Civilian Execution to Inquisition

Just as echoes of a debate die down, facts surfaced which leaves our optic nerves unscathed but offends our moral sensibilities, injures our memory, disgusts our imagination and calls for action. The debate I refer to concerns how much effort Nigerians put in activism towards the Nigerian struggle, when much needed zeal is expended to the Palestinian struggle. The facts that surfaced is a gruesome footage reported by amnesty international which shows the atrocities (war crimes) of Nigerian military and Civilian JTF (which is a “State sponsored militia”). The relevance of the facts to the debate is that some Nigerians seem to be doing their part in documenting the ongoings of this unfortunate situation even if not enough according to some standards, for instance the brave soul that recorded the video and shared it, or the brave souls that forwarded what was recorded for sadistic exploits. Amnesty International depends on many of such Nigerians to gather their reports. I guess when you are the primary target of both Military and Boko Haram, you can’t but take it personal.

“When you fit the profile of a predator’s prey, you can’t help but to take the crimes personally” Amalia Ortiz

I recall an earlier report by Amnesty International in 2012 “Nigeria Trapped in the Cycle of Violence“, which depended a lot on such testimonies from Nigerians on ground. Having heard too many gruesome/unsettling stories on atrocities committed by both sides of the militia, it was a relief to have it reported by Amnesty International, whose voices matters more than the thousands of Nigerians. Perhaps that is why we must leverage on them. The Nigeria Police at the time responded to the report basically rejecting what we hoped was the gap filled by Amnesty International; which is credibility. Their argument was along the lines of: since Amnesty International gets its information from the same Nigerians (whom we refuse to take seriously), therefore we should not take the report seriously. Seriously?! They embarked on investigating the (written) report rather than the events reported. I was fumed with angered at hearing that fallacy of equivocation from the Nigeria Police, to dismiss the claims when it was common knowledge at least to those in the North East, meaning the fear was real. So angered, I wrote a Spoken Word Poem to that effect titled after the JTF as Green Demons of Death.

The intention is not to distract that ongoing debate but to give a background, because context matters. The dismissive attitude of security authorities leaves the psyche of the Nigerian destabilized because either they don’t care or we don’t know what they know even though we are to tell them what they should know.

No buildings, roads or other infrastructure can be seen in the video but the noise of cars confirms that it is near a road. Several of the armed captors are wearing military uniforms, one of which has the words “Borno State Operation Flush” emblazoned on the front. The ID number on one of the guns is also clearly identifiable (81BN/SP/407). According to military sources, the rifle belongs to the Support Company of the 81 Battalion and it has not been reported missing. – Amnesty International Secretary General

As to the latest report by Amnesty International, the response came from the Nigerian Military, and theirs was a more diplomatic “we shall investigate the allegations”; saner than the police two years ago. Notwithstanding, the Military has not yet decided to conclude its investigation on an assault reported some weeks earlier on the Shi’a Community during an annual procession, leading to the death of at least 12 civilians including 3 sons of the Shi’a leader, and 40 others injured. Nonetheless certain level of depravity is not unexpected, because war in the modern sense is but depravity amplified by technology. The result is security authorities are quick to turn rebellions and terrorist attacks into total wars; where combatants and non-combatants are not separated. Their license to kill is not only technological, it has its roots in the intellectual.

“Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Some days ago, or weeks ago, more took place but nothing was put down, as is often the case; no documentation. It was heard, by me, and many others who knew someone in Yobe State. The epistemilogical status of the incident is that of oral traditions (of folklore). Accurate or not, the government would not act on it, even though the story may stir the emotions of those in Yobe. The story goes:

A young girl covered in a particular type of Muslim female covering concealed a bomb but had to cross the street to get to her target. She was dropped from a car driven by another man, who is her overseer. In the course of crossing the street she nearly got involved in an accident which caused a bit of commotion and attention fell on her. She seized that opportunity to expose the ploy, after her overseer had come out of his car to see her through the mission. She shouted that he is going to kill her, and a lynch mob soon wrapped their heads around what she meant. They killed the man and the girl is saved. This is how the story was told.

The story, and similar accounts, inspired me write a Spoken Word Poem telling the story above.

I wasn’t sorry for the field mastermind who was killed by the mob, I wasn’t especially happy that lives were saved because to do that would be to lower our expectations for preservation of life, I was interested in the evidence; who was the man, the girl and how they fit in relation to the source of terror. The girls are remoured to be among those captured by Boko Haram (which would include Chibok girls among others) but there is at least one known case of a male impostor. As evidence, the girl is not so interesting because she seems to be a victim herself, but the man is interesting because we expect him to know something about his conviction and how that translates to his allegiance to this terror. Unfortunately he was contaminated, he was exterminated. We have been protected. But are we, when we know so little about the enemy (or enemies)?

