The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, yesterday called for continued dialogues over issues of religion in the country.
He said making public comments do not help but aggravate the issues, assuring that Muslims in the country are good people who would not be provoked to take up arms against anybody.
The Muslim leader spoke at the opening of the 34th National Qur’an Recitation Competition organized by the Musabaqah Foundation for Quranic Recitation in Nigeria/Centre for Islamic Studies, Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto in collaboration with the Muslim Community of Lagos State.
In attendance were the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu; his Deputy, Obafemi Hamzat; Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, Chairman of Police Service Commission, Musliu Smith, among others. Sultan’s remarks were coming in the wake of a recent disagreement between NSCIA and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over the United States Department of State report listing Nigeria among countries that failed religious tolerance test.
CAN had backed the US report, saying Christians are being persecuted in the country but Sultan insists nothing of such exists, stressing that not all Fulani herdsmen are Muslims and they were not after the Christians as insinuated by CAN. Speaking yesterday in Lagos, the Sultan insisted that Muslims are very good people and they would continue to work with Qur’anic injunction forbidding man’s inhumanity to man. He said while Muslims are generally good, there are bad ones as they exist in all societies, urging the government to deal with the bad ones. “And I want to assure you that no Muslim would be provoked into taking up arms against anybody based on what you have been seeing in the media particularly of recent.
These are issues we need to tackle; these are issues the various governments at all levels need to tackle by sitting down and talking to one another because making public comments don’t normally help. “They aggravate situations. And I want to assure all, everything is right with us. The Muslims in Nigeria are very good people. We will continue to do the best. But among all good people, there are also bad people and we know there are bad people among all societies.”
He stressed that the Muslim leaders would not cease to give sound advice to the leaders to do the right thing and make the country a better place. According to him, Islam is a complete way of life and Qur’an is very important to all Muslims. He said if everybody works with the injunction of the Qur’an, there would be no corruption or any form of criminalities in the society.
“We must work with the Qur’an and Insha Allah as Muslims in this country we would continue to work with the Qur’an. We would continue to uphold Qur’anic injunctions and obey our leaders who Almighty Allah has placed on us,” he said. The state governor said he was convinced that Islam is a religion of peace which encourages tolerance and harmonious coexistence among all people of different beliefs. He urged the adherents of Islam and Christianity to follow the commandments of the two Holy Books and live peacefully with one another.
He said: “As a nation engaged in the battle against extremism, this programme will, among other initiatives, promote true understanding of the religion of Islam and help make our young people less vulnerable to beliefs that are not consistent with the teachings of the religion.
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As the only journalist who dispatched the first ever report on late Muhammad Yusuf’s activities in Maiduguri, on the 23rd of July 2006, at a time when the sect was relatively unknown to many Nigerians, I should be able to give an insight into the Boko Haram saga.
I have closely followed the activities of the Boko Haram sect. In fact, I was invited by the late Yusuf at that period to establish and head an Al-mizzan styled newspaper for him. However, in the course of our deliberations, I tabled the following issues that set us apart: I wanted to be partner in the project, I wanted editorial freedom to edit out anything I may find to incite the public in the publication and I wanted to introduce a regular column that totally disagrees with his ideology.
I think, my conditions, at a time when I hadn’t any gainful employment, shocked the prospective investor who thought any budding journalist would rush at the opportunity to become an editor-in-chief especially of a promising paper, on account of the large followership and the group’s loyalty to their Imam.
However, my relationship with late Mohammed Yusuf continued as he visited me when I lost my 8 months old son that died of malaria. Perhaps, he saw me partially as one of his students and partially as a dissenter due to my independent disposition. But, to be fair to him, I admire his depth of knowledge, oratorical prowess and apparent willingness to emulate Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
In early 2002, Yusuf was seen by many as a likely heir to the renowned late Sheik Ja’afar Mahmud Adam in Maiduguri on account of his brilliance and closeness to the late renowned scholar. But all that changed shortly when one late Mohammed Alli approached late Yusuf with reasons to boycott democracy, civil service and western oriented schools. Late Yusuf then disengaged his service with the Yobe state government.
Then, in a 2006 press release signed by the sect’s Shura (Consultative) Council, they stated that, Islam permits them to subsist under a modern government like Nigeria but has explicitly prohibited them from joining or supporting such governments in so far as their systems, structures and institutions contain elements contradictory to core Islamic principles and beliefs.
However, the late Alli argued that the sect must embark on Hijra (migration), but late Yusuf declined and Alli proceeded to Kanamma in Yobe with his faction, and one thing led to another, the group launched an insurgent attack on the Police that resulted in the loss of many lives and property in Kanamma and later in Gwoza in Borno state. Although the insurgents, a renegade group that called itself “Taliban,” led by Alli, fiercely disagreed with late Yusuf and many of the escapees later returned to Yusuf.
Unlike Alli, Yusuf went on undeterred, though he was prevented from preaching in several mosques and was denied TV/Radio appearances in the state. But he setup a preaching outlet in the front of his house at the railway quarters and at Angwan Doki, millionaires’ quarters among others. The demand for his tapes increased by the day all over the north and the proceeds there from increased tremendously. He, then asked his landlord and in-law, late Baba Fugu Mohammed to allow him to build a mosque whom he named Ibn Taimiyya Masjid.
It was in Ibn Taimiyya Masjid that late Yusuf together with his hard-line top lieutenant Abubakar Shekau alias `Darul Tauhid,’ began to build an imaginary state within a state. Together they setup Laginas (departments), they had a cabinet, the Shura, the Hisbah, the brigade of guards, a military wing, a large farm, an effective micro finance scheme, and late Yusuf played the role of a judge in settling disputes, each State had an Amir (leader) including amirs in Chad and Niger that gave accounts of their stewardship to Yusuf directly.
