the spate of attacks and the hold of the insurgents, because without them, the situation would unarguably have been worse, but the military also has to act within the purviews of the rule of engagement in avoiding a situation whereby it may be brought to book over unlawful killings, one of which exacerbated the insurgency with the death of the group’s leader, Malam Yusuf Mohammed, of which the court has ordered the government to pay his family compensation for his death. The conviction of about 40 terrorists is also heart-warming, as mentioned by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.

The Attorney-General, while commending the roles of members of the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies in containing terrorism in the country, urged them to comply with relevant human rights and international humanitarian laws and norms during internal security operations. He even claimed that some communities were awarded billions of Naira as damages against Nigeria by the International Criminal Court, ICC.

It is also alarming to realise that the country is militarised due to heavy presence of the military in curtailing domestic security crises. The National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) testified to the startling and worrisome fact when he said the armed forces have been deployed in 32 out of the 36 states of the federation to check security challenges. While saying efforts are being made to tackle Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, he gave assurance that the Federal Government will encourage troops to observe human rights, rules of engagement and international humanitarian law norms.

From all these, several issues came to mind: The Presidential appeal for constructive dialogue with Boko Haram, more conviction of arrested terrorists and the overflogged clamour that Nigerian troops should abide by the rule of engagement when confronting their enemies who do not believe in any rule.

There should be no reason to compel security personnel under threat to observe human rights and rules of engagement when dealing with enemies that are brutal and callous in their murderous exploits on innocent girls, students and ordinary citizens.   It is an undeniable fact that military intervention sometimes attracts negative reactions from affected communities, political rhetoric and do-good statements should not deter our security men in waging the war against terrorism.

It is unfortunate that the military has to take over the internal policing in various states. The government should ensure the police are adequately trained, funded and motivated to take up their statutory responsibilities.   This is an anomaly that needs to be corrected as the military has no business in the internal affairs of the country. What happens when we need the military for its real duties of protecting our territorial integrity from external aggressions when they have been stretched thin for internal purposes?

Ms   ADEDOYIN adewumi, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Abuja.


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