Mob killing is an incident that would be of interest for documentation, but it hardly makes progress unless we concede that avoiding retrogression progress. To solve the problem, locating the source of the problem is crucial. A phantom enemy who today is Boko Haram, and tomorrow is a non-Muslim, is utterly destabilizing and misleading. To kill attackers and foil attacks is to deal with symptoms that were fortunately discovered in good time, it does not solve the problem. In the case of lynch mobs, why aren’t they reasonable enough to capture these people and hand them to authorities? If they were reasonable, they wouldn’t be a mob. They might not have handed to authorities, but from past incidents we know what happens to those that have been apprehended by the authorities, or at least we know what did not happen to them. Perhaps someone in the government forgot that information is itself security, and the lack of it is not only insecurity, but a threat actually. No wonder we have conspiracy theories that explain the situation so perfectly. I don’t have the details of the conspiracy theory but below is a prototype of it:

Mr A was captured as the bomber of a Church
Miss B was captured as the bomber of Church
Mr C was captured as the failed bomber of Mr X
Mr D was identified after he successfully detonated himself with a bomb
It has been reported that military helicopters supply “Boko Haram”
Mr A is a Muslim of North origin, from Boko Haram
Miss B is a non-Muslim of South origin, not from Boko Haram
Mr C is a non-Muslim of South origin, not from Boko Haram
Mr D is a Muslim of North origin, a militiant, but unlikely from Boko Haraam
We only hear about Mr A and Mr D as Boko Haram from the State Security
We don’t hear anything about Mrs B and Mr C, we don’t know about their whereabouts

As critical as one is about conspiracy theories, one has to sometimes suppress the urge to believe the conspiracy theory which is so coherent especially in absence of a more convincing alternative. When alternatives lack coherence with fact, conspiracy theories seem as elegant as scientific theories; and the scientific thing to do is embrace explanations that best explains facts. See how elegantly the axioms are posited, how they connect chronologically capturing the tides of history, and how sneaky the conclusion presents itself even without stating… All this intellectual perversion because we know better/more.

It is not difficult to see the goverment’s complicit hand in sustaining this mess. Why else was it so easy to beileve the former governor of Adamawa state who alleged government’s passive collusion. Talk about passive aggressive. This is coming from a retired Military Admiral who is in a good position to estimate what the military can do, and can’t do, and what it could allow to occur unfettered. Whatever the truth of this, his career adorns him with that authority to speak on such matters, and be believed. There is just so much we don’t know, so we seek the best available explanation that takes into account the known facts.

My interest on the human evidence sparked a radical idea, though lacking novelty, on the situation. I am having increasing appeal towards the idea of having Civilians protect themselves from both insurgents and security authorities. Hail Nigeria where a household is its own government as it is proudly said; generating its own electricity, pumping its own water from the subterranean, and protecting oneself. In other words, the idea of Civilian JTF appealed to my Nigerian. Our instinct to survive aligns with our Nigerian-ness.

Unfortunately the Civilian JTF are not any better than the JTF since their defense tactic is as offensive and criminal. What we hoped for was that what Civilian JTF lacked in skill, they would compensate in ethics. Unfortunately no. The Civilian JTF is no different from a lynching mob, except that they are drunk in the audacity and arrogance typical of the military, in addition to government support.

In light of the contamination of human evidences by lynching mobs, the failure of the government to protect, the success of JTF and Civilian JTF in committing war crimes, and the acceptance of the idea of a civilian militia (Civilian JTF) in the psyche of Nigeria, I propose civilian interrogators! This would be a group of civilians with some training in the art of interrogation, perhaps commensurate to Civilian JTF in armed engagement, who have the credibility to interfere between the lynch mobs and human evidences. The Civilian Interrogators could also work with Civilian JTF if that is possible. Yes at this point I must say torture may not be avoidable…

Some of the values of having a Civilian Interrogators is that they would have the skill to reasonably separate the rightly accused from the wrongly accused. The Civilian Interrogators would require some basic interrogation skills not so much for a humane approach but so that their method would have credibility to those who might use the intel gathered. Other benefits of Civilian Interrogators would be… who cares?! This is not a pretty idea I am trying to sell, which is why there’s no powerpoint presentation, no beautifully bound companion proposal, just an ugly alternative to a hideous situation. Perhaps when the mob has Intel, things would change, for better or worse… It sure isn’t getting better.

Eventually this could lead to an Open Source community of Intel gathering where civilians could answer the question of who are the belligerents (in addition to the scape goat Boko Haram) in the country. A modest expectation is to answer that question within smaller geographic boundaries. Sift the opportunist criminals from the organized criminals from those who profit from manipulating these two groups. From Execution to Inquisition.

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