The sect, led by Yusuf took advantage of the poor quality of our educational system, the incessant strikes, cult activities, widespread malpractices and prostitutions that is made worse with no offer of jobs after graduation to wheedle many youth to abandon school and embrace Yusuf’s new and emerging state that promises to offer them a better alternative.
Late Yusuf also took advantage of the irresponsible leadership at all levels of governmentas unemployment, poverty, corruption and insecurity become the order of the day. And, as he points out such failures, citing verses of the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet, the youth see him as the leader that will indeed deliver them from malevolence to the promised land.
In my write-up of February 28, 2009 in the Sunday Trust I wrote about the sect, where I alerted the general public about the sect’s total disregard for civil obedience. The report in question warned that to disregard the simmering cauldron “smells like rebellion…and it will be irresponsible of any authority to wait for the occurrence of violence before it acts in the face of impending threat to law and order,” in subsequent reports and during my interactions with senior security agents, I did not only predict the crisis but hinted on the strategy of the sect. But, typical of investigative journalism, instead of these revelations to catch the attention of the relevant agencies, their attention was shifted on how to frame me. Apparently, the plan was never to prevent a crisis but to allow it to occur.
However, in fairness to the government of Borno state that is living witnesses to the unruly behaviour of the sect and its extreme dislike for government institutions, the state government like other governments in northern Nigeria saw the need to halt this nuisance in their states; they were alarmed that the sect that started with a handful of people is hitting the 7-digit mark and one day (if not very soon) the likelihood that the sect may determine the politics of the land cannot be dismissed.
According to Isa Yuguda, the Governor of Bauch state in a recent interview with a weekly newspaper, “When the Boko Haram issue came, I sat down and scientifically organised a Commando raid on their stronghold. We identified them over a period of time and made sure the Ulamas came and preached against them for two weeks and they in return issued fatwa against the Imams that are preaching against them. We had to attach policemen to the Imams because the Boko Haram people threatened to slaughter them. We planned for them.
“We cordoned off their area around 3a.m. in the morning and phoned my neighbours in Borno and Yobe states about the operation I was going to carry out because their leader was there at that time. After exchanging gunshots for some time, we smoked them out of their houses. They were fully armed with grenades, machine guns and rocket launchers,” said Yuguda.
Having kept track of political activities in the state, I knew very well that Ali Sheriff, unlike Yuguda, could not afford to strike first, Borno could take anything from him but not an attack on Muslims. However, the government in Borno setup a joint security patrol nicknamed, `operation flush’ in order to serve as a constant check on the sect.
As the crisis started in Maiduguri, reporters did the obvious; live and tell the story' and they stayed mostly in the Government House (GH) and most of them contacted me directly or indirectly to get briefed because I chose to do theunexpected’, which is to `risk my life to tell the story.’ Indeed, I took undue risk which exposed me to the unimaginable that would form the subject of a book I am now writing.
On Tuesday 29th July 2009 when I made a stop at the Borno state Government House, a staff of the GH, one Yusuf dragged me into the office of the Chief Security Officer to the Governor, insisting that the governor’s aide wanted to see my face for the first time. The aide wanted to know from me why I did not shave my beards and lower my trousers below the ankle to avoid the wrath (Alas! bullets) of the security agents.
I, then, told him that it is wrong for security agents to brand innocent people that wear beards as Boko Haram and even killed them based on that. In fact, to keep beards, to wear turbans and nisfusaak (trousers above the ankle) are part of the prophet’s Sirah, which is recommended to every Muslim over 1400 years ago, and it is seen as a deeply spiritual task by many Muslims all over the world.
He, also, asked me whether or not I was abducted by the sect members for a while and released. I put the record straight that, I only ran into a mob and thereafter I was left off the hook when they were convinced that the brown apron I was wearing carried an inscription of Daily Trust had nothing to show that I was a government official.
Sadly for me, the CSO did not like my guts and the fact that I reported the two sides that clearly exposed the Achilles’ heel of his boss, he ordered for my arrest, calling my crime `counter intelligence.’ At the GH I was assaulted by the mobile police (at the quarter guard post). There, a Police Constable Sani Abubakar, held my beards and pulled me to the ground, he kicked my legs to forcefully remove my loafers.
I was made to lie down with my face down instantly I urinated in my pants when two mobile police men contemplated who was going to pull the trigger, whether that was a joke or an attempt to scare me. Thank God I am alive as yet, maybe the powers that be are aware of the event that would follow the execution of a media man within the GH or as the government claimed, I was held in protective custody for my safety.
I was then driven to the police headquarters in the state where I was kept in a cell with 58 others. After spending 30 hours in the cell and about 48 hours without food or water (because, I couldn’t break the fast I was observing upon my arrest), I was then allowed to wash up the urine that had dried up on my pants and relieved myself of the running stomach that became the audible music in our cell as everyone witnessed how cell mates were being called out and executed, everyone was waiting for his turn.
Surprisingly, none of my colleagues investigated and reported the assault meted against me, even when some of them searched for me in the crowded cell as I sat without shoes on the floor. Instead, speculations were rife amongst them that indeed I was a Boko Haram member, on account of the following baseless talk: That I wear beards and trousers above my ankle and yet I came from a Christian background and this to many of them makes me an extremist.
That I was doing fairly well as a journalist in the last ten years with a mere primary school certificate and that makes me a Boko Haram too. That, my fair complexioned spouse was a Shuwa Arab and given out to me in marriage by late Yusuf and finally, they said late Yusuf had contacted some members of the media on two occasions through me in the past.
