Archive for November, 2014

By Prince Charles DicksonNational-Assembly1

The entire Nigerian state last week was treated to the movie “scaling gates”…a production of the legislative arm of government.

The incident, which saw members of the House of Representatives locked out, attempt to get in, by scaling the gates of the “hallowed” chambers.

I will spare us the details we know, and quickly share this take by a friend…Phil

When it was Chibok abducted girls, nobody climbed the gate, when it was mass killings of innocent Nigerians in Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, Plateau, Taraba, Bauchi, Madalla and the two Abuja Bomb blasts, nobody thought it wise to climb the gate and sign in for impeachment.

Our schools were closed down by long strike action; nobody cared to climb the gate. The bring back our girls protestants have been sleeping on the streets for months in hope to get our Government free those girls from the chains of their captors, nobody still scaled the gate or care to collect impeachment signatures against the president.

Our Health care is almost in shambles, justice system trying hard to breathe, security of lives and properties zero; yet, nobody climbed the fence or gathered signatures for impeachment.

There are Displaced persons in almost eight LGAs in Adamawa state, you find them sleeping in cold on the streets of Yola, destitute in all things, yet, nobody scaled the fence or signed for impeachment.

Now, “them them” fight, “them them” were locked outside, they fought their way through the fence, survived small tear gas and moved in to protect their seats and “rights”.

It is all about them after all…When will it be about the people, when will it be about our missing aged parents and children, when will it be about the ordinary common man killed, displaced and denied justice, when will it be about Nigerians?

When will they climb the fence in protest to bring back justice, quality education, good and affordable healthcare…When will they scale the fence because of Nigerians on the streets? When will they gather signatures to impeach the President because he failed in providing the primary role of Government and not because of selfish power tussle? When will they break through fence and take the tear gas because of you and I?

In February of this year I wrote an admonition in which I asked what does a Nigerian governor do, so let me in the same vein ask what does a Nigerian legislator do?

A Nigerian legislator is Nigerian, he often than not is an indigene of the area he supposedly represents.

In rare cases, we know legislators have actually hailed from another state, and in those cases we have kept the matter under the realm of gossip and conjectures.

Well, is my admonition about where legislators come from? Certainly not! But let’s share this learning together in the next few paragraphs.

To the grouse then, what do these men and women do, what really is the job of a legislator…Nigeria has 469 of them, split into two chambers, from two major parties, the PDP and the APC.

What do these men and few women contribute to nation building or even senatorial zone building?

On a personal note, these men are entitled to a four wives if Muslim, and a wife if a Christian, but scores of then keep a convent/harem of concubines, girlfriends and mistresses, at least not any has been caught ‘gaying’. In other words, as a legislator in Nigeria you cannot/should not be faithful at home, by extension you owe those you represent very little and owe much to your harem/party and godfathers.

It is not so much about what these legislators do, as in also what they do not do. These legislators have dozens of aides, ranging from 30-45, they are entitled to senior special assistants/special assistants/advisers (both senior and junior)/countless aides and yes consultants on various subject matters.

Empty constituency project offices…that function only when they choose to.

How many days a year do they really do the job of legislating, when many days are spent on recess? The rest is spent gallivanting, wedding, naming ceremony, birthday, and death-day, they attend meetings, left right and center, and flex in caucus meetings of how to remove Jonathan, or how to deceive him and make more money.

Off course all these happen when they are not in Kosovo, Kabul or Khazastan on one hindsight or foresight committee work.

How many of these honorables and distinguished have in the last four years spent an average of 4 hours everyday, 15 days a month and 9 months a year in the office. But trust me, these ‘guys’ and the ‘chicks’ amongst them are working so HARD, indeed very HARD.

Our Senators and Representatives tell us how difficult the art of making laws are, and you sure would agree, contending with the opposition, with political enemies from different camps, and sure spending all that billions that make them one of the most expensive Parliament must be one hell of a job.

We keep arguing and debating on how much they earn for all the hard work? And very few can say exactly. No wonder every one of them now has to learn the art and act of fence scaling.

I watch people say X, Y, Z governor or Minister is doing well, and I ask who grades the legislators, and what are the yardsticks.

