The United States government yesterday said that the Federal Government of Nigeria has failed in its fight against terrorism, adding that the failure was a result of the inability of the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to adequately equip and train security forces to contain violent extremist groups in the north who attacked religious freedom.
Making this known in the US International Religious Report for 2013, which was released in Washington, DC, yesterday, secretary of state John Kerry said that the federal government did not act swiftly or effectively to prevent or quell communal or religious-based violence and only occasionally investigated and prosecuted perpetrators of that violence.
“The government also failed to protect victims of violent attacks targeted because of their religious beliefs or for other reasons,” the report a copy of which was sent to our correspondent in New York said.
Citing instances, the report said legal proceedings against five police officers charged in 2011 with the extrajudicial killing of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf did not resume during the year, adding that the court was not in session on continuation dates set in February, March, May, and June after the presiding judge transferred to a different jurisdiction in 2012.
It stated further that there were no indictments or prosecutions following three fatal attacks on high-profile Muslim leaders in late 2012.
It pressed further that local and state authorities did not deliver adequate protection or post-attack relief to rural communities in the northeast, where Boko Haram killed villagers and burned churches throughout the year.
The report also berated reported discrimination and a systematic lack of protection by state governments, especially in central Nigeria, where communal violence rooted in decades-long competition for land pitted majority-Christian farmers against majority-Muslim cattle herders.
It added that federal, state, and local authorities did not effectively address underlying political, ethnic, and religious grievances leading to this violence.
“Recommendations from numerous government-sponsored panels for resolving ongoing ethno-religious disputes in the Middle Belt included establishing truth and reconciliation committees, redistricting cities, engaging in community sensitization, and ending the dichotomy between indigenes and settlers. Nationwide practice distinguished between indigenes, whose ethnic group was native to a location, and settlers, who had ethnic roots in another part of the country.
“Indigenes and settlers often belonged to different religious groups. Local authorities granted indigenes certain privileges, including preferential access to political positions, government employment, and lower school fees, based on a certificate attesting to indigene status. The federal government did not implement any recommendations despite ongoing calls by political and religious leaders to do so” the report read.
Furthermore, the US report noted that the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, or “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad” continued to commit violent acts in its quest to overthrow the government and impose its own religious and political beliefs throughout the country, especially in the north.
“Boko Haram killed more than 1,000 persons during the year. The group targeted a wide array of civilians and sites, including Christian and Muslim religious leaders, churches, and mosques, using assault rifles, bombs, improvised explosive devices, suicide car bombs, and suicide vests.
“An attack on the Emir of Kano in January was widely believed to be an attempt by Boko Haram to silence the anti-extremist Muslim leader, although the group did not officially claim responsibility. On September 28, Boko Haram killed at least 50 mostly Muslim students at a technical college in rural Yobe State. After this and other incidents, security forces faced public criticism for arriving at the scene hours after the assailants had fled.
“Government attempts to stop Boko Haram were largely ineffective. Actions taken by security forces under the state of emergency, declared in May in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, often increased the death toll, as bystanders were caught in crossfire during urban gunfights, security forces committed extrajudicial killings of suspected terrorists, and detainees died in custody,” the report noted.