Now that I no longer carry my youthful goatee and halfway trousers to avoid being branded a terrorist meets your requirements however I want to state here that I am proud of my Christian background as a Muslim because it has afforded me a unique sense of tolerance and impartial view for the need for dialogue that many born Christians and Muslims lack, leading to the kind of mistrusts we see today.
My wife is a very proud Tarok, from Langtang LGA in Plateau state, I met and married her in Abuja in 2002 and never saw Yusuf in her life. Yes, I was perhaps the only journalist known to late Yusuf on account of what I mentioned earlier on. But, when has it become illegal to know a public figure who later became a criminal?
I started a career in journalism as a staff reporter with Insider Weekly Magazine, from 2001 to 2002. Thereafter, I had a stint with Crystal Magazine as a Special Projects Editor and later a founding staff with New Sentinel and freelanced for several mediums. Currently, I work as a reporter with the Media Trust Limited. I do not posses any formal educational qualification beyond primary school; however I was self educated through years of extensive reading of books.
As a primary school pupil in the early 80’s, when late Yusuf was a little kid himself, I would choose to climb a tree and read a story book while my mates were in school. Somehow I managed to complete my primary school but my disdain to learn under the four square walls of a classroom continued during my Secondary School and my father decided to discontinue funding my education. Although, I was visible in the University of Maiduguri, not as a student but sadly, as a commercial final year project writer to nearly a hundred undergraduates and a handful of master’s degree thesis as well, anyway this is a story for another day.
Although there was a extraordinary effort by the correspondents chapel and the Nigerian Union of Journalist in the area to secure my release but as my wife who is yet to recover from the trauma of that crisis argued, the NUJ should have demanded for my release and out rightly condemn my arrest but instead, they pleaded and pleaded until I was released; this is an admittance that indeed one of their own is guilty as alleged and as my wife always said, this allegation will hang over my head for the rest of my life.
Recently, when Al-jazeera showed video footage of extra-judicial killings the world became aware of some of our experiences in Maiduguri, and typical of Nigerians, we heard calls for probe. The most disturbing call for probe is the one by the very government that ordered the summary executions in the first place. Can a military or police officer go to town and harvest corpses without an order from above? If this is possible, then it should not be a probe of extra-judicial killings instead, government should probe insubordination and total breakdown of law and order amongst security agents leading to numerous deaths. And, let us not forget, what happened to the previous probes setup by the federal government? I have a disturbing video that confirmed what security agents told me during my arrest. “No prison for Boko Haram members, we want them all death.” Is it the governor of Borno state that gave such an order or Mr President that has absolute control over the police and military under the constitution? Oh, ours is a country where the constitution is always disregarded.
Why did they execute Yusuf together with Baba Fugu Mohammed and Bugi Foi before any trial? Was it to cover the dirty tracks of under cover agents that worked for years with late Yusuf, leaving the impression that these two (that are the richest people close to late Yusuf) funded the uprising? Why are the sophisticated guns of Boko Haram that was used to keep Nigeria’s defence forces away from their enclave for three days not displayed to the public along side corpses? What we saw was mostly bow and arrows.
Where is Abubakar Shekau? The police said he died from injuries he sustained during the crisis. Can we believe them after all? They said late Yusuf died in a shootout when in fact over 50 mobile police men shot him behind my detention room, at the armoury right inside the police headquarters. In my opinion, Abubakar Shekau, the second in command of late Yusuf may be alive.
Over the years, the failure of security agents to prevent crisis that often times leads to loss of lives and property worth billions of naira goes unpunished. We never hear any apology or resignation from political leaders or heads of security agents. The only punishment is, erring commissioners of Police are transferred to an obscure department of special duties at the Force Headquarters’ in Abuja, as was the case with the commissioners during Boko Haram and the recent Jos crisis.
Were it not for a country like Nigeria, where government have failed to provide basic life support for its citizens, late Yusuf may have never thrived. A functional environment with opportunities for all, equal justice for all, fairness to all and governed by leaders that are responsible for their people, the rude and retrogressive teachings of late Yusuf would have not received the attention of about a million followers all over the north. Indeed, late Yusuf’s teaching was an abuse to Algebra, reproductive health and the science of astronomy that has its roots in Islam, if indeed it is true that he said boko is haram.
From my interaction with him, he never said boko is haram plainly; in fact the name Boko Haram came to being during the crisis. What he always said was, as long as anything that contradicts the teachings of Islam (in his own view) exists in the educational system then it is haram to go to that school unless such things ceased to exist. As members of the sect realised, they cannot ensure such change, especially in a secular state like ours; they withdrew from schools completely. But I am aware that late Yusuf had plans to set up a school, a hospital and a market in the future to complement the sect’s micro finance scheme and other Laginas.
Unfortunately, late Yusuf’s teachings that caused crisis and death of hundreds of our gallant security agents and made it inhuman for people like Yusuf to survive, contradicts not only Islam which he claims to be preaching to his followers but his very existence. I saw when members of the sect slaughtered a police sergeant, L. Adamu. He pleaded with them that he was never against them and said he was a fellow Muslim but yet they slaughtered him like a goat. Was this the reason why the police and military summarily executed the suspected sect members in the same manner the sect did to their colleagues?
Suffice it to say here that government should investigate why the sect took up arms against it. What were the issues that led to the armed struggle? And what are the chances of recurrence of violence. Government must as a matter of urgency police our porous border because Shekau may be living close by. Government through religious and traditional leaders must dialogue with the displaced family members of Boko Haram and ensure that their children all go back to school.
Government must begin to locate them and assure them of a fair trial at home in order not for them to easily fall as fodders to any al-Qaeda advances. Religious institutions like the one headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III should be empowered to independent and be able to effectively regulate and censor religious activities in the country.