Nigerian Senators with many cars, without kids in public schools, and none with less than N10M, show that senator, then I will show you a lazy lawmaker. Today in assets and cash there is no legislator who is not a billionaire, and that’s 109 Senators and 360 Representatives, all hardworking billionaires.

Like I used governors as guinea pigs, so also our legislators across the states. However it is really about our leaders, what do our councilor men/women do, how about the chairmen, how has our ministers impacted our lives?

We need to start asking questions, we need to demand answers to issues of governance.

An old axiom speaks of not touching a blind man’s hand while eating with him…for how long our leaders will continue to touch our hands while the eat–only time will tell.

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Democracy For Sale In Nigeria

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

A couple of weeks ago there was a story about Mr. Buhari weeping about the high cost of buying the APC nomination forms (N27.5 million). It was alleged that he had to take out a loan to do so. In another story it was reported that Mr. Jonathan was going to buy PDP nomination form. I think the reported amount was around N25 million. My highly respected colleague, MOE (Dr. Mo Eneh) was caught asking if Mr. Chime has bought PDP’s senate nomination form or if Mr. Ekweremadu has done the same. It is therefore safe to say that in Nigeria electoral nomination forms are for sale. Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Buhari, Mr. Moe Eneh, et al use the lingo.

National-Assembly1

I do not know very well how this works out in practice but it seems that one “buys” the forms and fills it out and returns it to be processed. If one buys the form and finds out that he is not able to meet the requirements his N27.5 million goes down the tube. Imagine that! A million is a million, is a large amount of money. So a Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba can never even dream of seeing what the requirements for presidency are much less trying to run. And I believe that he cannot run as an independent either. So only the millionaires and billionaires should entertain the idea of running for office. They are the only ones who can afford to find out the requirements.

The way it works in other climes is if you are thinking of running you download the nomination forms free from a website. You fill the forms out and try to provide the requirements demanded and if you think you have met the demands you return the forms with the “PROCESSING FEES.” The processing fees are to cover the cost of checking you documents for accuracy. It is usually a nominal amount that ordinary party members can afford. So a Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba if he feels the bug can download the Republican nomination form and complete it and return it with the fees (which I can afford) and wait for results which in this case is that I am not qualified because “records show that you were not born in US per section so-so-and-so of the constitution.” I would be out a few hundred dollars.

What difference does the “Nigerian way” make. The Igbo say that if one wants to wipe out murders one must have a conversation with blacksmiths (a choba isi ochu I jee n’uzu). In this case if one wants to find the roots of corruption one must start with the political parties – all of them.

If a Mr. Buhari raises the N27 million through donations and loans, the loans must be paid off during his time in office. How would he pay it off? The most logical source would be from his services to the country. You can see where I am going with this. If Mr. Jonathan does not need a loan to buy the form, where did his money come from? We know he was a university professor, a deputy governor and now the president. We can say that he was not a millionaire when he taught college courses.

What I say about the presidential candidates applies to the senate races, the gubernatorial, House, etc. That is the number of people who would have their hands in the treasury. There cannot be checks and balances since the checkers and the balancers are in the same boat.
So if we want to wipe out corruption we must start at the root, the political party nomination standards. If parties charge tens of millions of naira for the chance to bear their party flags, the purchasers must recoup their investments; if there is a quid here, there must be a pro quo somewhere.

There is a silver lining in these stories. Mr. Buhari was caught weeping at the high cost. I give him considerable credit for seeing the evil in Nigeria’s democracy. This could be reason enough to vote for him hoping that he would do something about it. But then he has other heavy baggage, the least of which is not his ability to govern a multi ethic, multi religious country like Nigeria.

The discussion about murders must start with a conversation with black smiths.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
Boston, Massachusetts
November 15, 2014

By Prince Charles Dickson

anger

The Indians have a proverb that literally means, “Your future does not depend on the lines of your hands, because people who do not have hands also have a future”. It means, it is better to do your work than to be superstitious and wait for the right time.

There’s a touch of superstition that somehow, it’s all going to work out fine for Nigeria. Yet very little has changed in the system, we are still doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I may be an unrepentant critic but as always I believe that we are making some form of progress albeit it ridiculously slow and expectedly on a four steps backward and two forward ratio.

