The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has said the killing of 185 people, mostly women and children, in Baga, Borno State, may constitute crimes against humanity which should attract the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC), especially because the Nigerian government is either unwilling or unable to prosecute those involved, going by precedence.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said far beyond the justifiable call for a judicial commission of inquiry into the Baga massacre, it is time for leaders under whose watch these killings are being perpetrated, to be held to account.
It said the killings in Baga, like previous ones in the areas where Boko Haram and the military Joint Task Force (JTF) have been engaged in clashes, are undoubtedly a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population – the definition of crimes against humanity which is one of the four groups of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.
According to the ACN, those engaged in the killings, including the Boko Haram sect, cannot and must not get away with these heinous crimes.
The party said the only reasons that the killing and maiming of innocent citizens have continued unabated in Nigeria is because such killings in the past, either in Odi in Bayelsa State or in Zaki-Biam in Benue State under the watch of then President Olusegun Obasanjo, went unpunished.
”Enough is enough! Even in countries at war, innocent citizens are not being daily mowed to death either by insurgents or state forces, as we are experiencing in Nigeria. It is clear that the Nigerian government is either unwilling or unable to prosecute these crimes, despite the deceptive assurances by those at the helm, hence the ICC must immediately beam its search-light on the situation in Nigeria.
”While we are aware that the killings in Odi and Zaki Biam occurred before 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute setting up the ICC came into force, the killings in the north, especially at Baga, fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the global court,” it said.
ACN put the blame for the Baga killings squarely on the shoulders of President Goodluck Jonathan, for failing to distinguish between support for security agencies battling the insurgents in the north and the incitement of the same forces against civilians who are caught in the cross fire.
”When the President issued his tactless vituperations against community leaders, and by extension hapless civilians, during his visit to Borno and Yobe States, we warned that he was further victimising the victims of the insurgents’ attack. That action helped to set the stage for the mindless massacre in Baga,” the party said.
Meanwhile, the ACN has urged the National Assembly to investigate how troops from foreign countries became part of the JTF troops now battling the insurgents in the north
The party said this is important to find out who authorized the deployment of foreign troops in Nigeria and what their mandates are.
”We know that international troops deployments are authorized at sub-regional, continental or global levels. It is therefore important to find which body authorized the deployment of foreign troops to Nigeria, the same troops that
are now said to have participated in killing and maiming of innocent Nigerian citizens,” it said.