by Salihu Tanko Yakasai
The atrocities of Boko Haram have been well documented and are still out in the open for everyone to see. One can find various pieces of evidence all over the affected states for anyone that is interested.
But beyond this much dreaded Boko Haram sect, there is another terrifying monster in our midst known as the almighty Joint Task Force (JTF). This JTF which is saddled with the responsibility of protecting our lives and properties from the daily carnage of Boko Haram have turned into an even deadlier enemy. They, alongside Boko Haram, have continuously remained human exterminators in the affected states.
Last Sunday 31st of March, 2013 in Kano, at the Unguwa Uku area, the JTF had a tip about a suspected BH hideout and quickly raided the area, shutting down the entire area completely for several hours, suspending traffic on one of the busiest major roads in Kano – Zaria road. They engaged the militants which resulted in the killing of 14 Boko Haram members as well as arresting some. They also recovered much ammunitions and other deadly weapons and explosives.
Not long after we had applauded them for this heroic outing, we received reports that they had gone further to abuse ordinary citizens who were peaceful residents of this area. One such victim claimed that they scattered his house and took away his cash, N100,000 (One hundred thousand naira). There was also reports of a tipper driver and his assistant who were both killed, as well as so many heartbreaking stories that soon tarnished news of their earlier triumphs.
A little over a month ago, I also witnessed an encounter with the JTF at Badawa, Kano. We came to a check point and the mobile police officer was discussing a football game that was played earlier with a motorist, exchanging hi-fives and in the process causing a lot of traffic on the route which made people to start honking their car horns impatiently. The officer was infuriated. He threatened to arrest one of us, labelling him as Boko Haram.
We all came out of our cars pleading with the officer to release him. He refused and called his superior officer who came and made the situation worse, telling us that he will just say we are all Boko Haram and nothing will happen. It took us more than an hour to plead with them before they could let us go. Unknown to them, my journalistic instinct had pushed me to record about 15mins of the ordeal, having the officer on record saying he will label us as Boko Haram.
All these are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to JTF’s brutality, all in the name of securing us. Everyday we hear stories of how they are terrorizing innocent citizens, some even being killed and no one is held accountable. They’ll simply say you are BH and that’s it. You are DOOMED.
Even the check points are basically useless, as they have just turned them to “cheque” points where they extort passengers. I cannot get from one end of Kano to another, without coming across many checkpoints. Just this Tuesday, The Nigerian Bar Association also called for the withdrawal of the JTF from the state. It has become so glaringly obvious that the fight against BH in Kano has more to do with intelligence gathering, than mere extortion (check) points.
What the JTF needs to do is to invest more time on winning the hearts and minds of Kanawa, to make them have absolute confidence in them to be able to come forward with valuable information that will assist the JTF in doing their jobs. They should reach out to all the stakeholders especially the traditional ward heads (Mai Unguwa) who are directly heading all the volatile areas and can pin point any suspicious individual or possible hideouts.
The United States of America which is the leading country in the “war against terror” is turning more and more to intelligence and negotiations, rather than the use of force. May be, just may be, if the JTF will concentrate more on this, we might see a possible end to these senseless killings. After all, darkness has never cleared darkness. We are in between a stone and a hard surface as we get killed by both Boko Haram and JTF, and you can’t speak out against either.
For BH they should know that this is a cause they can’t win. No matter how long it’ll take, an end must come. They’ll get tired, they’ll run out of members and the cash flow will seize. For the JTF, already the international community is talking about crimes against humanity. BBC recently did a program on atrocities being perpetuated by JTF. They too, will one day be answerable for their actions. Finally to them both, let none of them get carried away by their successes in terrorizing people here on earth for there will be a day where all must be asked about their actions by God Almighty. With Him we shouldn’t dare fail.
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