Boko Haram is the militant Islamist sect responsible for the death of at least 800 individuals in northern Nigeria during a series of attacks in late July. It's attack began in Bauchi State and soon spread violence across other predominantly Muslim states, forcing 4000 to flee their homes, according to officials. In addition to the deaths, businesses, homes and churches were burnt in the process. Its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was apparently killed in custody by officials, despite initial assertions to the contrary, and in the aftermath of the violence which spanned several states, there remain many unanswered questions.
AN EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING?
Mohammed Yusuf was captured and interviewed by Nigerian police. In a video showing part/all of his interrogation, the videographer and most of those present in the room were asked to leave. Despite the police's claim that he was killed in combat, it seems that not too long after that interview, Yusuf was killed while in police custody.
*video is predominantly in Hausa.
President Yar'Adua has now ordered an investigation into Yusuf's death. However, there is growing evidence that Yar'Adua previously knew about Boko Haram and likely, the sect's violent intent. According to NEXT, Nigeria's State Security Service (SSS), which reports directly to Yar'Adua and has previously arrested and held bloggers illegally, provided reports on the activities of the radical religious sect. Hence, there is reason to believe that the loss of life, destruction to chaos and the sense of security, could have been prevented.
This possibility calls into question the President's sincerity with this newly announced investigation into Yusuf's death. That, plus the fact that Nigeria has an unfortunate history of extrajudicial killing such as the little spoken of Odi massacre in 1999 and the yet to be solved murder of the Apo 6 in 2005, suggests that like other instances, nothing will happen as a result of this investigation. After all, no Nigerian is yet to be tried for their involvement in the Halliburton bribery case or other instances of wrongdoing, highlighting Nigeria's punishment problem.
But, if indeed it is proven that there was an extrajudicial killing involved in the death of Mohammed Yusuf, it will be crucial to investigate and enforce already existing laws preventing and punishing such actions. Yusuf, alive, could have been useful in investigating Boko Haram and determining who was funding the sect with the money and weapons needed to create the carnage it did.
In order to prevent a repeat of the radical Islamist teachings that led to Boko Haram's existence, Nigerian clerics and a coalition of northern governors decided to require a council to regulate the activities of preachers in the north.
It is a shame that there were laws that could have prevented the death of 800 people, but that those laws were not applied in the north. Although most northern clerics and leaders have firmly come out against Boko Haram, one has to question whether or not there was no indication of such radical preaching. In fact, a conflict specialist, Mohammed Sanusi, stated,
"Many people have known of the existence of this group, silently and within the community, especially in the last year... [t]hey are becoming more extreme because in the past there wasn't a major push in place to check their proliferation."Nevertheless, a commitment to prevent a repeat of this violence is better than none at all. But, what remains to be seen is whether, once again, the laws will actually be applied and whether or not the mere regulation of who can preach in the north is enough to keep a similarly-leaning group of well armed religious fanatics to carry out a similar operation. It would have been preferable if this council intended to reveal the names of those who financed Boko Haram, names that are undoubtedly already known.
"They are taking advantage of a broken-down structural condition in Nigeria that people can take the law into their hands without getting reprimanded."
WAS THIS MERELY A COINCIDENCE?
It seems that whenever a major international event is coming to Nigeria, religious violence breaks out in certain parts of northern Nigeria. Right before Nigeria was to host the Ms. World competition in 2002, violence broke out in parts of northern Nigeria. In response to the security concerns, the competition was hurriedly moved to the United Kingdom. This year, Nigeria aims to host the FIFA Under 17 World championships in October, and the recent violence sparked by Boko Haram means that certain affected states, such as Bauchi will likely not host games in the tournament.
There are those that are very content to hold the north back in terms of economic development. By ensuring that the region is a hot spot for religious fighting, investment is guaranteed to stay away, depriving the region and the nation of the opportunity to improve conditions. Such concerted efforts by certain interests to take advantage of situations that will propel Nigeria on an international stage must be prevented. Particularly, as the nation has publicly pledged to 'rebrand' itself and become a top 20 economy by 2020.
Ultimately steps must be taken to prevent other radical Islamist groups from disturbing the peace in any part of the country. This not the first time that a religious sect has caused chaos, but this is definitely an opportunity to ensure that there are little to no repeats.
Hattip to Webround for sending in the video.
Please read Imnakoya's 'Islamic sect leader killed in custody: Two wrongs do not make it right'.
From the Archives:
- Jos: The Power of Texts & Poverty
- Boko Haram: Questions Remain
- Aftermathof Northern Islamist Attacks
- Nigeria-List of Intolerant Nations
- Religious & Political Violence in Jos
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