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•The crisis may engulf coastal West Africa —Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister warns
•10 million people in Lake Chad area need urgent help —UN
There are fears that the current security problems wracking the country, Nigeria could become worsened soon with reports that jihadists across the West African region are recruiting heavily from aggrieved Fulani pastoralists.
While the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), fears a hike in the population of the displaced in West Africa, other reports warned that militant groups in the Sahel are on their way down to West African coastal countries.
Sahel countries are Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Southern Algeria, Niger, North of Nigeria, Central Chad, Central and Southern Sudan, the extreme north of South Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Central African Republic and the extreme north of Ethiopia.
The coastal countries of the West African region under these threats are Nigeria, Cape Verde, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sao Tome and Principe and Mauritania.
The New Humanitarian news agency (formerly IRIN) a few days ago released a detailed report on the security crisis which may threaten the coastal West Africa with invasion by the militias.
According to the news agency, jihadist groups have recruited heavily from Fulani pastoralists, which it described as “an ethnic group that suffers from social exclusion as well as government and development programmes that favour agriculturalists.” The report added that this has raised tensions with members of other ethnic groups who say they are targeted by the jihadists.
“In the absence of the state, some have turned to self-defence militias, who have indiscriminately attacked Fulani communities,” it said.
“Failure to contain the insurgencies,” it said, “could also result in further regional destabilisation, with militant groups now moving southwards from Burkina Faso towards Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Benin, where two French tourists were recently kidnapped,” the report said.
“It’s no longer just the Sahel, it’s coastal West Africa and the risk of spreading regionally,” Burkina Faso Foreign Minister, Alpha Barry, told a security conference in Munich in February.
10 million people in Lake Chad area need urgent help —UN
The OCHA has also disclosed that nearly 10 million people, or half the population of the conflict-hit Lake Chad Basin region need humanitarian assistance as the decade-long conflict drags on.
In a report released during the week, OCHA said some 2.5 million people are now displaced. “Hunger and malnutrition remain high. Abduction, killings and rights violations are also widespread. Humanitarian response has been accelerated over the past three years, with many more affected people receiving assistance.”
It added that “this year, the humanitarian community is seeking US$1.3 billion to provide food, water, shelter, healthcare and safeguard the rights and dignity of the conflict-affected.
“The region is facing a severe protection crisis. The armed violence that has affected large parts of the Lake Chad Basin is stretching to its tenth year. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have lived in displacement sites and refugee camps for years, grappling with extreme hardship and deprivation. Many civilians have suffered abuse and rights violations and are deeply traumatised by the violence.
“It is critical to strengthen the protection of civilians, especially women and girls, and work towards preventing sexual and gender-based violence as well as enhance support to survivors. Women and girls face high risks of sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse primarily by armed groups, but also by men in uniform.
“Thousands of civilians have also been killed or abducted and many families separated.
“The recurrent attacks and insecurity as well as security measures have restricted free movement. “Farming, trade, transhumance and other activities have been significantly affected, depriving millions of people of their means of survival and limiting access to basic services. Displaced people are also unable to move freely in and out of camps.
“In January 2019, the Governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria reaffirmed their commitment to the Abuja Action Statement on civilian protection in the Lake Chad Basin region. The agreement comprises a range of actions to enhance protection and respond to the most urgent needs of refugees, internally displaced persons and other affected populations.”
Humanitarian needs still high
The OCHA added that: “Humanitarian needs remain high. The persistent violence and its impact on the lives of millions of people across the Lake Chad Basin mean that many families and communities still require help to survive.
“Humanitarian assistance has been significantly stepped up over the past three years, with millions more people receiving aid. Relief assistance needs to be sustained and international support increased to provide adequately to those in need. The prevalent insecurity and inadequate funding are some of the main hurdles to effective relief assistance.
“To sustain relief operations, the protection of aid workers and humanitarian assets is paramount. While providing life-saving assistance, aid workers have unfortunately come under attack. In 2018, six aid workers were killed in Nigeria and one is still held captive.
“The prevailing insecurity has forced the suspension of operations and withdrawal of humanitarian workers in some locations, leaving affected communities without access to basic services and assistance.
“As insecurity and recurrent armed attacks prevent the return of millions of displaced people to their homes, efforts towards lasting solutions are necessary to increase access to basic services and livelihoods. The protracted crisis calls for an early shift towards self-sufficiency. The displaced need not wait for the conflict to be fully resolved to start rebuilding their lives.
“In addition, steps towards increased collaboration between humanitarian and development strategies need to be sustained and strengthened.
“Greater economic and infrastructure investment are required to complement humanitarian action and decrease dependence on relief aid,” it said.
The report by The Humanitarian (formerly IRIN) reads in part
What is causing ethnic conflict?
Jihadist groups have recruited heavily from Fulani pastoralists, “an ethnic group that suffers from social exclusion as well as government and development programmes that favour agriculturalists.” This has raised tensions with members of other ethnic groups who say they are targeted by the jihadists.
In the absence of the state, some have turned to self-defence militias, who have indiscriminately attacked Fulani communities,
In January, attacks against Fulani villagers in northern Burkina Faso left more than 200 dead, according to local civil society groups. In March, some 160 Fulani men, women, and children were killed in a single attack by an ethnic Dogon militia in central Mali. The violence is now being widely described as “ethnic cleansing”.
Why is violence rising?
The violence has its roots in the activities of a number of local but globally oriented jihadist groups that have spent the past few years laying the groundwork for armed insurgencies and are now wreaking havoc across the Sahel – a semi-arid belt of land on the southern edge of the Sahara.
In 2012, the militants were largely contained to northern Mali, where they had joined forces with separatist Tuareg rebels to take over a number of strategic towns, including the fabled city of Timbuktu.
