The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has rejected the preliminary reports on the Baga tragedy, submitted by the military high command and NEMA, saying available, verifiable evidence has shown that the investigation that produced the reports was everything but thorough.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party therefore called for an urgent and independent investigation into the incidents of April 16th 2013 at Baga to establish the truth, instead of an apparently shoddy investigation that could only have produced a convoluted report.
”Those who carried out that investigation apparently discountenanced the fact that in today’s world, nothing is hidden. Thanks to the satellite imagery released by Human Rights Watch on Wednesday, the world is now aware of the massive devastation that occurred in Baga. It is actually worse than what has been reported!
”The satellite images support the conclusion by the rights group that 2,275 buildings were destroyed in the clashes. They also seem to support the statements credited to the Senator representing the area, Lawan Maina, who put the death toll at 220.
”Contrast this to NEMA’s conclusion that far less than 1,000 homes were destroyed, or the military high command’s finding that only 36 people were killed, and it becomes glaring that something is wrong somewhere.
”The Nigerian media, now the favourite whipping boy of an increasingly edgy administration, has come under fire for reporting the massive killings and devastation. But those criticizing the Nigerian media should endeavour to follow the international media’s reportage of the events in Baga to see that the local media is not just crying wolf,” it said.
ACN said Nigeria would have been spared the global opprobrium resulting from the Baga tragedy, had the government and the military carried out a more diligent investigation of the incidents instead of acting in a defensive manner and trivializing the destruction wrought in Baga by saying most of the destroyed houses were made of thatched roofs anyway, as if it was a sin to live in such structures.
”In case the government has not seen the report of Human Rights Watch on the Baga tragedy, here is a quote from it: ‘The Nigerian military has a duty to protect itself and the population from Boko Haram attacks, but the evidence indicates that it engaged more in destruction than in protection…The glaring discrepancies between the facts on the ground and statements by senior military officials raise concerns that they tried to cover up military abuses’,”
The ACN said while it will not conclude that all the destruction and the killings in Baga were carried out by soldiers, the truth is that the military, an embodiment of state power, bears more responsibility anytime it is involved in a situation similar to that of Baga, or Odi and Zaki Biam before it.
”There is no doubt that Boko Haram, with its scorched earth tactics, may have engaged in actions that put the lives of civilians in jeopardy in Baga. But these insurgents have no rules of engagement like the military, and definitely do not value human lives. Therefore, the military, in engaging the insurgents in built-up areas, must strictly adhere to its rules of engagement to avoid or minimize the death of innocent civilians or destruction of their property,” the party said.
It restated its earlier statement that the killings in Baga may constitute crimes against humanity, hence the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary investigation of the Boko Haram crisis last year, must include the Baga tragedy in its investigation.