By Idoko Ainoko
Sometimes, it’s more consoling to dismiss America as inconsequential. The desire of America to police the world at all cost compels it, to often commit unpardonable blunders. America has just released a report on Nigeria and seven other countries alleging the use of child soldiers in terrorism combat wars in the country.
America was vehement that Nigeria alongside the indicted countries violated the American Child-Soldier Prohibition Act, (CSPA) 2008. In its accustomed haughtiness, America proclaimed a number of restrictions on these indicted countries over the alleged violation of the child-soldier Act. But most profoundly, penalties also include the denial of military assistance of any kind to governments of such countries.
I do not have sufficient knowledge of how the other countries prosecute their internal wars. But I am knowledgeable about Nigeria. I have enthusiastically followed the counter-insurgency war in the Northeast specifically.
In the first place, we are not living in the stone age, where Americans would sit in the White House, churn out obnoxious laws, impose it on other nations, determine when such nations are guilty, pass judgments’ on them in absentia and trumpet to the world their sanctity. Methinks, it defeats sound reasoning to continue to administer external relations to the world in this manner and expect to earn respect.
It’s understandable that developing countries like Nigeria routinely depend on advanced countries like America for assistance. But no nation is an island to itself, including America. But it does not mean America should smear these nations with their smelly dung.
America’s application of its CSPA is extremely and transparently defective. It has found Nigeria culpable because of the involvement of the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) in the counter-insurgency campaigns in Nigeria’s Northeast and other parts of the country. But going by the prescriptions’ of CSPA, no sensible judgment can pronounce Nigeria guilty on use of child-soldiers.
None of the prescriptions constitute the concept, underlying philosophy, membership content and operations of the Civilian JTF in Nigeria. Had America lowered its head, to check the composition of Civilian JTF in Borno state, it would have restrained itself from criminalizing Nigeria with such generous conclusions.
I do know that none of the members of the Civilian JTF has been recruited into the Nigerian military for the purpose of fighting the Boko Haram terrorism. Its membership is also drawn from youths of diverse professional persuasions’. The legal officer of the Civilian JTF, Mr. Junril Gunda himself a fighter, is a lawyer by training. It is impossible for anyone who qualifies as a lawyer in Nigeria to be below 18 years of age.
Based on a mindset to deny Nigeria military assistance, America downplayed the reality that among members of the Civilian JTF, there are degree holders, NCE and diploma certificate holders. Some of them are into established businesses and family men before voluntarily opting to assist the military in salvaging their communities from the menace of Boko Haram terrorism. America has not convinced anyone on how it qualifies such persons as under-aged, by any standard of definition.
The Civilian JTF evolved through stages into a formidable force. Its members do not use conventional weapons, but traditional arms like Dane guns, cudgels, machetes’ and knives. Some are local hunters. In recognition of the crucial roles they elected to play in quelling insurgency, the Nigerian Army documented them.
Its condemnable conspiracy against Nigeria to claim the Nigerian military would have consented to the registration of under-aged youths as soldiers.
The idea of shouting first over presumed lapses by other nations has become America’s trademark. They drum perfection to the extent of forgetting their own decomposing sores, preferring to point the black spots in others. So, they hardly mention the extra-judicial killing of Osama Bin Laden in a Pakistani cave. Had this act been done by another country, America would have imposed restrictions.
I dare say, America knows nothing about the Civilian JTF. So, they should be reminded that a corrupt Nigerian military could not tame the horror of Boko Haram terrorism, as it festered uncontrollably in 2009. It compelled the Federal Government to impose a state of emergency. And constant raids of communities by terrorists, coupled with the violent interface with insurgents by Nigerian troops made life hellish for inhabitants.
In order to wriggle out of this predicament, the vision of Civilian JTF sprouted in 2013, at the Hausari part of Maiduguri, when a courageous youth, Baba Lawan Jafar, chased a gun-wielding terrorist in his neighbourhood with a mere stick and captured him. This act of valour enticed his friend Modu Milo who also enlisted in the task of hunting for insurgents.
The initial success recorded by these brave duo fired the zeal and emboldened other youths, who believed they could help salvage themselves from the suffocating difficulties terrorism imposed on inhabitants. The youths therefore, decided to orderly arrange themselves to resist the brutality of terrorists, leading to the birth of Civilian JTF.
And for the years they have operated, members of the Civilian JTF have proven to be dependable allies in the counter-insurgency war. Like soldiers, they sacrificed their comfort and paid the supreme price in most instances. With the supportive intervention of the Civilian JTF, exploits of Boko Haram insurgents began to wane. They were handy in various ways as local informants and pathfinders to virgin territories for soldiers in hunting for insurgents.
Consequently, if Nigeria enjoys respite from the suffocating grip of terrorism today, the Civilian JTF are the indisputable unsung heroes of this war. They deserve accolades as patriots of the Nigerian state, who staked their lives for Nigerians and humanity in general. America’s orchestrated mockery of Civilian JTF is in bad taste, condemnable and an assault on the psyche of these brave Nigerians.
It is unfortunate that it came from the Americans and not Iran or Qatar who are known supporters of terrorism. But certainly, this outing on Nigeria is sacrilegious and betrays America’s hidden agenda on terrorism.
The Nigerian military have repeatedly celebrated the Civilian JTF as true patriots who identified with their country in the hour of need. They have never been an arm of the Nigerian armed forces or the core counter-insurgency operations. America cannot belittle their selflessness that abusively or blot the joy of being part of the redemption history of their nation, through the jaundiced report.
Nigeria is not the only country immersed in terrorism. In spite of America’s sophistry, terrorism is still a threat to its existence.
Ainoko, a public affairs commentator writes from Kaduna.