A notable pro-democracy and Non-governmental body – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has faulted the reported claim by the Department of State Services (DSS) which accused Islamic state terrorists of the Benue killings.
HURIWA said the claim coming nearly twenty four months after the international media reported the affiliation of the breakaway faction of Boko Haram terror network with the then Iraq and Syria based global terror network known as Islamic state, is unwarranted and suspicious.
The Rights group has therefore tasked the Benue state government to set up a judicial panel of inquiry on the widespread killings by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen even as the National Assembly should organize a transparent, open and an independent investigation of these dastardly killings.
HURIWA asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig his national security team to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to end the dominance of all the strategic national security agencies by persons from one Ethno -Religious divide-Fulani/Hausa and majority of whom have pampered the alleged armed Fulani herdsmen suspected of widespread attacks in different parts of Nigeria. HURIWA said a random sampling of opinion poll on the latest claim by DSS led by the Katsina born Director General of the Department of States Services Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura shows that most respondents accuse the DSS of cover up gambits in the latest rounds of ethno-religious genocide carried out by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
“Although we strongly dispute the credibility of the intelligence being circulated by DSS on the Benue killings but we decided to go to town in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt whereby our teams interviewed Nigerians on the media reports quoting the DSS as accusing Islamic state’s ‘Army’ of the Benue killings and majority of those spoken to disputed the claim and demanded independent judicial inquisition and forensic investigations to ascertain the real perpetrators. Nigerians are in doubt of this latest claims because the national security infrastructure is dominated by Hausa/Fulani heads and this creates room for mutual suspicions and compromise”.
In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA faulted the latest claim by the DSS because of what it calls substantial circumstantial evidence linking some operatives of the Myetti Allah cattle owners body with the incidents following series of threats to oppose and undermine the anti-open grazing law of Benue state made to the media immediately after the state Assembly passed the legislation and it was okayed by governor Orthom of Benue State.
The Rights group said only an independent body of judicial investigators to be put together by Benue State government and supervised by a team from the United Nations can satisfactorily determine the culpability or otherwise of the armed Fulani herdsmen widely accused of carrying out these killings not only in Benue state but in Southern Kaduna, Adamawa and Tarana States.
HURIWA also asked that eye witnesses to the attacks who survived the ordeals can also be invited in camera to render evidence. “The hasty speculative claims of foreign terrorists as the perpetrators as made by the DSS lacks coherence and is not grounded in scientific and forensic findings which are the minimum benchmarks for global best practices in crime investigations”.
HURIWA wondered why the security agencies like the police and DSS could go fishing for ‘innovative’ and phantom reasons for the attacks when it is clear to every discerning mind that an official of the Benue state branch of the cattle owners body reportedly spoke with the British Broadcasting Service to offer explanation for the attacks. “This interview is retrievable because it was widely received all over the World. Why the attempt to tie a wool of organized confusion on discerning members of the public by the DSS? Why did they not stop the attack? Who invited the so-called foreign terrorists? Who gave them weapons deployed for the killings? Where were Nigerian Immigration service, Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Intelligence agency and the DSS all led by Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri when this sort of ‘invasion’ occured? Why have the heads of these agencies not tendered their resignation if indeed these claims are factually accurate?”
“We are shocked that many weeks after claims and counter claims on the alleged perpetrators of these dastardly crime of terror against Benue state citizens in protest against the passage of the anti-open grazing law started flying in the media, that the publicly funded department of state services is seeking to fly a kite by bringing up another strange angle to the debacle regarding who killed innocent Nigerians in Benue state? Why have the security agencies failed to invite all relevant officials of Myetti Allah cattle owners body in both Benue and Abuja to question them on media claims they made before and after the Benue state house of Assembly passed the anti-open grazing law? Why is the DSS indicting itself for failing to even stop the invasion of Nigerian nation by foreign terror group assuming without conceding that the new claim is true, all together? The best bet is for independent investigations to be ordered to be supervised by the United Nations organization”.
HURIWA recalled vividly that in August 2016, the Islamic State group’s newspaper identifies a new leader of the group’s West African part; popularly known as Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists, who promises not to attack mosques or markets used by Muslims, reports the Associated Press.
HURIWA further recalled that in 2016 August the Arabic-language newspaper al-Nabaa identified Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new “Wali,” a title previously used to describe long-time leader Abubakar Shekau, who has been leading Boko Haram since 2009.
HURIWA said the report did not say what Shekau’s current status is. Though the replacement comes after rumours spread that Shekau had been killed or replaced as the leader has not made a verified video appearance for the past few years.
HURIWA recalled that in March 2016, Boko Haram was believed to have released a video featuring Shekau. However, the unusual poor quality of the footage raised suspicions over its authenticity. Furthermore, the video was only shared on YouTube, rather than on Twitter accounts affiliated with Boko Haram’s ally, IS.
HURIWA recalled that at that time the media quoted the African and Eurasian affairs analyst Jacob Zenn as saying that the announcement indicates a coup by Boko Haram breakaway group Ansaru and follows a trend of extremist Islamic groups moving away from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.
HURIWA said that it is already a notorious knowledge that Ansaru is known for kidnapping foreigners. It had broken away from Boko Haram because it disagrees with the indiscriminate killing of civilians, especially Muslims.
The Rights group reminded Nigerians that this then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (begore it was defeated by international armed coalition) had publicly announced new Boko Haram leader Al-Barnawi’s appointment and it came as the Nigerian government and army claimed the fight against Boko Haram was over.
DSS had claimed in a report at the weekend that a group Islamic state in West Africa (ISWA) is operational in North central and South Nigeria. And that it deploys foreign terrorists that unleash mayhem on communities with a view to exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions.
HURIWA has therefore challenged the National Assembly to save Nigeria of the embarrassment that these killings of innocent Nigerians have caused us in the international arena and to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to obey the constitution by reconstituting the National Defence Council to reflect the Ethno-religious diversities of Nigerians and to guarantee integrity to the national security architecture.