With news headlines like: *Boko Haram: Senate, Army Chief in shouting match; *Joint Military-Hunters Force recaptures Mubi; and Witches promise end of Boko Haram…

Today, Nigerians are still looking for Navy seals, any hope that we may get marines in any arm of our security apparatus. As the issues for contestation remain welfare, training, orientation, recruitment and corruption.

But now as aptly put by Adamu Adamu, our military is a picture of the “Long Distance runners of Gwoza, and I add Mubi…Our Navy seals in Nigeria remain poorly remunerated, not in any way empowered or protected. Its true that we are very quick to attack the army and other arms of our security but, there are so many unanswered questions.

When last did you visit a police barrack, or an army barrack, and then visit those high profile farms that belong to some thieving general or politicians.

I did a sample study of a barrack and its one police man to a pregnant wife, six children, several brothers and sisters all holed up in one room kids ranging from ages 6-15, four out of school because of school fees and you put same man with a gun and bullets without much of a training and ask him to get you Osama bin Nigeria. That is beside the fact that that barracks has had no light in 4 months.

In one of those reports commissioned by the last administration there was a suggestion that the uniforms of policemen be sewn without pockets, and how it would reduce the N20 syndrome. I laughed and laughed till I could no longer, as I wondered that maybe the new blue like uniform which is the preserve of senior officers may also help in them solving crimes.

The Nigerian security apparatus is underpaid, unmotivated because many a times all the money ends up in the ogas private account, so often, our case is like entrusting your vegetable leaves to a goat.

Our dark shade wearing DSS men are not spared, as very little has been made in terms of one major breakthrough case, rather it one month, one high profile drama.

When did you see a crime scene in Nigeria however every several kilometres become a crime scene and is cordoned because a government official is passing?

How many functional helicopters do the Nigerian Police or army possess, especially these days that they are all crashing in Adamawa state. What does the elite arm of the army or armed forces really do, when was the last time the DMI, NIA, or SSS brief Nigerians of a major achievement despite all the billions that go into these social bodies.

We have no conclusion into all the bombings, the boko haram dudes are boosting everywhere posting several gigabytes of video clips while many blacks in the country have no wifi facility, for first hand reports on criminal activities one has to trust an Isi Ewu and beer joint or the free newspaper readers parliament.

My friend had to comment on her facebook network some years back of palpable tension she went through because a policeman greeted her politely and wished her a blessed day. It was scary, as well as an anomaly.

In our beloved Nigeria, people join our seals as a way out of poverty, a means to an end, not because they really care about a job to be done. When a layman could anticipate trouble days ahead, just based on local grapevine and same occurs you begin to wonder what does the National Security Adviser do, and what does the IG do…arrest activists, or get all wired up over a case of two-fighting because of a girlfriend or spend time chasing tint car driving Nigerians.

Nigerians deserve better but are we collectively asking for better or simply expecting that it will turn out fine. Miracles aren’t magic. Our attitude of ‘he is not my Son-in-law, but my daughter’s husband’ will not save us.

The fact does not change by saying it in a different way, we are not the worst in crime rate, nowhere near South Africa, or some European nations, but what is the value of the life of a Nigerian, and how much effort is the Jonathan administration willing to put to getting us a Nigerian Navy Seal unit, we can be proud of?

We cannot tolerate an army chief whose enclave is taken, and then he still sticks to his commission, we cannot keep up the tales of hunters killing 80 Boko Haram insurgents, but we have to keep the conversation, we have to keep the criticism positive and not go down on our oars till we get there, this is my admonishment, our security apparatus cannot be run by local vigilantes, hunters, witches and wizards, it is our responsibility to get value for the campaign promises of politicians in Nigerian…They promised security, let us demand it from them, or else we all will continue to die, one after the other, till when–Only time will tell.

By Siobhan O’Grady

With Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announcing his candidacy for the 2015 election and the militant group Boko Haram’s bloody campaign against the government showing no sign of letting up, Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington is lashing out at the United States for not providing sufficient military aid.

Jonathan’s failure to stem the militant group’s territorial advances will certainly dog him on the campaign trail.

