The Alliance for the Survival of COVID- 19 and Beyond (ASCAB), led by a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has stated that the recent massacre of rice farmers in Borno State has provided another opportunity for President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sack the service chiefs.
In a statement issued yesterday by Falana, the coalition of some 80 labour and civil rights groups said the savage killings was a signpost of incompetence and ineptitude on the part of those in power.
“We commiserate with the victims of these savage killings. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and their families at this gory moment of grief. The Federal Government must take a drastic action. This should include changing the Service Chiefs,” ASCAB said.
ASCAB said the farmers were killed less than 10 kilometers to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital underlining the audacity of the terrorists.
The coalition said it is worried that the killings which would have taken not less than four hours to achieve, including escaping the scene of crime drew no aerial or land response from all the security operatives, especially when the killings took place in broad day light.
The coalition said at present the 180,000-strong Nigerian Army is overstretched with its operations in 33 states, adding that the 370,000 police force have not been adequately equipped to deal with armed insurgents by non-state actors.
It expressed worry about the implication the killings of the farmers will have on food security and livelihood in Nigeria.
“While the federal and state governments are asking people to go back to farm to boost domestic economy, the killings of farmers will certainly imperil community and individual interest in agrarian economy,” ASCAB said.
ASCAB said it is disturbed by the mass burial given to the victims saying that it does not show honour and respect for the victims of the gruesome murder who deserve monuments to serve as a reference point for grief that has shaken the entire world to its foundation. The coalition urged the President to take a drastic step beyond rhetoric by changing the Service Chiefs.
ASCAB recalled that the National Assembly had passed resolutions calling on Buhari to sack the Service Chiefs in view of the worsening security situation in the country.
The group also added that the leaders of the National Assembly have also held meetings with the President on the subject matter.
“On June 18, 2020, President Buhari finally admitted that the efforts of the Nigeria’s security chiefs against insurgency were not enough. He expressed this in a meeting held with the Service Chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja,” ASCAB said.
In condemning the brutal massacre of 43 rice farmers in Borno State yesterday, ASCAB noted that Buhari had in apparent exasperation, disclosed that the government had given all the needed support to the armed forces “to take all necessary steps to protect the country’s population and its territory.”
The coalition also recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad had stated that “People think north is safe, but that assumption is not true adding that it’s the worst place to be in this country.
ASCAB also recalled that the Sultan revealed that bandits go around in the villages, households, and markets with their AK-47, stressing that they stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, with their weapons openly displayed.
ASCAB said it is an undeniable fact that people living in the southern states are equally terrorised by kidnappers and armed robbers.
“No doubt, the service chiefs have tried their best to secure the country’s population and its territory. But since President Buhari has come to the conclusion that the service chiefs are not doing enough to secure the country he ought to relieve them of their appointments and appoint new ones in the overall interests of the people of Nigeria,” ASCAB said
The group also called on the President to summon an urgent meeting of the Nigeria Police Council (constituted by himself as the Chairman, the 36 state governors, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission and the Inspector-General of Police) to address the increasing wave of insecurity sweeping across the entire country. The proposed meeting, according to the group should also resolve to jettison the dogmatic implementation of neoliberal policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank which has plunged the country to another recession.