President Goodluck Jonathan has commended the Military High Command, the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for their swift response to his order for immediate action to investigate the incident in Baga, Borno state, assist and rehabilitate the victims, and make all necessary findings available to the government.
The commendation was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.
President Jonathan gave the commendation after receiving preliminary reports of the investigations carried out by the Military High Command and NEMA into the incident.
President Jonathan also welcomed the plan by the National Human Rights Commission to carry out independent investigations.
Thanking the Military High Command and NEMA for the reports, President Jonathan said that investigations must continue, and assured them of his fullest support.
He further reiterated his earlier position that where any kind of misconduct is established, the Federal Government will not hesitate in ensuring that due sanctions are enforced and that justice is done.
The President said that what happened in Baga, was most regrettable and unfortunate. He reaffirmed his full commitment to doing all within the powers of the Federal Government to speedily end the intolerable threats to national security which have necessitated such confrontations.
President Jonathan will continue to work with the Borno state Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima whom he conferred with last week, to ensure that the people of Baga receive every possible relief and support to facilitate their speedy rehabilitation.
In its preliminary report to the President, the Defence Headquarters stated as follows:
(a) That the military team involved in the confrontation with Boko Haram elements was the Multinational Joint Task Force. The MNJTF’s initial mandate was to conduct military operations in the Lake Chad Region and to facilitate free movement of the member states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission across their common border. The mandate was expanded in April 2012 to include the fight against terrorists. The Task Force’s activities are therefore legal and needs to be sustained.
(b) That whereas media reports averred that the incident of the alleged confrontation between the MNJTF and the Boko Haram Terrorists occurred on April 19, 2013; the incident actually occurred on Tuesday, April 16.
(c) On April 17, MNJTF troops carried out mop up operations at the scene of the attack and recovered the following items abandoned by the fleeing Boko Haram terrorists: rocket-propelled grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenade bombs, AK 47 rifles, assorted ammunition, several improvised explosive devices and damaged Land Cruiser jeeps.
(d) That whereas it was alleged that 185 people were killed by the soldiers of the MNJTF in Baga, Borno state; the assessment team received a briefing from the Commander of the MNJTF on April 24, 2013, during which he stated that 30 terrorists were killed in action. However, six bodies were recovered in Lake Chad about 3 km away from the action spot.
(e) Furthermore, some locals were asked if they could take the assessment team to the mass graves where 185 people were allegedly buried, but the people denied knowledge of such graves. The Chairman of Kukawa LGA was approached on the same issue, he also did not know of such graves.
(f) The Chairman had earlier informed the team that Muslims do not bury more than one body in a grave.
(g) The media also announced that about 3, 000 houses were burnt. However on the spot assessment revealed that though some houses were burnt, but they were certainly not up to the number quoted. It is pertinent to note that the houses in question are mostly thatched roof houses that could easily catch fire. It is on record that the terrorists employ the tactics of arson wherever they attack.
(h) There was also the allegation that aid workers were denied access to Baga. This is incorrect as the Red Cross and NEMA officials were already in the town before the Defence Headquarters team arrived. The officials of the two organizations interviewed by the team confirmed that no one prevented them from moving into Baga.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in response to the President’s directive, sent a team to Baga to pave way for immediate humanitarian relief.
It reported as follows:
(a) That the agency identified and set up an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Baga where 642 persons were registered as at April 25, 2013. More people who had earlier fled the community are returning due to improved security and the establishment of various IDPs by the Agency.
(b) To provide immediate succor to the affected persons, the agency distributed relief materials.
(c) That the 185 deaths being speculated in the media cannot be substantiated.
(d) The NEMA team visited the two graveyards in the town, and could only identify in both places, a total of 32 fresh graves.
(e) That a number of buildings and business premises were destroyed in the affected area, but the total number of houses in the town is far less than 1,000.
(f) That there is a lot of misinformation being peddled about the situation in Baga.