A French intervention in January 2013 dislodged them, but they regrouped and insurgencies have since spread into central Mali, northern, eastern and southwestern Burkina Faso and the Tahoua and Tillaberi regions of southwestern Niger.
“It is unprecedented,” the top UN official in Burkina Faso, Metsi Makhetha, told TNH recently. “The country has never had to deal with such massive displacement.”
The militancy’s rapid progress has been aided by the region’s vast desert areas and porous borders, a flow of firearms from nearby Libya, and weak – and often predatory – states that struggle to provide even basic social services: Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger all rank among the 10 least developed countries in the world, according to the UN’s Human Development Index.
“People think the jihadists can offer them a better life than the state,” Mahamadou Savadogo, a Burkinabe researcher, told TNH.
In recent times their tactics have shifted from targeted assassinations of government officials, soldiers, and local leaders that oppose their vision of Islam, to indiscriminate attacks against civilians and entire villages.
The response from security forces has, by and large, made matters worse. Last year Malian troops were implicated in mass killings in the central Mopti region, while in northern Burkina Faso TNH has documented recent atrocities by military personnel, who are now killing three times as many civilians than jihadists. Affected communities describe being trapped between the state and jihadists. Both sides accuse them of collaborating with the other.
France’s counter-insurgency force in the Sahel – Operation Barkhane – has been accused of stoking communal tensions by backing two Mali-based militias, the MSA and GATIA, which have targeted Fulani herders during anti-jihadist operations in both Niger and Mali.
A string of recent attacks on churches by militants in Burkina Faso could also now test relations between the country’s majority Muslim and minority Christian religious groups.
What are the humanitarian needs?
Internal displacement has increased five-fold in the past year according to the UN, with 330,000 people uprooted and a further 100,000 people fleeing across borders.
In Mali, the number of people forced to flee tripled in 2018 and continues to rise, with 133,000 newly displaced since the beginning of the year, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.
In Burkina Faso, 170,000 people have been uprooted, with more than 100,000 fleeing so far this year. In Niger’s Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, violence has forced more than 70,000 people from their homes.
Levels of food insecurity and malnutrition were already chronically high following a severe drought in the Sahel last year. The current violence is now “compounding” these issues, “threatening civilians’ lives and livelihoods”, said Gasarabwe, the UN official. Some 5.1 million people require humanitarian assistance across the region but aid groups say the needs are far exceeding available resources.
The crisis in numbers
Civilian fatalities rose 7,000 percent in Burkina Faso, 500 percent in Niger, and 300 percent in Mali compared to the previous year
440,000 people displaced by conflict, a five-fold increase over the previous year, a five-fold increase over the previous year
1.8 million people face food insecurity
5.1 million people require humanitarian assistance
157 men, women, and children killed in March in one attack in Mali
How much worse could it get?
Conflicts are likely to escalate further through the year as militants expand their reach, ethnic militias proliferate, and communal divisions harden.
So far this month, 20 people have died after militants attacked four churches and a religious procession in northern Burkina Faso; at least 18 civilians have been killed by ethnic militias in central Mali; and jihadists killed 28 soldiers in western Niger – one of the deadliest attacks recorded in that area to date.
Projections on future population displacement are hard to come by, but Daouda Djouma, an official at the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, has said more than 380,000 people could be uprooted in Burkina Faso alone by December.
How is the international community responding?
Efforts to stem the violence aren’t working. The UN has around 13,000 peacekeepers deployed in Mali, but attacks by jihadists mean the mission is now “more a target than an anchor of stability”, according to a recent assessment from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
The French have 4,000 troops in the region as part of Operation Barkhane; the US is building a $110 million drone base in Agadez, Niger; and five Sahelian states – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger – have united under the G5 Sahel joint force.
But analysts and aid groups say focusing on military solutions risks overlooking the social and political grievances enabling militants to take root within local communities. A recent study by the peacebuilding charity International Alert attributes the rise in violent extremism in the Sahel to weak states rather than religious ideology.
Which jihadist groups are involved?
The largest coalition of jihadist groups is known as Jama’at Nusrat ul-Islam wal-Muslimeen, or JNIM. It brings together al-Qaeda’s Sahara franchise, AQIM, with a number of other militant groups. The coalition was formed in March 2017 and operates in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
A franchise of so-called Islamic State, known as Islamic State in the Greater Sahara or ISGS, has been active since 2015 and is also gaining ground despite recent pressure from French forces.
In his first video message in five years, the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, paid special tribute to ISGS fighters in Burkina Faso and Mali: “We congratulate them for their joining the convoy of the caliphate,” he said.
An assortment of homegrown militant groups – including Ansaroul Islam in northern Burkina Faso and Katiba Macina in central Mali – completes the picture. Their success is largely predicated on understanding the local grievances of different communities, in particular the Fulani.
A surge in violence across West Africa’s Sahel has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left thousands dead since January, as Islamist militants with links to al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State extend their reach across the region at a time when they are losing ground in their Middle Eastern strongholds.
For the past 10 months, The New Humanitarian has been one of the few news organisations reporting consistently from the front lines on the civilian impact of the rapid rise in violence by the militants, who are based primarily in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – three countries with shared borders and problems.
Five takeaways on the growing violence and its civilian toll
Jihadist groups are manipulating inter-communal conflicts. They are exploiting the region’s ethnic fault lines to stir violence that can be far deadlier than anything the militants are doing directly themselves. In central Mali, the level of violence may now qualify as ethnic cleansing.
Governments have helped local militias thrive. Central governments have allowed and in some cases encouraged the proliferation of communal militia groups – decisions that are now coming home to roost as intercommunal conflicts rise.
