by Ola Audu
Borno state citizens under the aegis of Borno Elders Forum, led by Gaji Galtimari, a retired ambassador, have accused the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan of deliberately allowing Boko Haram to massacre the people of Northeast Nigeria.
They therefore want Mr. Jonathan and his service chiefs tried for genocide.
The elders said the confession by the immediate Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, a retired Air Vice Marshall, that he presided over an ill-equipped military during his tenure, has exposed the wicked motives of the federal government of Nigeria under President Goodluck Jonathan to annihilate the northeast region by pushing soldiers to fight Boko Haram with faulty weapons.
The group said Mr. Badeh, despite being a son of the northeast, did not act well by remaining in office as defence chief when he knew the soldiers deployed to combat Boko Haram had no better weapons than the enemy.
The elders also advised Mr. Jonathan to apologise to Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, who was called all names when he blew the whistle that Nigerian solders were being outgunned by the Boko Haram terrorists because they lacked the right weapons and motivation to face the well-armed terrorists.
The aggrieved elders want a list of all Borno citizens affected by the insurgency compiled, while family members of those killed should be compensated “for the deliberate killing of their relations”.
They also lampooned the past government and the military for deliberately pushing soldiers to slaughter, even as they said all the families of the fallen soldiers must be compensated adequately and declared as national heroes.
The full text of the press statement signed by Ambassador Gaji Galtimari, as the chairman of the Borno Elders Forum, reads;
“The Borno Elders Forum has listened to live comments and read reports on Newspapers and online media platforms, observing with keen interest, some revelations made by immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Retired Air Chief Marshall Alex Subundu Badeh at his ceremonial pull out from service on Thursday, 30th July, 2015, at a senior Military Barrack in Abuja, saying without mincing words that he (Badeh) presided over a military, that was ill equipped and its troops poorly motivated. Cover headlines of the Daily Trust, Leadership and Punch Newspapers of Friday, July 31st, 2015, adequately reported Badeh saying this, in addition to reports by Channels Television, all of which were never denied by the former Chief of Defence Staff.
“The Borno Elders Forum found Badeh’s comments very revealing, an eye opener, a precursor to judgement day and extremely disturbing.
“As Chief of Defence Staff under His Excellency, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, Alex Badeh was not just the most senior serving military man and head of all serving military men in Nigeria, he was also in the best position to know the State of affairs regarding the provision of military supplies and motivation of troops.
“What particularly baffles the Borno Elders Forum was that at some point in 2014, the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, had said it publicly after assessing the true situation as the man on ground, that troops deployed in the fight against insurgents seriously lacked and required better military equipment and that those at battle fronts were poorly motivated. Several voices were raised in support of the Governor’s position.
“The Governor’s comments were completely rebuffed by the then President of Nigeria who went as far as threatening to withdraw soldiers from Borno as he spoke on live television interview relayed by the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, at a Presidential Media Chat. Not only did the President rebuke the Governor and by extension, the people of Borno State, his aides followed suite and roundly condemned the Governor. The Borno Elders Forum deliberately refused to make any comment at that time because the Forum thought that as Commander in Chief, President Jonathan was in the best position to speak on the capacity of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Forum remained silent out of wisdom and not to complicate matters.
“To our very rude shock, it turned out on Thursday, coming from an authoritative mouth, that indeed the Governor was absolutely right after all. He has been vindicated by no less a person but the then Chief of Defence Staff who was the symbol of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“In the light of the revelation by the former Chief of Defence Staff, the Borno Elders Forum therefore make the following demands from the Federal Government and the United Nations and the International community:
1. A National Judicial Commission of Enquiry under an incorruptible judge from preferably the Southern Nigeria be set up to ask the immediate past President questions on why his administration refused to provide the military with the required functional and superior equipment whereas our sons and daughters were exposed to mass murder, severe injuries and grave destructions of our communities
2. If the former Government is found wanting it should be charged for genocide against the people of Borno State or at least criminal negligence at the International Criminal Court of Justice.
3. The retired CDS retired should also be asked why he kept silent when the military under his command was not provided with the right equipment. He had the option of speaking or resigning as he ought to have done in order to draw attention of the world and by that he would have saved lives of Borno people.
4. A list of citizens of Borno State killed from the time the issue of military capacity became in question, is compiled and relations of those killed are fully compensated for the death of their loved ones as a result of criminal negligence.
5. A list of soldiers sent on missions without being properly equipped and exposed to death at different battle fronts in Borno State, is also compiled and that they are specifically celebrated with their survivors fully compensated since their bread winners died not just in combat but out of negligence of those in authority.
6. An unreserved apology is tendered by the immediate past President and his service chiefs to the people of Borno State, especially those lost relations and also to Governor Kashim Shettima for all the humiliation he was made to suffer for telling the truth about capacity of the military at that time.
7. The President Muhammadu Buhari administration in constitutional collaboration with the National Assembly considers the need to set up a Presidential Armed Forces Capacity Monitoring and Evaluation Unit which could be directly supervised by the President, Commander In Chief in order to at all times, have accurate data of the capacity of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, monitoring military procurements and hardwares and their deployments, so as to avert future discrepancies unless if of course, there is already an established system of this nature.
8. The current service chiefs should learn from their predecessors by building on their successes and avoiding their mistakes with regards to refusal to tell the nation the true situation of things where political leaders fail to meet critical needs of the military on matters of national security.
“Finally, the Borno Elders Forum salute soldiers who laid their lives in defense of our sons and daughters. We remember them always for their supreme sacrifices, pray for the repose of their souls and the welfare of their survivors. We also salute all patriotic officers of all categories who genuinely worked with troops leading to the liberation of all captured territories. These officers include those who worked under the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and those working under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“We urge all sons and daughters of Borno State wherever they are to continually accord 100 percent support to our gallant armed forces and pray for them to succeed in their national assignment of keeping Borno safe and secured. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to remain focused and not to be distracted in the fight against insurgency. We all Governor Kashim Shettima to continually accord complete cooperation to the Federal Government and complement the efforts of the Federal Government where necessary. We pray that peace returns to Borno, the entire northeast and Nigeria at large. May Allah bless our dear Borno State, our sons and daughters and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”