Borno women protest detention of husbands, children
Hundreds of women in Borno state, yesterday, staged a peaceful demonstration in Maiduguri, the capital city, over what they described as the “arbitrary arrest and continued illegal” detention of their husbands and children by operatives of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), for alleged links with the Boko Haram sect.
Our correspondent reports that the protest began at about 11am, when the aggrieved women went to Ramat Square where an interactive session on how to end the security challenges bedeviling the state organised by the Directorate of Civic-Military Relations of the Defence Headquarters, (DHQ) Abuja was being held.
It was further gathered that the women went to the forum, with the impression that their detained loved ones would be released to them, but were disappointed upon realising that the event was just a mere town hall meeting, a situation they found very disappointing.
Trouble started immediately the military hierarchy at the event left the venue of the meeting without any indication that the detainees will be freed. The women then took to the streets in protest. They marched to the Government House apparently to lodge their complaint before Governor Kashim Shettima.
Peoples Daily gathered that the demonstrators intended to express their displeasure to the military officers from the Defence Headquarters who had equally relocated to the multipurpose hall within the Government House to further parley with the elders, religious and political leaders of the people on ways to resolve the Boko Haram crisis.
The women’s mission was however disrupted along Post Office Road, when they were dispersed by a detachment of heavily armed soldiers who shot into the air at about 12 pm.
Prior to the incident, Maiduguri had been awash with rumours of the impending release of majority of those being held by JTF as part of the military’s reaction to the unilateral ceasefire declared recently by the Boko Haram.
Speaking to newsmen over the incident, Deputy Director, Civil-Military Operations from the Defence Headquarters, Air Commodore Ademola Onitiju, sent to Maiduguri to oversee the discussion by the Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, denied that there was any plan to free the detainees yesterday.
According to him, those arrested and detained over involvement in the activities of the sect could only be released after a thorough investigation to ascertain their involvement or otherwise.
“We cannot just release suspects anyhow, an extensive investigation needs to be conducted and those that have no case to answer will be freed, while those found culpable will be made to face the wrath of the law”, Onitiju declared.
Onitiju said the terrorists are still seen in military circle as “our people,” compatriots and not enemies that should be terminated.
He admitted that there could be human errors in the operations of the JTF in the area but reminded all that the task force was never sent out to kill the terrorist group but rather to bring peace back into the area.
He said: “We were here to interact with the people to see where we have erred, how the civil populace can help us to achieve peace. How we can smoothen rough edges to achieve peace.
Our operation was never intended to keep people in detention. The Chief of Defence Staff has sent us to tell the people that we did not intend to keep people in detention with impunity but the situation warrants it”, he added.
Onitiju also revealed that the Defence Headquarters may soon constitute a strong panel of investigation to separate the wheat from the chaff and rehabilitate those who might have been affected by the crisis.