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Terrorism, elusive justice in Nigeria

MEMBERS of a terrorist gang that has targeted and bombed civilian centers; murdering and maiming the innocent in droves deserve severe punishment. Therefore, the prospect of an amnesty for Boko Haram rankles and boggles the mind.

In its gross unfairness, it disregards the comeuppance of Boko Haram and ignores the pains, sorrow and tears of its victims and their families. Only a spineless and craven government can countenance amnesty for Boko Haram. But the Goodluck Jonathan administration, wobbly on its own weight of ineptitude… cannot defeat a terrorist insurgency. Therefore, it has no choice but to placate terrorism.

In a passionate and unassailable newspaper article against amnesty for Boko Haram, Femi Fani-Koyode wrote: “No one should ever sing the amnesty song again…What do …we tell the families of those slaughtered by Boko Haram? How do we wipe away their tears and ensure that they are given the justice that they desperately seek”.

I am in total agreement with his submission that justice must be done and the tears of the bereaved wiped away (at least, as is humanly possible). An amnesty programme for Boko Haram will neither provide justice nor wipe away tears. Actually, it will reward terrorism. Essentially, it will be tantamount to a triumph of terrorism. If the earlier amnesty for Niger Delta militants provides an instructive precedence, amnesty for Boko Haram will entail buying off terrorists at a colossal cost, millions, and possibly, billions of naira.

So, instead of being consigned to jail serving life sentences or awaiting execution, terrorists will be luxuriating on salaries and splurging on different government grants and attending schools and vocational centers at government expense. To coordinate the distribution of these billions of naira, a new ministry will be established. Who knows what the new ministry will be called – Ministry of Boko Haram?

The Nigerian government cannot effectively fight Boko Haram. It should be recognised that a terrorist is not only a gun slinging, bomb strapping murderous rebel on a stealth mission to bomb, kill and maim but anyone or group of people who by their actions cause terror: death, bereavement, intense fright, dread, emotional tumult and social unsettlement.

Apart from the terrorist acts (brutality, murder of the innocent and extra-judicial killings) of the Nigeria police and other government agents, the embezzlement of a significant portion of the national wealth by the ruling elite feeds on the terror (avoidable death, injury, grief and the distraught) of so many Nigerians. So, the Nigerian government, like the Boko Haram, relegate many families to sorrow, grief and hopelessness.

The channeling of public funds into personal accounts by the power elite depletes the resources that would have been used to enhance the quality of life for the people. Not surprisingly, Nigeria is the only oil rich country that ranks with the poorest and war-ravaged countries of the world in terms of life expectancy, child mortality, pregnancy-related deaths and incidence of poverty. A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit that used probable welfare of children and the chance for a safe, comfortable, prosperous life as criteria, ranked Nigeria the worst place in the world for a baby to be born in 2013.

The national health system is in a dreadful state. As such, pregnant women and infants die in droves in Nigerian hospitals. Nigeria has one of the highest pregnancy-related deaths and infant mortality in the world. With two percent of the world’s population, it accounts for 11 percent of the world’s maternal mortality and 12 percent of the world’s under-five mortality. The environment is squalid and festering, housing is shoddy and overcrowded and neighborhoods lack clean, drinkable water (just about half the population has access to clean drinking water). Therefore, many suffer and die from variegated preventable and treatable overcrowding-induced and dirt and water-borne diseases.

Annually, tens of thousands of people are killed and maimed in road accidents. Many of these accidents are attributable to decrepit and dangerous roads and public infrastructure. The roads remain dangerous mostly because the funds budgeted for their repairs and upgrade were stolen by the elected and appointed government officials.

An exhaustive enumeration of the deadly consequences of the looting of the treasury by the Nigerian ruling elite is beyond the scope of this article.

Where is justice for the families of those killed by of lawless and trigger-happy security agents and the government’s indirect terrorist acts? Who is wiping away their tears? Justice is most elusive in Nigeria. Irrespective of the perpetrator of acts of terrorism, the Boko Haram or the government, justice continues to elude the victims and their families.

The dilemma of the Jonathan government is how can the government, a purveyor of terror and social injustice, extract justice from the Boko Haram, another purveyor of terror and injustice. It cannot. So, it will inescapably pacify Boko Haram with amnesty. Yet, the pacification of Boko Haram will not ensure peace in the country for long because the impatience of Nigerians with the status quo will breed new militant/terrorist groups. The antidote to militancy and terrorism is in a principled and more equitable distribution of the national wealth.  There can be no social peace without economic justice.

BY TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA,a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.


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