NIGERIA GOVERNMENT REVEALS CARDINAL OBJECTIVES OF BUHARI’S GOVERNMENT

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai
Mohammed, has revealed the protection of human rights
was a cardinal objective of the President Muhammadu
Buhari administration.
Mohammed said this when he addressed a High-Level
Round-table organized by the Atlantic Council, an American
think-tank on international affairs, in Washington, DC, on
Thursday.
In statement forwarded to DAILY POST, from Washington,
DC, by Segun Adeyemi, the Special Adviser to the Minister,
Mohammed said the picture of impunity and complete
disregard for extant laws and international obligations
painted by Amnesty International, in a recent report, was not
a true reflection of the character and ethics of the
Government of Nigeria or any of its agencies.
Recall that since counter-insurgency war started in 2009,
Amnesty International has issued periodic reports on alleged
human rights violations by the Nigerian military, with the
latest of such reports bordering on violations of human
rights and International Humanitarian Law by the Nigerian
Armed Forces and other government agencies.
Alhaji Mohammed said that the government had taken
several measures to address human rights violation in the
course of the counter-insurgency operations, including the
establishment of Human Rights Desks in all military
formations, the quarterly Human Rights/Military Dialogue,
Training on Mainstreaming Human Rights into Counter-
Insurgency Operations, and Court Martials of officers
indicted for human rights violations.
”Very soon, the Federal Government will adopt a National
Policy on the Protection of Civilians in conflict situations to
further strengthen and entrench its constitutional practice of
Protection of
Civilians,” he said.
The Minister also spoke on the counter-insurgency
operations, insisting that Boko Haram had been badly
degraded hence it was incapable of carrying out organized
massive attacks beyond using women and children to carry
out suicide bombings against soft targets.
”Many have queried how we could say Nigeria is winning the
battle against Boko Haram when the insurgents have
continued to carry out deadly attacks. However, to
understand this, it is necessary to put things in context.
When President Buhari was being sworn into office 29 May
2015, 24 Local Governments making up a territory three
times the size of Lebanon were firmly in the hands of Boko
Haram.
“They hoisted their flag, collected taxes, installed their own
Emirs and administered a large swath of territory. That is
history now as not an inch of Nigeria’s territory is being
administered or controlled by Boko Haram.
”Before the advent of this Administration, Boko Haram
could carry out attacks anywhere in the North East and
beyond at a time of their own choosing. They attacked the
UN Complex, the police headquarters, motor parks and a
military barrack in the capital city of Abuja. That is now
history.” He said.
Alhaji Mohammed also told the Roundtable that the
incessant farmers-herders clashes were neither religious nor
ethnic in nature, as they have been portrayed in some
circles.
”There is no question that this (conflict) is driven mostly by
an increased contest for dwindling natural resources like
land and water. This has been worsened by demographic
pressure and climate change. Nigeria’s population in 1960
was 45 million, and this has ballooned to
about 200 million in 2018, but the available resources have
not grown at all. If anything, they have shrunk.
”As desertification continues to encroach and the Lake
Chad that provided a livelihood for over 35 million in several
countries shrank from 25,000 to 2,500 square kilometers,
herders in particular are forced to move south in search of
grazing land and water for their cattle,” he said
The Minister said beyond the main causative factors,
however, disgruntled politicians and beneficiaries of
corruption, who have vested interest in undermining the
Buhari administration through any means necessary, have
latched on to the conflict.
He cited two instances to buttress his assertion that the
ethno-religious slant given to the clashes constitutes a false
narrative.
”The northern state of Kebbi is predominantly Muslim and
Fulani. Yet, 70% of those who are in jail in the state are
there over farmers-herders clashes. Yet, the herders are
Muslim and Fulani, and the farmers are Muslim and Fulani.
There can therefore be no ethno-religious basis for these
clashes.
”Also, the northern state of Zamfara is the hotbed of cattle
rustling, which perhaps has claimed more lives than the
farmers-herders clashes in the entire middle belt. Yet, those
rustling cows are Muslim and Fulani, and those whose cows
are rustled are Muslim and Fulani. Therefore, to impugn
ethnicity and religion into these clashes is simplistic at best
and downright mischievous at worst,” Alhaji Mohammed
said.
The High-Level Roundtable, which was convened by the
Africa Centre of the 57-year-old think tank, was attended by
about 30 current and former senior US government officials,
as well as other stakeholders in the US Policy on Africa.
The participants included retired Gen. William E. Ward,
former Commander, US Africa Command; former US
Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Sanders; Ms Florizelle Liser,
President and CEO, Corporate Council on Africa; Mr. Thierry
Dongala, Senior Advisor, House Foreign Affairs
Committee; Mr. Trevor Keck, Deputy Head of Policy,
International Committee of the Red Cross and Dr. EJ
Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group’s Africa
Programme.
The Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Sylvanus
Nsofor, led a team of the Nigerian Embassy officials to the
one-day event.

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