But never fear, one of his lieutenants has a campaign strategy. “There is no use giving us the type of support that enables us to deliver light jabs to the terrorists when what we need to give them is the killer punch,” Nigerian Ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 11. “Boko Haram is Nigeria’s equivalent of ISIS.”

mad shekau

As Jonathan launched his campaign in Abuja on Tuesday, Boko Haram was once again pushing forward, claiming control of another small town in Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria and adding to the vast amount of territory the group has captured since 2009. Mentioning the terrorist organization only briefly, Jonathan instead spoke about advances in infrastructure, education, and government transparency, which he considers some of his greatest accomplishments since coming to office in 2010.

Regarding Boko Haram, he merely reiterated unfulfilled promises. “I will do everything humanly possible to end this criminal violence in our nation.”

But under Jonathan’s watch, the group has expanded its area of operation across Nigeria’s northern states and has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed at least 3,000 people and displaced thousands more. The group also kidnapped 270 schoolgirls, an audacious move that captured the world’s attention and provoked local protests against Jonathan’s government.

And Boko Haram’s terrorist campaign continues. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least 46 people and injured dozens more at a school assembly in Yobe state. Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, Yobe is one of the regions most affected by Boko Haram’s terrorism.

The Nigerian government launched a heavy-handed military response to the group’s attacks — a response that human rights groups contend is rife with abuse and has little to show for it. Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 documented “indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture, and extra-judicial killing of those suspected to be supporters or members of the Islamist group.” In 2013, the Associated Press reported that the Nigerian military was responsible for the deaths of thousands of detainees in the country’s northeast — whether by killing them or letting them die in detention — racking up more victims than even Boko Haram.

Back in Washington, Adefuye told the foreign-policy establishment that such allegations aim to embarrass Jonathan and create more political instability ahead of February’s presidential election.

“I say with all sense of responsibility that allegations of human right violations are based on rumors, hearsays, and exaggerated accounts of clashes between the Nigerian forces and Boko Haram fighters,” he said.

“We find it difficult to understand how and why, in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly,” Adefuye piled on.

Adefuye said reports of abuse and fraud in the military units allegedly fighting Boko Haram are undermining Nigeria’s request for arms from the United States.

A fact sheet published by the White House in October outlined U.S. efforts to assist the Nigerian government in its battle against the militant group, which includes dispatching a team to Abuja to share intelligence and aid in finding the kidnapped schoolgirls. In August, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Nigeria into the Security Governance Initiative, a new Obama administration program that, among other things, funds efforts to counter rising threats there. Additionally, the U.S. State and Defense departments established a $40 million Global Security Contingency Fund for Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.

An Obama administration official told Reuters that Washington remains committed to helping Nigeria address not only the threat of Boko Haram but also its efforts to free Boko Haram’s kidnapped victims.

But with little room to budge on U.S. laws that prevent the government from providing arms to militaries accused of human rights violations, what the United States has been able to provide just isn’t good enough for Adefuye.

First published on blog foreign policy.com

By Adan E. Suazo

There is much to say about the on-going crisis in Nigeria, but little has been mentioned that goes beyond the kidnapping of a group of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram organization and the recent bombing of an Abuja mall. Nigeria has traditionally been a prosperous country in the region, wealth mostly driven by its strong energy industry.

It is thus baffling to see the state of Nigeria being brought to its knees by a rebel movement that advocates anti-western discourse. How can such a strong state be so frail in the face of an armed insurgency? What could have brought about the yearning for groups such as Boko Haram to exist as extra-legal entities that defy the established order?

Who is responsible for Boko Haram?

Who is responsible for Boko Haram?

This article will endeavour to answer these questions by analyzing the current state of the country’s extractive practices, and juxtapose it with its delivery of government services. The argument proposed in this article is that unsustainable resource exploitation by western oil companies played a role in the development of grievances that subsequently resulted in the creation of rebel groups in Nigeria. As the country’s economy becomes increasingly specialized around the energy industry, individuals and groups whose livelihoods are dependent on subsistence practices become victims of the environmental effects of resource exploitation, making them more prone to generating grievances.

Nigeria’s reliance on extractive practices is worth noting. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, energy products in Nigeria accounted for nearly 94% of its exports in 2013. Such products are the result of the extraction of non-renewable resources such as crude petroleum, petroleum gas and to a lesser extent, the production of refined petroleum. The energy industry in Nigeria plays a significant role in the generation of overall wealth in the country, accounting for 14% of its GDP in 2013, and producing more than $100 billion in government revenue that same year.

