Nigeria Matters

On The Killing Of Aid Workers By Boko Haram

A second aid worker held hostage by Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, was executed after a negotiation deadline purportedly expired. Hauwa Mohammed Liman, 24, was kidnapped by Boko Haram in March along with two other aid workers during an assault on a military base in Nigeria’s North-Eastern Borno State which resulted in the death of 11 people, including three aid workers. Liman, who was a midwife, had been working in a remote medical center in a displacement camp near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Liman is the second aid worker to have been killed by Boko Haram in recent times. Saifura Hussaini Khorsa, another aid worker, who was kidnapped in the same raid, was executed in September. A third aid worker kidnapped in that raid, Alice Loksha, remains in captivity along with Leah Sharibu, a 15-year-old student who was abducted in a separate incident in February.

As the civilized world continues mourning the painful passing on of these altruistic human beings, who died while actively serving humanity, this column calls on the Nigerian authorities and their allies to ensure that no stones are left unturned in efforts to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of these latest tragedies, especially the security arrangements on ground when these sad incidents occurred, and correct observed flaws in order to ensure that aid workers are better protected in the future. Such disasters are preventable.

From a strategic standpoint, the recent tragic incidents in the North-East could have been prevented, had square holes been put in square holes. It is expected that, having been contending with the insurgents for so long on the North-Eastern front, the state – political and security – actors in the conflict theatre would have by now developed a working profile of the group’s modus operandi, especially its hostage taking and negotiation strategies, and come up with proactive measures to forestall future reoccurrences of such tragedies. The reported breakdown in the ransom negotiation process between the group and the Nigerian government, which culminated in the brutal death of Hauwa Mohammed, the inability of the authorities to secure Leah Sharibu’s release since her abduction in February, the ages it took to effect the release of some of the Chibok abductees, the unprofessional handling of the Dapchi debacle et al, are classic cases in point.

Prevention of hostage taking, and engagement in negotiations for their release, are highly technical processes that should be handled by trained experts, not greenhorns, as seems to be the case in Nigeria. It is a very delicate process that can escalate into worst case scenarios, if not handled with care. Having adopted hosted negotiation as one of its ad hoc strategies in its ongoing anti-terror campaigns in the North-East, the Nigerian authorities should consult the best hands in the business – locally and internationally – with a view to leveraging on their expertise in solving future hostage situations. If Boko Haram is willing to negotiate terms and accept payoffs for the release of hostages in its custody, skilled professionals should be allowed to properly engage them, as is the standard practice in other climes fighting terrorism.

Moreover, purposeful and constructive efforts should also be made towards rescuing the third aid worker, Alice Loksha, still in captivity, and 15 year-old Leah Sharibu who has been in the custody of the insurgents since February, 2018, using all necessary means. These remaining abductees should not be allowed to suffer the same gory faith as Hauwa Mohammed Liman and Saifura Hussaini Khorsa. Genuine efforts should be expedited to free them from captivity. The authorities must do more than they are currently doing. They must desist from giving excuses for their failures.

On the other hand, the international community is hereby enjoined to increase its – diplomatic, technical, logistical and financial – support for the Nigerian government in its ongoing war on insurgency, as this would go a long way in improving the security situation, not only in the country’s North-East, but across the entire sub region. Boko Haram has continued to up the ante in its war with Nigerian security forces, despite having been “technically defeated” as claimed by the Nigerian government and its military. Links with ISIS and other international terror groups make them a much more formidable fighting force whose ultimate defeat requires a global effort.

This column joins the entire world in vociferously condemning the despicable acts of inhumanity exhibited by Boko Haram by the recent killings of Saifura Hussaini Khorsa and Hauwa Mohamed Liman. These unjustifiable acts of cruelty belong to the Stone Age. These heinous crimes against humanity are reprehensible exhibitions of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Civilized humanity abhors such barbarous bestialities that belong to the dark ages. Let us say no to violence and all other adversarial acts that threaten, or are capable of threatening, the peace of civilized humanity!

God save the world!

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