By Ben Agande, Abuja
The United States of America has expressed concern over alleged ongoing reports of excessive use of force by Nigerian security operatives in the name of combating Boko Haram, including extrajudicial killings, prolonged detention, and disappearances, series of attacks going on in some parts of Nigeria, saying however it values the strong partnership it has with Nigeria and respects the role Nigeria plays on the world stage.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the Consulate in Abuja, “We remain deeply concerned about increasing insecurity in Northern Nigeria and the potential threat it poses to stability in both Nigeria and the region.
The rising cycle of violence is affecting Nigerian citizens the most, with the number of civilian casualties increasing.
However, the Federal Government in a swift reaction faulted the US demand saying it had already ordered a thorough investigation into the matter.
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati the government said that the assertion that government was using a force based approach to counterterrorism was false because a much-dimensional approach was being employed including dialogue.
“The April attacks in Baga, with reports indicating civilians indiscriminately killed and homes and businesses wantonly burned, demonstrate the extent to which the Nigerian people continue to suffer from this violence. Counter terrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns are complex and difficult. As a partner, we seek to find ways to help Nigeria build its capacity to address multiple threats to its security.
“As they did this week in Bama, Boko Haram has terrorized the people of Northern Nigeria, killing thousands over the past three years with bombings, shootings, kidnappings, and coordinated attacks on security forces and facilities. The United States condemns Boko Haram’s campaign of terror in the strongest terms and has worked to help Nigeria address the threat of terrorism. Those members of Boko Haram responsible for the violence must be held accountable in accordance with the rule of law.”
The US government went further to state that “We are concerned that such an indiscriminate, force-based approach to counter-terrorism is increasing extremism and decreasing confidence in the federal government. These tactics tarnish Nigeria’s reputation as an emerging leader and a stable democratic government.
“The tragedy at Baga underscores the need for the government of Nigeria to put civilian protection at the forefront of its counterinsurgency campaign. The government now has the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and the well being of all Nigerians by, first, adopting tactics in the North that are effective and protect civilians, and, second, ensuring that the National Human Rights Commission carries out an independent and transparent investigation. Reports from that investigation must be made public and those who committed or ordered these crimes, regardless of position, must be held accountable”.
Meanwhile, the statement by Dr Abati read, “President Jonathan is on record as having ordered very thorough probes. He has also encouraged independent investigations by the National Human Rights Commission. In addition, he has had to cut short his trip to South Africa and cancel his planned state visit to Namibia. He is back in the country to personally oversee the situation.
”Today,(yesterday) President Jonathan hosted an emergency meeting of the National Security Council where he received further briefings from security chiefs.
”Secondly, President Jonathan has made it very clear that apart from the investigations, where there has been any case of misconduct, the persons involved will be brought to justice. There is no issue therefore as to the fact that the government will ensure accountability and the protection of the civilian population from terrorist attacks.
”Three, it is also not true that the administration is adopting a force-based approach. The approach to the insurgency by the government is not a uni-focal approach. There are many dimensions to it. One of those dimensions is the consideration of the option of dialogue and what has become known as amnesty.
”Beyond that also, the government is working with state governments in the affected areas to ensure the security of lives and property, protection of the civilian population, human capital development and stability.
”What has been made very clear is the fact that the terrorists that we are dealing with are not just local insurgents, they also have international connections as revealed yesterday in court that they receive funding from certain elements in Algeria.”