The availability of the Nigerian government’s revenue however does not see itself fully reflected in other economic indicators. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Nigeria’s GDP per Capita has steadily increased from $1,750 in 2005 to $2,135 in 2010, while indicators such as the country’s income index have followed a similar increase from 0.404 to 0.437 during the same period. Similarly, data on government expenditure on public and health services shows a mixed pattern. Between 2005 and 2006, no variation was found in the budget for health and public services (1.9% of GDP). However, a modest 0.5% increase was provided in 2007, an amount that was subsequently unaltered in 2008. Between 2008 and 2010, there is a decreasing pattern of expenditure, whereby budgetary spending was reduced from 2.4% in 2008 to 1.9% in 2010, the same percentage allocated for these services in 2005. While following a generally increasing trend, it is necessary to point out that these surges were modest at best, and that they should be considered only as tendencies of a general, steadfast economic performance, as opposed to determinants of economic well-being at the citizen level. While these indicators point to a healthy availability of resources, they pose serious doubts over the population’s access to them.

In theory, if the availability and accessibility of resources were relatively uniform, serious challenges could be posed to the idea that extra-legal groups in Nigeria, including Boko Haram, have been created in response to sluggish economic performance alone. As follows from the data above, there is a discrepancy between the existence of resources and access to them, whereby government expenditure on public services does not correspond with the revenue generated by sectors such as the energy industry.

There is one last issue that needs further scrutiny, and that is the very nature of Boko Haram as a rebel organization. Unlike other rebel groups, whose raison d’ être is explicitly connected with the improvement of current economic, political and social conditions, Boko Haram’s mandate is devoted to undermining groups that do not have a direct connection with Nigeria’s decision-making apparatuses. Western ideological views and culture permeate Boko Haram’s very reason to exist, which makes them different than other rebel groups, which lead their fights based on domestic and national issues. Furthermore, given that Nigeria’s energy industry is dominated by western companies, it opens additional space for questions to arise.

Under such a light, and given the heavy burden posed by oil exploration and exploitation on the quality of arable soil and drinking water, it is safe to say that environmental variables do have a causal relationship with the development of anti-western grievances in Nigeria. In an economy where multisectoriality is superseded by a one-industry model, individuals directly involved in the production of subsistence goods rarely benefit from such a model. Considering this trend, combined with the idea that western companies are directly involved in the depletion of the very resources necessary for the development of healthy and wide subsistence networks, it is not too adventurous to conclude that western oil exploitation in Nigeria was a factor in the development of grievances that subsequently led to the creation and growth of organizations such as Boko Haram.

If the argument presented here is true, then what options are left for peacemakers wanting to stop violence in Nigeria? As environmental factors such as climate change, land degradation and resource scarcity continue to take the forefront on the generation of organized violence, it is essential for decision-makers to reconceptualise the very idea of why individuals decide to take arms. Conventional streams of thought that typically phrase causal rationales for war in terms of economic, social or political variables fail to recognize the increasingly crucial role of environmental phenomena in conflict situations. What is perhaps more pressing is the yet-to-be institutionalized belief that we may no longer disassociate the economic, social and political conceptions of life from the environment. If this status quo remains, so will our collective path towards violence.

This article was originally published on Insight on Conflict. Insight on Conflict is Peace Direct’s online resource for local peacebuilding and human rights in conflict areas.

I Became Nigerian President

Posted: November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

I am going to become President of Nigeria; it is not a matter of if I win, but a case of when I win. I shall floor Jonathan, beat Atiku, defeat Buhari, and dismantle Kwankwaso, Nda-Isaiah in just one abracadabra. In one sweep I will. No matter the slide…I will win.

I will resume at the Villa. Trust me plenty people will go to Jail…not for few months but for life. I will let Nigerians know that whether you are a government thief or armed robber, you are a thief and you will be made a sacrifice for all to see…no plea bargain.

Infact the fear of jail will make you do…the Chinese pill (kill yourself as result of shame). Infact talking of shame, I shall restore shame back to public and national life. That will bring back a sense of accountability and integrity (We wish).

