In Pursuit Of Justice For Abdul; Open Letter To Col. Victor Ebhaleme, The J.T.F Commander In Maiduguri!

The idea of this public discourse has before now forever stuck to my mind like an adhesive albeit not for the same reason for which I am propelled to be writing same but for a different topic which is the obnoxious manner with which members of the Joint Task Force saddled under your command have turned the entrance and exit routes of the troubled cities of Damaturu and Maiduguri into a traffic/mobile business unit where they fill their coffers from the varying sums of money they extort from the commercial drivers that ply these routes on a delay basis as though they are some kind of thrift collectors. They barricade these routes in what they call ‘check points’ causing a gridlock on these routes and carefully collect different sums of money from these drivers whom in a bid to reach their destinations on time, cannot help but part with the fifty naira or one hundred naira as the case may be depending how fierce a particular check point is. In a bid to actualize this goal, they create an artificial hold-up such that, passengers coming from distant places like Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos, Niger and other distant cities pass the night on the high ways as a result of the curfew imposed in their supposed destination (Maiduguri) all because of the magnanimity of time wasted on the highways thereby, exposing them to series of harm in the thickness of the night or if they(travelers) ever make their way in to Maiduguri city, then the Borno-Express terminus becomes a ‘save- heaven’ for the night. It is as a result of this, that one Abdul has fallen a victim of the law of cause and effect necessitated by the carelessness, cluelessness and unprofessionality of the members of your command.

I don’t want to talk about the part where the members of your command have abandoned their primary duty of searching and scrutinizing these buses and passengers coming into Maiduguri city or even where they have held on to this primary assignment, have combined it with ‘looting’ of drivers. What would one not say of the scenerio where passengers who have no means of identification are meant to part with sums ranging from #400-#500 depending on the number of persons on a particular day instead of creating modalities to ensure they provide same on their return? But why must they? Let security go to hell! Their coffers must not run dry; they love to see bulges in their pockets and the more reasons why insecurity is far from ending and near to engulfing the entire nation. I hate to say.
The foregoing and a lot more will make a good story for another day but before then, let’s not put the cart before the horse and therefore concentrate on the matter at hand or the greed that led to this discourse.

Sir, I am very much sure that by now, you must have heard the ugly incident that took place on the 4th of January, 2013 along Gwange area of Maiduguri town, a settlement that no doubt have become a beehive of the acts of the Boko Haram insurgents where one Abdulmumin Abubakar, a level 400 student of the department of continuing education in the faculty of education of the university of Maiduguri, a friend of mine and not just I, as a result of his jovial nature, a perfect gentleman who will never hurt a fly not even upon duress, fell a victim of a trigger happy member of your command on his way to the 303- housing estate largely occupied by students of the university after passing the cold night in the Borno-Express terminus no thanks to the ‘madness’ of members of your command who have littered the Potiskum-Maiduguri axis wielding guns as though they have our security at heart but on the contrary, ply their mobile business on these highways.

It is also within my contemplation that you must have seen the publication on an online media outfit-Sahara Reporters dated the 7th of January, 2013 with the caption “UNIVERSITY OF MAIDUGURI STUDENT HURT IN A SHOOTOUT BETWEEN JTF AND BOKO HARAM” where the spokesperson to your command, col. Sagir Musa rushed to press and alleged that the said Abdulmumin was hit by a stray bullet during an altercation between members of the JTF and the book haram fundamentalists.

Now, it is not only pathetic, but also unfortunate that the people who we confide in, to protect us are now the ones killing us; it is one thing for Abdul to have been shot on the head whether consciously or emotionally but it is a lot more for you and the members of your command to cook up stories to justify this nefarious act just to go unscathed by the hammers of the Law- something I see as barbaric, wicked, unprofessional and another shot at Abdul who have now been reduced to his sick bed where he is lying unconsciously with little or no attention from the members of your command as was the case when I visited him at the intensive care unit of the UMTH. One is lost in thought as to what would have been Abdul’s story if not for the swift attention of the sector leader in the particular checkpoint where the incident occurred for rushing him to the entrance of the health facility albeit without going in with them, but left the profusely bleeding Abdul with the driver of the Taxi that was to take him (Abdul) to his supposed destination, at the mercy of the team of doctors at the emergency unit of the said health facility.