Civilians look to jihadists for support the state doesn’t provide. Jihadist groups often understand the social grievances of local communities. A recent study by the peacebuilding charity International Alert attributes the rise in violent extremism in the Sahel to weak states rather than religious ideology.
Civilians are becoming casualties of security forces. These forces add to the insecurity by killing civilians during counter-terrorism operations. In Burkina Faso, military forces are killing three times more civilians than jihadists.
Displacement, food insecurity, and other humanitarian crises are escalating, but resources to respond are lacking. Some 5.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, and the new violence is “compounding” already existing needs and “threatening civilians’ lives and livelihoods”, a UN official said.
According to data from ACLED – a group that monitors and maps conflicts – civilian fatalities between November 2018 and March this year rose by an “alarming” 7,000 percent in Burkina Faso, 500 percent in Niger, and 300 percent in Mali, when compared to the same period the year before.
In early May, senior UN officials from all three countries warned that insecurity had “reached unprecedented levels”.
The situation has surprised many analysts and UN and government officials and is pushing an area already prone to droughts and floods to its limit, with 440,000 people forced from their homes by conflict in the past year alone.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now without access to education and healthcare as staff flee their posts; 1.8 million people are facing critical food insecurity.
“Many people affected by the violence were already facing serious difficulties,” said Mbaranga Gasarabwe, the UN resident coordinator in Mali. “For them it is a double disaster.”
The militants’ increased presence has sparked a violent backlash by the region’s overstretched security forces and fuelled a growing number of explosive inter-communal conflicts among ethnic groups accused of either supporting or opposing the jihadists. (Nigerian Tribune)
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The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has cautioned former President Olusegun Obasanjo against giving criminal activities ethnic and religious colouration.This point was made on Sunday by the Secretary General of ACF, Anthony Sani, during a chat with THISDAY in Kaduna, Kaduna Sani was reacting to assertion by Obasanjo, that herdsmen were plotting to ”Fulanise and Islamise” the country. Obasanjo had in a paper he presented on Saturday at the 2nd session of the 7th Synod of the Anglican Communion, Oleh Diocese, in the Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, was reported to have said the Boko Haram insurgents and herdsmen were plotting to ”Fulanise” and Islamise the country.
It maintained that giving ethnic and religious colouration to crime, will only embolden the criminals to continue with their evil deeds.
Sani said “former President Obasanjo may have his facts, for making such comments, saying that ”for me, I do not want us to give ethnic and religious coloration to the criminal activities of some people, lest we provide them with platforms upon which to stand and commit crimes, knowing it is almost impossible to prosecute religion and ethnicity“.
According to him, there are moderate Muslims who are the majority and are opposed to religious fanatics, stressing that “such moderate Muslims need to be enlisted such in the campaign against Islamic terrorists whose aims are not for piety but political, albeit attired in the garb of religious jihadists.”
Sani said ”if we offend the sensitivity of such moderate Muslims and push them to the side of the fanatics,we would be playing to the gallery by swallowing the bait put by the fanatics and that is what they want.
“That explains why President Obama won the Nobel Prize for a speech he made to Arabs in Egypt where he made clear distinction between Islam and terrorism cast in the mould of Islamisation.
“Also, it is that distinction that enabled a coalition of 66 countries of all faiths, led by America that has defeated IS in Syria and Iraq.
”I therefore submit that the nation should have common narrative that emphasizes the trite that Islamic terrorists are not furthering Islamic faith when they desecrate by way of continuous killings of innocent people.
“They merely use Islam as strategy to enable easy recruitment of gullible cannon fodders.
”West African countries should also regard all violent herdsmen who kill innocent people as criminals and treat them as such.No ethnic or religious coloration to purely criminal acts”. (Globalsentinel)
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Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo has been hit by at least two new blasts, hours after the country
was struck by a series of six bombings on churches and hotels that killed at least 156 people
and wounded about 400.
The seventh explosion occurred at a hotel near the national zoo in the capital, killing at least two more people, police said, while an eighth blast hit the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of Colombo.
There were no further details on what was targeted, police said.
Most of the victims were killed in three churches where worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services. Three other bombings struck luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Shangri-La – located in the heart of Colombo, killing at least 35 foreigners.
The first explosion was reported in a church located in the capital. The other blasts followed within half an hour.
One of the churches targeted was St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo. The other two were St
Sebastian’s in Negombo, about 30km from the capital and another in Batticaloa, 250km east
of the capital.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will hold an emergency meeting with the country’s top military officials of the National Security Council. He has also called for an emergency convening of the nation’s parliament on Monday.
St Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit the site in Kochchikade, Colombo [Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
Several people were killed as worshippers attended Easter service [Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said the injured were being evacuated while security
forces have cordoned off the areas and search operations are under way.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been blown almost entirely off in the blast.
World leaders condemn Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, some trying to help those with more serious
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
The Sri Lankan government has declared a nationwide curfew with immediate effect, junior
defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said.
“A curfew will be imposed until things settle down,” he told reporters in Colombo.
Government officials also said major social media networks and messaging apps, including
Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked inside the country to prevent misinformation and
“The government has decided to block all social media platforms in order to prevent incorrect
and wrong information being spread. This is only a temporary measure” Udaya R Seneviratne,
secretary to the president, said in a statement.
Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said the crisis was still unfolding.
“We’re hearing that Colombo national hospital is still receiving casualties brought in from the multiple locations.
In Pictures: Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings
“In terms of law enforcement, we’ve been hearing that all festivities have been canceled, that
security in and around the city has been tightened,” Fernandez reported.
“It’s still very open-ended … it’s too early [to speculate who is behind the attack] but security
in the capital and the airport has been stepped up following the attacks,” she added.
Rajiva Wijesinha, a former member of the Sri Lankan parliament, told Al Jazeera the
coordinated nature of the attacks has shocked the country.
