By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has called on the federal government to transparently account for the missing twenty two thousand persons in the ongoing war against the Boko Haram insurgents in North Eastern region of the country.
ICIR made the call during a round table discussion tagged: ‘Justice for Missing Persons in the North East’, which was held in Abuja under the sponsorship of Ford Foundation.
Speaking on the essence of the programme, the Executive Director of ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, said the purpose was to speak for unidentified persons who ran away into other places and countries, when their communities were attacked, including little kids numbering thousands, but have now come back.
According to him, “we want government to do something and that is to provide information, we know that not all the twenty two thousand missing persons are in the military, police or DSS detention centers, some of them, nobody could ever be able to account for them, but our government under the international statutes, has the responsibility to at least provide information.
“Let them build a data base, apart from data base, let them begin to provide psychological support for some of the family members, let them begin to think of creating linkages between the information available and how the families can link up with their family members, then, the international communities can look at providing legal support, psychological support and other forms of support.
“Many of them are not Boko Haram, many of them are Boko Haram, and they are just in detention and nothing is happening. Some of them have wives and their wives are living in limbo because they can’t remarry. They have children and until something is done, we might be breeding people who will rise up against the society in the future”, he said.
Speaking earlier, Joy Ehino, who represented Ford Foundation, said the investigative journalism which helped to disclose the number of missing persons in the North East, remains one of the best ways to hold government accountable, though she regretted that it is always ignored.
She said also that it is veritable in getting the people informed because of its accuracy, adding that there is need to empower the media to do its job of holding government accountable, of which she said ICIR has grown in training journalists.
She said the trust of the Foundation is to promote awareness on violence against women and to highlight the role of CSOs in condemning it and speaking up against it.
Speaking also at the event, Obinna Nwankwo, who represented the National Human Rights Commission, commended the ICIR for the programme, saying that Nigerians have been going through sympathetic episode.
He said that what is happening in North East has not happened before, where people will disappear from their houses, nothing is heard about them and nobody accounts for them. He said even the government elected to protect the people have not been able able to do so, hence he emphasized that government must be held accountable.
In her remarks, Hamsatu Allamin, who runs an Allamin Foundation in Maiduguri, Borno state capital, said that the federal government should compel the military to release information on the number of persons arrested, where they are and how many of them are alive or dead.
She said that when the war against insurgents became though, the soldiers embarked on indiscriminate arrest of any young person that is a Kanuri Muslim, believing that they are all Boko Haram members.
She however did not blame the soldiers, as she explained that they were attacked at checkpoints by some young boys who thereafter run into the communities. She said the indiscriminate arrest was because there is no way the soldiers can identify Boko Haram members and those who are not.