Although Nigerian forces have been a part of humanitarian projects from the Congo to Sudan, it is common knowledge that Nigeria's military forces act with impunity when it comes to civilians at home. Take the Apo Six incident where six individuals where murdered by police officers. Till this day, none have faced justice for their acts. Or, the Odi Massacre where 2500 civilians were murdered. Given these and other incidents, there was little surprise when word spread that armed officers carried out extrajudicial killings shortly after the 2008 Boko Haram unrest in Bauchi State. Now, there is video evidence of these extrajudicial killings and it is very graphic.
A PROBE IS PLANNED
Even before this video went public, Nigerian groups and individuals began asking questions about the mysterious murders and disappearances related to the Boko Haram incident. Nigeria's military and government was slow to take any decisive stance on the matter. However, the legislative arm of government plans to do something about the matter. The House of Representatives plans to look into the extrajudicial killings as evidenced by the video. One legislator stated,
"If what we watched on the international news channel was true, then the Nigeria Police had deviated from the statutory duty of protecting the people. What I saw on Aljazeera television is horrible', he continued, "I saw how people were lined up and shot by police, I saw young men and women, I saw cripples, I saw the underaged. Police just opened fire on them; I could not believe my eyes. This is why I think we as parliament must look into this killings. It is now on international channel and our image as a nation is at stake".
WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG?
These incidents that the House now plans to probe took place over a year ago. So, why is it just now finding the time to look into this matter? It cannot be ignored that it was the embarrassment of this matter being shown in the international media that prompted a response of any kind from any arm of the Nigerian government. That is a shame and another blemish on the current administration and set of legislators. It is unacceptable for legislators to be caught sleeping and to neglect their duties as prescribed by the constitution. After all, there is currently a court case against the federal government concerning the extrajudicial killings - constituting notice for the legislature to focus on the issue. There was little need for legislators to wait until this video to react since that the federal government already acknowledged that extrajudicial killings did take place. Consequently, statements by Honorable Lawan that their body has never before had concrete evidence of such killings despite testimony and government acknowledgment is simply a vapid and disappointing excuse.
Furthermore, there have been countless extrajudicial murders in the Niger Delta that have gone under-reported in the traditional local media and ignored by legislators and government officials. Will it take further international embarrassment for those matters to be adequately discussed and justice served to the survivors who live to tell tales of great pain and woe?
WHERE IS THE PROMISED GOVERNMENT REVIEW?
Criticism of the federal government is equally due. There is a lack of accountability which compounded by the revelation that the government is unwilling to share information about the promised inquiry into the Boko Haram violence. Shortly after the Boko Haram incident, President Yar'Adua promised to investigate the matter and specifically, the extrajudicial killings that are now known to have taken place. Now that Goodluck Jonathan is acting President, and given his recent comments on the "rape" of West African rights, it is time for the weight of the federal government to be applied on this issue. What remains to be determined is who funded Boko Haram? How did they get the weapons and overseas training they are alleged to have received? Why were its leaders slaughtered before valuable information could be obtained from them and before they could face justice in a court of law? Will anyone be held accountable for the violence and resulting failures? Or, will this just be another chapter in Nigeria's saga of stalled justice and inaction?
Nigeria suffers from persistent lack of accountability and a punishment problem characterized by a failure to prosecute and punish those who have sucked the nation's hope, promise and bank accounts dry. This Boko Haram investigation by the House of Representatives could be a launchpad for the nation to do away with its persisting 'Punishment Problem' and enforce the accountability that is necessary to ensure that Nigerian democracy is fair for all.
UPDATE: The nation's police minister has now criticized the Police Force, accusing officers of killings, robbery and corruption.
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