“It’s actually extremely chilling. We’ve never had anything of this sort before. Sri Lanka had a
terrible time under Tamil Tiger terrorism for about 25 years and then there was a great sense of relief, which I am afraid the West has been fighting with us about, when we got rid of the tiger terrorists,” Rajiva said.
“But the tiger terrorists were never as well organised never and never quite as brilliant in synchronisation and this is obviously something on a much larger scale which is frankly quite terrifying and you know the reactions I’ve heard suggest people are moving into panic mode again,” he said.
“And that is understandable because of the range of these attacks and the concentration on the Christian churches and then the hotels as well suggest we are dealing with something really quite horrible,” Rajiva added.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Colombo, Ashwin Hemmathagama, a reporter with the Daily FT,
said the attacks were a blow to the country’s tourism sector.
“At the moment, police have cordoned off the areas and cautioned the public to remain vigilant. They have asked the public to stay indoors and avoid hasty decisions because investigations are under way.”
“After the civil war ended, almost a decade ago, the tourism industry was picking up.
Basically, everything was back to its current perspective, but unfortunately this kind of attack
will definitely cripple the tourism sector.”
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The English meaning of the word “colonialism” expressed a direct revelation of mischief makers or the mischievousness of certain group of individuals or group of cunning ambitious society with missions as…..”the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country or community, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically”.
One do not need further explanation on the missions of the above mentioned groups known as…either..CATTLE REARERS or ISLAMIC SCHOLARS/TEACHERS…. galvanizing around since late 18th Century till date within our contemporary country, now called Nigeria.
The historical accounts of GOBIRAWA NATIVES otherwise known as aboriginal Hausa people were of a Kingdom that spread round what we know presently as the core Northern Nigeria. The kingdom started between 9th/10th century ago, almost the same century the 2nd generational coming of king Oduduwa Dynasty of Oodua race started down the area known as South west of Nigeria (Detail Historical account of GOBIRAWA and Yoruba Nation to come soon……)
By late 1700s a powerful imperial king Nefata of Gobir/Hausa Kingdom, with ancient Alkalawa town as the capital of the Kingdom. King Nefata, however, loved his crown Prince Yumfa and the imperial king wanted the Prince to have additional spiritual power added to the existing native spiritual power.
Therefore, King Nefata decided to source for an Islamic scholar/teacher from the far away ancient Songhai empire. The Islamic teacher, which was later identified as Usman Dan Fodio
Mallam Dan Fodio was brought down to the ancient Alkalawa town, the ancestral capital of Gobirawa natives, now known as aboriginal Hausa race; to be teaching the crown Prince Yumfa Islamic lectures.
Dan Fodio was allowed access into the palace to integrate with people in both palace and within the community as the crown Prince’s Islamic teacher. Dan Fodio was also granted privileges around within the royal palaces within Gobirawa kingdom.
No too long, the imperial King Nefata died and crown Prince Yumfa was young and once student of Malam Dan Fodio, who pretended to be around the young king to offer advises and bring the young king to orders.
Tricking the system, Mallam Dan Fodio was smart to convinced the generality of Hausa communities to join him to end royalties and taxes to the palace and to the young king for their freedom. However, Dan Fodio stage manage a community war , which broke out in 1804 and Mallam Dan Fodio was supported by the majority of Hausa communities; whereas, the Young imperial king Yumfa was killed with other Hausa kings under the kingdom.
Thereafter, Mallam Dan Fodio and his Fulani warlords reneged on what they promised the Hausa communities and decided to killed anyone who dare them or asked questions.
Complementarily, Mallam Dan Fodio established caliphate instead of kingdom. Sultan to head all, Emirs to manage communities and towns; Serikis to run villages and small settlements; and by 1809 all the Emirs and Serikis were of Fulani blood and it has remained so till date.
Mallam Dan Fodio, as Sultan, mandated and swore that the Gobirawa natives or Hausa race must never again rule over their land.
Systematically, part of the colonized styles employed was…….as a Fulani descendants, they agreed never to allowed or teach strangers, especially Hausa people their Fulani language (FUFULDI) but to dropped their Fufuldi language within themselves and adopted to learn the Hausa language.
This language crossing and language secrecy within minority Fulani was employed to control the Hausa majority. Surprisingly, no full-blooded Hausa descendants could speak or understand Fulani’s Fufuldi language but all Fulanis speak Hausa fluently as their accepted second language.
Also, Fulanis do marry Hausa women but Fulani forbidden marriages between their women and Hausa men, except otherwise on a very coordinated and espionage missions on any Hausa man.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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As Nigerians prepare to go the polls in less than 30 days, former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, has urged the military to change strategy in order to defeat Boko Haram.
General Babangida also urged the military to ensure it remains apolitical and face its constitutional responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of the country from external aggressions.
In a statement issued in Minna, capital of Niger State, personally signed by him, yesterday, to mark this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration, he pointed out that “it is pertinent for the top echelons of our military to speedily evolve new combat strategy to bravely confront the callous terrorists who have continued to hold many parts of the North East, and in extension, Nigeria in ransom.
“As we prepare to celebrate this year’s Remembrance Day, we should not be oblivious of the fact that our military is presently faced with horrific challenges in the crucial counterinsurgency war, and activities of other blood-thirsty armed groups.
“To say the least, these ugly circumstances are not only heart-rending, but unacceptable.”
Babangida maintained that it is high time, therefore, “we seek to consolidate our gains and also, fortify our combat strength.
“Every year, our valiant Armed Forces majestically roll out their drums to honour our slain fallen heroes, with streams of organised fascinating events coming to a climax on January 15,” and added that “the 2019 edition is coming at a critical period when the teeming Nigerian electorate will go to the polls next month to elect their new leaders at various levels of government.
