Sunday, 2 October 2016

Nigeria’s Civilian Joint Tax Force accuse of committing abuses by International body


I saw the article on The EconomistIt is captioned, "Volunteers-who-helped-beat-back-boko-haram-are-becoming-problem-home." Read below; 

MOHAMMED JAAFAR, a commander of Nigeria’s Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), recalls his first arrest with relish. It was in 2013, shortly after the vigilante group had been formed to fight the Islamist rebels of Boko Haram. A distressed neighbour appeared at his door in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, reporting that a radicalised relative was hiding in his house. “I knew I was now a target,” Mr Jaafar says. So he summoned his men, scaled his neighbour’s wall and seized the suspect, who was an emir: one of Boko Haram’s spiritual leaders.
Many Nigerians are proud of such derring-do on the part of the CJTF, which has swollen into an army of over 26,000 in Borno, the state worst affected by the insurgency. As north-easterners, its members claim to know the suspects in their communities, saving innocent bystanders from being rounded up by ill-informed regular soldiers. They tried to protect their towns when Nigerian troops fled the front line (a common occurrence until early last year). Some fought bravely alongside the army, too. As Boko Haram advanced on Maiduguri in 2014, for example, the vigilantes helped avert the fall of the city, which was then home to about 2m people. Today, they man checkpoints on roads and at refugee camps, logging trucks and farmers in tatty notebooks as they pass.
The CJTF has lost about 600 members, often to suicide-bombers whom they frisk at mosques and in market places: quite a sacrifice, especially given that only 1,800 of them receive a salary, a mere $50 a month. Many left good jobs to serve as volunteers. Mr Jaafar, a former cosmetics seller, reckons the vigilantes have handed over 5,000 jihadists to the army—some captured as far away as Lagos. That may be an exaggeration: at the height of the insurgency, American officials said that Boko Haram had between 4,000 and 6,000 “hard-core” fighters. Either way, the soldiers are mostly grateful for the help.
Yet the vigilantes, like the regular army, are accused of abuses. A video released by Amnesty International in 2014 appeared to show them, together with soldiers, slaughtering men beside a mass grave. When unarmed suspects escaped from a barracks at Giwa the same year, locals recall that the volunteers cordoned off streets in Maiduguri and killed them. More recently the CJTF has been implicated in the diversion of food destined for starving families. (“If they get rations, then why not us?” asks a perfectly healthy guard from his sandbag checkpoint.) Men who escape occupied villages complain of beatings in camps, where women and girls are subjected to systematic sexual violence, according Human Rights Watch, a New York-based monitor. On certain posts, the volunteers are clearly children.
Only a tiny fraction of the vigilantes have received any military training, yet many are armed with cutlasses or handmade muskets known as “Dane guns” (after the European traders who first introduced firearms in the 19th century). Some of those who helped the army reclaim towns that were once occupied by Boko Haram say that the soldiers taught them how to handle automatic weapons, which they picked up from fallen fighters. “They don’t know how many guns their volunteers have, or under what circumstances they are used,” says Mausi Segun, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. At one camp visited by your correspondent, a CJTF recruit fires a warning shot over an unruly crowd. As Boko Haram retreats, a partially armed militia is being left in its wake. “All these people know how to operate AK-47s,” Mr Jaafar says. “What does the government have planned for us? If there are no jobs, there will be trouble.”
Recognising this, the government has already absorbed 500 CJTF members into the armed forces. A couple of thousand more will be employed as firemen and “vehicle inspectors” in Borno; a “sizeable chunk” will be sent to farm with “modern agricultural equipment”, says the state’s attorney-general.
Yet good jobs are hard to create and sustain in the poor north-east of Nigeria—which is reckoned to be one of the reasons why the insurgency started there in the first place, back in 2009. And weak administration often causes plans to fall through. Jobs promised under an amnesty for militants in the oil-producing south, for instance, mostly failed to materialise. Borno’s governor, Kashim Shettima, seems understandably nervous: “If we can’t educate them, we have created a Frankenstein’s monster,” he says.

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