As has been alleged by Col. Sagir Musa, your spokesperson who rushed to press to give a doctored and untrue account of what happened, it may interest you to know that I personally visited the Gwange area in question where the ugly incident took place and at no time was there an attack on the Military post on that fateful day and within the range of the time Abdul fell to that bullet as is corroborated by the residents of the area leaving us with two improbable assumptions. It is either Abdul was gunned down carelessly by the trigger-happy soldier or he was gunned down consciously and as such, we demand that justice be served on a golden plaque.

Unarguably, no better account of the story would surpass that given by the driver of the said Taxi carrying Abdul. His name, I have chosen not to bring to press for security reason. He has abandoned his job since that fateful morning and will always be seen around the intensive care Unit where his passenger now turned friend is lying. In a conversation with him, he had this to say “when we got to the checkpoint, the soldiers were not on the road, I guess they hid in a corner probably because of the cold that morning. They managed to stop us and I was on the verge of stopping when the shot came and it hit Abdul who was seated at the back and closest to the window. They asked me come down from the vehicle and asked that I should lay face to the ground. I was going to tell them that one of my passengers has been hit by the shot but one of them pre-empted me by saying “so what? If you are not careful you will also be shot”. I lay face to the ground and they stomped me until their commander heard the brawl ensuing, came out and whisked I and Abdul away.”

Sir, one wonders what kind of security outfit will subject innocent civilians to such an inhumane treatment. With this recent incident, I and the entire student community of the University of Maiduguri are quipped and disappointed. If Abdul had died from that shot, he would have been killed extra-judicially, his fundamental human rights trampled upon and every other thing he stands for would have been lost in oblivion, many thanks to almighty God and the swift response of the medical team who were able to resuscitate the bleeding Abdul who had already lost a reasonable amount of blood before receiving medical succor.

Sir, as I pen this words, our friend and brother has been successfully operated twice and medical reports say that he is responding to treatment at the intensive care unit of UMTH with little or no special attention from you and the members of your command, a fact which I am aware of and a measure which I am sure a reasonable man would not admit if they were to be in the middle of the morass as is Abdul.

Abdul a final year student, a fine gentle man was to commence his first semester examinations a fortnight from the date of that sad event. I had spoken with him before he embarked on that long journey from Niger state. Though he is not dead and together we pray for a speedy recovery but his hopes of becoming an alumni of UNIMAID by the end of July if anything, is dimmed at least at the moment. No thanks to that ugly scenario.

You and I can confirm that the student community which I happen to be a part of, are the most peaceful members of the troubled city of Maiduguri. Why then should one of us be a victim of this recklessness and unprofessionality? Sometime ago, a certain Arinze, a level 600 student of the college of Medicine, was killed in almost a similar circumstance. In his case, he died at the spot and may his soul continue to rest in peace. Amen! But in the instant case, we are lucky Abdul is still breathing.

Sir, with all the foregoing brought to bear, we the entire students of the university of Maiduguri are seeking for full justice for Abdul even as he lay on his sick bed. We demand that the said soldier be rounded –up, court marshaled, and if possible, be relieved of his duties as a member of the Nigerian Army for we can no longer condone such height of unprofessionalism anymore. Abdul may be his victim today, you and I may become one tomorrow and only God knows who his victims were yesterday.

With regards to the untrue statement in a certain online media, we demand unreserved apology to Abdulmumin, the entire student community in Maiduguri and the entire Nigerian students on the same online media and two other national dailies preferably the Dailytrust and the Dailysun as it appears they are the two most widely read national dailies at the moment.
Some few weeks ago, a young Indian girl became a victim of gang rape in India. I need not tell you what became of india few days later until the perpetrators were fished out even though she died anyway. Nigerian students can also do the same. Let not our gentility be taken for stupidity. We expect you to use the powers of your fine office to treat the matter as though Abdulmumin were your biological son. if not for anything, to counter or make false the claims by Amnesty International that the JTF have been involved in several acts of extra-judicial killings in different parts of the country.

It is our hope that this gets across your table and before your very eyes and also proper investigations and sanctions made. BE GUIDED!!!

The writer is a law student in the said University, he is a writer, a public affairs analyst, an editor and a passenger in the wagon of change for Nigeria. He tweets @yung_silky

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