“In recent times, elections have tested our unity as a people, while also posing threats to our socicultural diversity and challenging our common destiny.
“I salute the uncommon bravery of our lion-hearted fallen heroes who paid the supreme price in their quest to defend our Fatherland. “Let me also commend our armed forces for their resilience over the years in maintaining peace in Nigeria, United Nations Missions, African Union and regional interventions.
“I urge all Nigerians to support our military at all times.
“While identifying with the officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces on the momentous occasion of this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, I wish all Nigerians happy new year,” Babangida said. (The Sun)
More than 10 soldiers were allegedly killed after the Islamic State West African Province faction of the Boko Haram insurgents attacked army bases in Kangarwa, Malumfatori and Arge areas of Borno State and Buni Gari, Yobe State, between Saturday and Monday.
The attacks started with Buni Gari on Saturday and spread to Malumfatori on Monday.
On Tuesday, our correspondent learnt that ISWAP fighters were also sighted in Mattari village in the Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, with fears of impending attacks on military locations in Jakana and Benishek.
In Malumfatori on Monday, our correspondent learnt that there was a fierce gun battle between government forces and the terrorists, who attempted to overrun the military base in the town.
Eight soldiers were allegedly killed when the terrorists attacked Buni Gari after which the terrorists reportedly stole a gun truck and destroyed an armoured vehicle.
The Nigerian Army confirmed that eight of its troops were killed in Buni Gari, noting that over 10 Boko Haram fighters were also killed by troops.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Sani Usman, said, “It is not true that Boko Haram is holding any area. Indeed, eight of our gallant troops paid the supreme price, while over 10 Boko Haram terrorists were killed by the troops during the encounter at Buni Gari.”
A military source confirmed Tuesday’s attacks by Boko Haram, saying the insurgents were believed to be having the upper hand in Kangarwa and Arge.
He said, “ISWAP has claimed responsibility for the attacks on Buni Gari and Arge. They seem to have taken over some communities in the two areas. Also in Mattari village in the Konduga LGA, Boko Haram fighters were seen gathering on Tuesday.
“The location is a few miles to Jakana or Benishek. There are military facilities in both areas.”
Meanwhile, the number of casualties of the Malumfatori gun battle between the insurgents and troops could not be confirmed by our correspondent as of press time. However, unconfirmed reports said both sides recorded deaths and injuries.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, on Monday, directed that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, to remain in the North-East until the security situation in the region improves.
Dan-Ali also said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the “emergency procurement of critical equipment” for the armed forces to be more efficient.
“The CDS and the army chief were also mandated to effect changes in the operational commands of Operations Delta Safe, Lafiya Dole, Sharan Daji and Awatse. This is to enable them to meet up with the current threats and security challenges in their areas of responsibility,” the minister’s Public Relations Officer Col Tukur Gusau said. (Punch)
Boko Haram terrorists, in what appears to be an unending onslaught on locations of the Nigerian Army, on Wednesday evening attacked the troops’ base in Damasak, Borno State, resulting in a heavy gunfire which lasted for several hours.
The army has confirmed the attack, saying troops of 145 Battalion in Damasak, withstood the insurgents and killed scores of them in the firefight.
The army was, however, silent on the number of casualties sustained on the side of the troops.
Damasak is a town in the Mobbar Local Government Area, some 146 Kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital.
It will be recalled that the Boko Haram insurgents only last week attacked troops’ location in Gudumbali in the Guzamala LGA and Baga in the Kukawa LGA, resulting in an undisclosed number of casualties on both sides.
The army’s Director of Public Relations and Information, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, on Thursday confirmed that “many Boko Haram terrorists” were killed in the attack on troops’ location in Damasak.
He said, “Troops of 145 Battalion in Damasak engaged the Boko Haram terrorists who came to attack their location at about 6pm on Wednesday. This resulted into a fierce battle.
“The troops engaged and subdued the terrorists in Damasak following a superior firepower. The troops’ aggressive posture, tactics and marksmanship resulted in the neutralising of many Boko Haram terrorists.
“Consequently, the army wishes to state that the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East part of the country is yielding a positive result.
“We, therefore, advise members of the public, particularly residents of the affected areas, to go about their legitimate businesses as the army will continue to protect lives and property of citizens at all times.” (Punch)
The United Nations has said that the Federal Government paid a huge ransom to Boko Haram for the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls in March 2018.
The government had denied reports that it paid millions of Euros for the release of the girls, noting that the hostages were released in exchange for detained Boko Haram commanders.
But the UN report stated that ransom from abductions, donations from charity groups and the cash economy were fueling the bloody activities of the Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin region.
These were contained in the 22nd Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, pursuant to resolution 2368 (2017) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated individuals and entities.
The report said the number of doctrinally based non-governmental organisations sending funds to local terrorist groups was growing, and the Member States were concerned that radicalisation was increasing the threat level in the Sahel.
The report, which was submitted to the Security Council Committee said, “Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province have had a similar impact in their areas of control, including the Lake Chad basin.
“The predominance in the region of the cash economy, without controls, is conducive to terrorist groups funded by extortion, charitable donations, smuggling, remittances and kidnapping.”
It added, “In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on 18 February 2018 and released by ISWAP on 21 March in exchange for a large ransom payment.”
The report was signed by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team and Kairat Umarov, Chair, Security Council Committee.
The UN Security Council committee on al Qaeda sanctions blacklisted and imposed sanctions on the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in 2014 after the insurgents kidnapped more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls.
The designation, which came into effect after no objections were raised by the Security Council’s 15 members, subjected Boko Haram to UN sanctions, including an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban. (Punch)