RIGHTSView: Welcome to the Republic of Fear

Posted by News Express | 9 July 2014 | 3,212 times

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Fear, in the expert opinion of psychologists, is said to be a vital response to physical and emotional danger. And they also said that if we don’t feel fear we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. This is correct because we grow up to learn the native intelligence that self-preservation is the first law of nature.

Aside native intelligence, we also learnt from Psychology Today that we often fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Fear also triggers off trauma. In this same professional dictionary of psychology, we also learnt that traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. But, in their words, “exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.”

Speaking about the phenomenon of fear reminds us of the national traumas that most Nigerians are experiencing now, because of the consequences of the bombing campaign by the armed Islamic insurgents over the past three years. From Maiduguri in Borno State to Umuahia in Abia State, panic and fear of the unknown is spreading like wild fire, no thanks to the diabolical inclination of these terrorists to instill fear and apprehension in the country in their sinister moves to take their brand of Islamic radicalism to a new height. Usman Stanley Ola [not real names] told me that since after the last bombing campaign in Abuja he stopped going to any commercial complex around town and he avoids the markets like a plague.

Again, Nigerians of all classes and affiliations have come to recognise this ugly fact that fear has become our new national demon, even as some concerned citizens have begun to debate the best way to bring about lasting resolution of the campaign of terrorism across Nigeria. 

In Abuja, fear has replaced enthusiasm and the usually boisterous lifestyle of the municipality, as majority of the residents now contend with the uncertainty of where and when next these armed insurgents will detonate their weapons of mass destruction, after they succeeded in detonating high calibre bombs in the most centralised and easily the busiest commercial complex in the nation’s capital, Emab Plaza in Wuse 2, in mid-April, which killed a large number of people who were simply there to transact their daily businesses.

The latest explosion of bombs in Abuja followed the successful attacks by the armed insurgents in Nyanya commercial bus park parked with hundreds of commuters. This had resulted in very high casualty rate. Symbolically, what these armed insurgents have succeeded in doing in these rash of bomb explosions in Abuja is that they had targeted the most populated areas of the nation’s political capital to pass a message that they are on a campaign of mass slaughter and killing of ordinary Nigerians; and that the law enforcement agencies are incapacitated and incapable of providing fool-proof security to Nigerians.

Understandably, Abuja residents in their thousands are now jittery and fearful of patronising commercial buildings. This has now crippled the economic activities of a dominant sector of the Nigerian society – the small and medium scale enterprises.

This much has been repeatedly emphasised by prominent Nigerians who have ceaselessly tasked federal and state governments to move rapidly to bring to an end the spate of attacks targeted at ordinary Nigerians, and to salvage Nigeria from imminent collapse.

The latest high profile personality in to add her voice to the widening worries over the violent terrorism spreading fear across the nation is the Chief Justice of Nigeria of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Mukhtar, who delivered a keynote address recently at a national judicial event where she reminded Nigerians that terrorism is gradually destroying the country.

The chief justice who spoke in Abuja said the adverse effect of the seeming unending insurgency in the country has manifested itself generally in such a dastardly fashion that it has affected economic activities and thrown spanner in government’s effort in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). 

The CJN therefore charged judicial officers to brainstorm on ways by which witnesses and victims of terrorist acts could be best protected and supported to give evidence in court against perpetrators of these unwholesome acts. 

There is no gainsaying the fact that because of fear of reprisal most persons who have critical information that will assist in reducing terrorism activities are not sufficiently rendering such vital information to the public and/or to the security agents. Again, the few suspects arrested and dragged to court for terrorism have remained in detention longer than necessary, because people are frightened by the danger that may befall them if these terrorists and their sponsors trace them to their places of abode.

So, the charge by the chief justice of the federation on the authorities to work out better protective measures for witnesses in cases of terrorism is a welcome development and should, indeed, be promptly addressed. This is because the delay in bringing decisive justice to suspects accused of carrying out widespread killing of innocent Nigerians has created doubts in the minds of most people concerning the commitment of government to fight this menace of terrorism. If mass killers are not punished sternly, then impunity will take root in the society.

It was in a bid to save Nigeria from sliding into lawlessness and impunity that the chief justice is calling for immediate action. Justice Mukhtar noted: “Terrorism poses serious challenges to any nation unfortunate to experience it, as it has the risk of undermining core values of the nation such as the rule of law, respect for human rights, protection of civilians, tolerance, among the various ethnic groups.” 

“Its motivation, financing and support mechanisms, methods of attack and choice of target are constantly evolving, thus adding to the complexity of any effective strategy to combat it,” she regretted, adding: “Terrorism undermines overall economic activities and development, thereby seriously affecting living standard of the poor segment of society. It has driven all investments away – both local and foreign. Terrorist attacks devalue the quality of life and affects the enjoyment of some basic rights like right to life, freedom of movement, access to possible employment and educational opportunities.” 

The CJN said the onus had, therefore, fallen on the judiciary to contribute its quota to ongoing effort to combat the menace, which has led to several losses of lives in the country since the activities of Boko Haram started.

On this ground, I think the government should set up military tribunals to handle the prosecution of cases of terrorism. Witness protection programme must be equally activated so that more convictions can be obtained. Prosecution of terrorism related cases must not be treated like the conventional criminal trial since these terrorists are the worst kinds of mass murderers who are out to destroy the fabrics of the nation state. Justice Mukhtar stated as much when she affirmed: “Faced with the above scenario, the strengthening of the capacity of the judicial officers on the system adopted to suppress and combat terrorism becomes imperative and a crucial component of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. This is because the perpetrators, when apprehended, must be brought for trial in full compliance with the national and international legal regime against terrorism and rule of law.”

The other issue that has mystified most observers is how fast Nigeria has declined in her ability to protect the citizenry, which is the most basic and fundamental duty of every government. Reports in the media concerning the combat readiness of Nigerian soldiers is frightening. This calls for sober reflection on how the defence and policing arms of the federation has deteriorated due to ineptitude and corruption in the procurement systems in the two key security institutions.

While it is imperative to task government to find out measures to check corruption in the defence and policing sectors, so as to protect Nigeria's sovereignty, it is also timely to generally task Nigerians to stand up and design implementable mechanisms to defeat this situation of monumental fear that has enveloped our nation and has made us a republic of fear.

All segments of the Nigerian society must be united with a common purpose of defeating terrorism. We must stop playing ethnic or religious cards on matters of counter-terrorism campaign going on by the armed security wing of the current government.

It is pathetic and obviously primitive that some state governments, especially in the North, through their officials have made some vexatious claims in the media alleging that the counter-terror fight is being waged against their people. The governor of Adamawa State, a retired Naval Chief in the Nigerian military, was recently in the news for alleging that the armed Islamic insurgency going on, especially in the North, was a sinister design by President Goodluck Jonathan to depopulate northern Nigeria. Retired Rear Admiral Murtala Nyako, who took part in several military coups in the past which progressively weakened the combat readiness of Nigerian soldiers, went to the ridiculous extent of alleging genocide against President Jonathan.

This line of argument is puerile and infantile, because what we contend with in Nigeria are a bunch of monsters that are well-armed and ideologically bent to destroy our basic freedom by planting bombs which go off every now and then killing hundreds and inflicting psychological pain and fear in the minds of millions of Nigerians.

Government at every level has the constitutional obligation to protect ensure the security of lives and property of law-abiding Nigerians: this is the primary constitutional duty of government. As a result, it is dangerous and satanic for someone like the Kano State governor, for instance, to claim that security forces are targeting northerners when, in actual fact, Kano has come under several attacks by terrorists which cost the precious lives of mostly southerners and even Kano indigenes.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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