Not loosing hope on Nigeria

Not loosing hope on Nigeria

Just so you know now that I am canvassing your votes. There will be no courtesy visits during my tenure. I ‘ll be too busy working and sustaining the developments that will come with my administration.

Nigerians will not only experience 24/7 electricity but will also enjoy the honour of formal announcements before power outages via radio and sms. The entire current DISCO, prepaid and post owed rascality will stop.

I will reduce the current fuel pump price from N97 to N15. And trust me, more NNPC Mega stations will come on board almost at one per local government. We will tell our kids the story called “fuel subsidy”.

It will become a criminal offence for government officials to go abroad for treatment of boils they acquired from looting government treasuries. Public schools will once more become so attractive that no one will feel the need to attend the Bells, ABTI, Covenant and co Universities.

The word strike will only be operational when dealing with external aggressors. My government will bend MEND by providing quality healthcare, water, access roads and waterways, clear oil spills and ensure a high level of compliance by oil prospecting companies.

Infact, I will ensure that Oil is discovered in the North so that everyone can rest. I will banish quota, federal character and ban the use of public funds for pilgrimage to all lands whether holy or unholy. I will de-abujalize abuja. States will be strengthened according to the capacity and pace of its people, no more cheating, it will be ‘make your money, chop your money’. No more subventions or allocations.

Governors will in partnership with the National Assembly try so hard to impeach me because I will cancel security votes and then make the position of a legislator a part time job.

Leaders will learn to live in fear of failure. I will ensure that every Nigeria irrespective of creed and religion will work hard to find that milk and honey that keeps flowing only for a select few.

My administration will cease to bake cake, we will focus on chin-chin and no more wines, on the contrary we will all take Zobo and kunu.

I‘ll restore Nigeria’s pride in sports…our U16 will be boys that are really 14, 15 and 16, not married, shaving stick men with green passports that have false ages. Who said that Nigeria cannot work…I will resuscitate that feel good factor about us. Nigeria will not just be part of the World Cup but will get to the final, boxing, lawn tennis and other sports will breathe again.

We will be the envy of our neighbours who have lately reduced us to objects of laughter. We will not be the giant of Africa but the heartbeat of the Continent. We will restore pride back to our land.

Children will sing the national anthem again and march past their heroes with pride.

Under my administration Nigerians will spend coins again; we will have Nigerians of Ibo extractions, Yoruba ethnic origins and Hausas, Fulanis, Ijaws, Ibibios, Nupes, etc.

My administration will learn, borrow and use technology from other lands, not all the current anomaly of Chinese bakery, Lebanese eatery and Indian shops.

I will make sure that the resource curse also known as the paradox of plenty will be cured. There will be no oil wells for sale anymore.

I will win and change will occur because I will pull in the everyday people, who all of a sudden will have nothing to lose and everything to care for.

Let me end with this tale, a man was hanging out and drinking heavily alone in a bar miles from his house at about 11pm. He decided to leave for his house but no taxi on that route at that time of the night, so he decided to hitch a ride home if possible.

It started raining heavily and suddenly a range rover jeep appeared by his side. He quickly jumped into the passengers’ side and closed the door then the car started moving, and just when he was about to say thank you to the driver, he discovered there was no one in the car, but it was moving. He started to freak out but was too scared to jump out of a moving vehicle. When the car got to a bend, a hand came in through the driver’s window and turned the steering wheel.

This happened twice and on the third time he totally freaked out, the drinks cleared from his eyes and he jumped out of the car screaming and landed in a ditch full of rainwater. He got up and ran for his dear life and entered the nearest bar he found.

After downing 4 bottles of Guinness Stout and narrating his ghost story to anyone who cared to listen, three guys just walked into the same bar all drenched in rainwater. One of them pointed at him and said.

“John, isn’t that the mad man who entered the car while we were pushing it?”

Will I succeed, hmmmmmm, I can almost hear that whisper in your heart say impossible, maybe I am equally drunk, because I shall be fighting forces both within and outside. It won’t be easy because I‘ll be touching the very core foundation of a system ridden with rot, but will I become President—Only time will tell

By Prince Charles Dickson

Nneka Nwokolo last saw her brother, Felix Nwokolo, a Corporal in the Nigerian Army, alive in 2013 when she visited him at the Maxwell Khobe Barracks, Rukuba, Plateau State in North central Nigeria.

