Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), a faction of the insurgent Boko Haram sect, which broke away in 2016, has executed the second of three female aid workers it abducted in March this year. She was Hauwa Mohammed Leman. She was killed shortly before midnight of October 15. The first, Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, was killed in September. The third young woman still alive, and held In captivity, is Alice Loksha. All three were on the staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, providing humanitarian services in the insurgency ravaged North-east.
The three aid workers were captured March 1 during a raid by ISWA on a military facility at Rann in Borno State. Five Nigerian soldiers, 3 other aid workers and a UNICEF doctor were killed in that attack. Six months later, ISWA, in a video posted online, threatened to kill “at least one hostage” once its October 15 deadline lapsed. It also referred to schoolgirl Leah Sharibu, 15, in its threat. Sharibu was one of 113 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in February from a secondary school in the town of Dapchi, Yobe State. Explaining why it executed Hauwa, the faction said, “We contacted the government through writing and also sent audio messages but the government has ignored us. So, here is a message of blood. The other nurse and midwife will be executed in similar manner in one month, including Leah Sharibu”.
Reacting to the killing, ICRC spokeswoman, Krista Armstrong, said her organisation was praying that it turned out false. “We are hearing devastating reports that Hauwa has been executed. At this stage, we have no confirmation that this is true. We desperately hope not. This situation is heartbreaking and our thoughts remain with the family,” she said. Alas! Hers was hope misplaced. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, speaking for the federal government, said it did “everything” to save Hauwa. ‘’It is very unfortunate that it has come to this. Before and after the deadline issued by her abductors, the federal government did everything any responsible government should do to save the aid worker.
‘’As we have been doing since these young women were abducted, we kept the line of negotiations open all through. In all the negotiations, we acted in the best interest of the women and the country as a whole. We are deeply pained by this killing, just like we were by the recent killing of the first aid worker. However, we will keep the negotiations open and continue to work to free the innocent women who remain in the custody of their abductors’’. the minister said.
Hauwa’s killing has outraged Nigerians as it ought to. On Tuesday, October 16, protesters took to the streets of Abuja to demand that the government do more to set Alice Loksha and other abductees free. President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement put out by his media spokesman Garba Shehu, Wednesday, regretted that his commitment to helping victims of the insurgency had ended in “such a brutal way”. He commended the ICRC for doing “a great job” in Nigeria, urging it not to give up in spite of the “unfortunate and painful loss” of its staff.
We, at Peoples Daily, join the government and millions of our compatriots in condemning the execution of Hauwa, and Saifura before her. To describe the executions as “callous”, “ungodly”, “barbaric”, “shocking” and “unacceptable” as many have described them is merely platitudinous and will fail to comfort the grieving parents. What they want is an assurance that the supreme sacrifice their daughters have made for the cause of humanity has not been in vain. The way to do that is to keep up the fight against Boko Haram, even as the government keeps the door open for negotiations provided the other party is sincere.
The fact that is already splintering should be to the nation’s advantage. It is a sign of the beginning of Boko Haram’s demise. This process should be pushed by consciously playing the factions off against each other. This, however, will require effective intelligence gathering, professionalism and judicious management of human and material resources on the part of the government and the military.