That was before he was deployed to Maimalari Cantonment, the headquarters of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Borno state. But Felix has vanished into thin air since early 2014 and the search for the young soldier has completely disrupted the life of his sister.

Today, she lives her life shuttling between three cities – Enugu in the Southeast, Abuja, the Nigerian capital and Borno, in the terrorist – ravaged Northeast.

An indigene of Enugu State, Nneka is now a frequent visitor at the Defence House and the Army Headquarters in Abuja as well as military facilities in Borno State as she battles to get the real story of what happened to her brother.

Felix is one of many missing Nigerian soldiers who remain unaccounted for, casualty of the war against Boko Haram insurgents.

By one estimate, nearly 100 Nigerian soldiers have been missing in action and unaccounted for in the last two years, while 574 have been killed.

Ibrahim Kudu is also a Corporal serving in Maiduguri, Borno. He showed this reporter a clip in which was a soldier’s half-cut arm. “That is Felix’ arm. We know because he always wore this Christian thing on his hand. I was lucky, I missed that operation because a day before I fell and broke my leg so I was no use,” he said. Kudu’s contention, and by extension the army’s, is that Felix was killed in battle and that only pieces of his body were recovered.

But Nneka simply refuses to agree, demanding to see his corpse.

“Brother Felix is not dead, I want to see his corpse, he is our all,” she said in tears.

There are several people like Nneka, family members of soldiers who have effectively gone missing while serving in the Nigerian Amy and these people are coming together to ask questions and force military authorities to provide answers.

“We know our relatives have been tortured and killed by Boko Haram. We have found each other in pain, and we will fight for justice,” said Adebimpe Fadare, mother of a missing soldier.

Military authorities, speaking to this reporter, agreed that there are cases where bodies of its men killed in action cannot be identified due to several reasons and rare cases where bodies cannot be retrieved, but insisted that families were made aware of the truth.

Mass grave

Adamu Attahiru is a member of the local youth vigilante group popularly called Civilian JTF in Maiduguri and he told our reporter that when the Boko Haram hostilities became tough last year, several soldiers were killed and many others abducted by the insurgents.

Often, he disclosed, the bodies of soldiers killed were so badly mutilated that one could barely recognize them and they were buried in mass graves by the insurgents.

Attahiru knows because his brother, a soldier, disappeared last year and has not been seen till date.

“I used to go to the army base to see if my brother was alive. I went back every day. I received threats. I kept going. But no news,” he said.

“I have not given up hope. We try to get ourselves organized because there are many of us. But it is not easy, we all have gory stories to tell, especially of neglect by the Nigerian army,” he added despondently.

Mass graves
Recently a mass grave was discovered after the army raided a Boko Haram camp. To the shock of the soldiers almost all the bodies in the grave were in Nigerian military gear. After the bodies were exhumed, it was hoped that DNA tests would be carried out on them to determine their identity.

A local source that was part of the exhumation exercise said that he heard that some of the soldiers in one of the grave were from Kur Mohammed Barracks in Bama, Borno State.

Fadare, whose son has been missing for over a year, said that his colleagues confirmed that on more than two occasions mass graves were discovered by Nigerian troops and apart from civilians, soldiers were part of the very decomposed bodies found in them. She said that she is not aware of any effort in getting the identity of the soldiers.

“We were told by a team from Abuja that we would be informed, but its over six months now,” she added.

Binta Maina, like Fadare, is also a grieving mother. Her only son, Abu, a Corporal, has been missing since his battalion was ambushed in Yobe State last year. Speaking to the sad looking woman, it was obvious that she was at her wit’s end. “We hired a lawyer and have spent so much. I am from Kaduna State and Mama (referring to Fadare) has been our strength, she has been in Borno with us for almost eight months, as we battle the army, asking questions and looking for answers,” Maina said.

Her hopes were once raised that she would at least get her son’s body when she was told that his body had been found but that hope has since been dashed, leaving her even more despondent.

“Indeed, a senior army office told me that they found Abu’s body but some paperwork needs to be done and his body released, but this is six months and still counting”, she narrated tearfully.

Justice for All
Investigations show that, indeed, the military has discovered the bodies of many Nigerian soldiers in mass graves, victims of Boko Haram’s mindless killing sprees. Three such graves were shown to this reporter in Bulabulin, Aljajeri, and Nganaram areas of Borno State.

However, even with the discovery of such bodies, bureaucracy and an apparent lack of capacity on the part of military authorities to determine the identities of the bodies, pose a huge problem.

The director, Army Public Relations, Olajide Laleye, a Brigadier General, explained the difficulty faced by the military in the matter.

“It is always difficult in these matters. Like Bassey Anderson, a sergeant who left his base and went to drink with his colleagues, he simply disappeared, and we have not seen the body and cannot properly place his status.”

“We cannot say that his body is one of the badly mutilated and decomposing ones we got, and we do not have the science of DNA yet,” he added.

However, when this reporter met Bassey’s wife in Damaturu, Yobe state, Mrs. Anderson contradicted the army spokesman’s position. “It is a lie, my husband does not drink. I do not know what happened to my husband. I know he was in Potiskum, Yobe at the makeshift camp they set up for them.”

“My husband could not just disappear. We want to know the truth. I want to know if he is alive or not. It is impossible to keep living this way,” she added. “Everyday I tell our kids, daddy would soon come back. Sadly, the army is not helping us I cannot return to Uyo.”

Soldiers’ rights
The issue of human rights violations by Nigerian troops, particularly in the war against insurgents in the Northeast, has been well documented and extensively reported by the media.

In fact, local and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have written volumes of reports about human right abuses perpetrated by Nigerian soldiers, including extra judicial killing.

However, even though such reports contain human right abuses and killings by Boko Haram insurgents, there is really no focus on the rights and sufferings of the soldier.

Who defends the rights of the Nigerian soldier, who is not even allowed to complain or disobey life orders even at the threat to his own life?

A security expert, Max Gbanite, believes that the war against insurgency is a two-way thing and adds that, sadly, the Nigerian military is looking at just conquering Boko Haram, at the expense of its men.

“Soldiers are dying and missing, there is at best a poor mechanism to account for its men, at worse, none.” While observing that the military is quick to take its men to court marshals with alacrity for alleged disobedience and mutiny, Gbanite wondered who would investigate the army for its shabby handling of the lives of its own men.

DNA Testing
Recently, the army revealed that it was establishing an Identification Center to store biometrics and other identity specimen of personnel to help in the recognition of men and officers when need arises.

In a document seen by this reporter, the ID Centre which was to be located at the Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja seems like an acceptance of guilt, as the army expressed dismay that “its officers die and are declared missing because of lack of a proper identity mechanism.”

“There is need to appropriately recognize and in many cases honour these men, rather than the current situation where individual corpses could not be identified therefore resulting in mass burial, robbing bereaved relatives the honour and satisfaction of seeing their loved ones a last time and leaving room for administrative anomalies embedded in lies and intrigues,” he document read in part.

Finally
So far some 574 soldiers have died, the Nigeria Security Tracker NST, a project of the Council on foreign Relations’ Africa Program records all Nigerian deaths by tracking the violence, and but army would not confirm figures and has no database since the conflict started.

But the military insists that it tries its best to protect the rights and welfare of its men whether alive or dead.

In defence of the military, the Director Defence Information, DDI, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, gave an example: “I was part of the condolence team that visited the family of late Flight Lt Akweke Nwakile who paid the price in a helicopter crash in Bama. “We gave him full military honours at the National Military Cemetery.

For us, the army takes serious measures for its lost ones. Even Nwalike was promoted posthumously,” he stated.

General Bitrus Kwaji, who is in charge of the Nigerian Welfare Limited/Guaranteed also said that the army is doing all it can to take care of the families of lost soldiers.

“We are doing our best. Once we have all the data, we pay out cheques to their next of kin.”

But for the family members of many missing soldiers, the issue of payment of entitlements does not even arise as the military has still not discovered what happened to them, thus categorizing them as “missing in action.”

This is the second report of our series, The Cost of Boko Haram War

This report was supported by Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative reporting