Years after arrest as B/Haram suspects… Mothers demand information on missing children, others

A group of mothers known as Jire Dole Network, yesterday, asked the Nigerian military authorities and government to come clean on the fate of their children arrested over alleged links with Boko Haram.

The mothers, who staged a protest in Maiduguri, Borno State said thousands of young men and boys were detained in military facilities since 2011 with no information about them.

“If our children have been killed, the Nigerian government should show us their grave,” said the women who displayed the photographs of their missing relations.

The leader of the mothers’ network, Hajja Gana Suleiman, demanded for justice, noting that without it there will be no peace.

Since the resurgence of Boko Haram in 2009, thousands of suspects had been arrested by security forces including the DSS, military and police.

While some had been released when found innocent after preliminary investigations, many others are being held in detention facilities.

It would be recalled that in Oct. 2017, Nigeria Government prepared for its first major prosecutions of suspects linked to the Boko Haram conflict in closed-door trials at a military base.

The Federal Ministry of Justice had earlier in Sept. 2017 announced some 1,670 detainees would go on trial at a civilian court at a military base in Kainji, Niger State.

A further 651 others held at the Giwa barracks would then be tried. Findings reveal that several trials had taken place, hundreds of the suspects released when found not guilty and those found wanting given various prisons terms.

However, not certain about the whereabout of their children, some parents especially in Borno State had staged peaceful protest in the past years with many of them accusing security agencies of killing their wards extra-judicially.

During yesterday’s protest, Hajja Gana said as mothers, they had waited for years to hear what happened to their sons, adding that none of them was taken to court.

“Ever since my son Mustapha Saina was arrested in October 2011, I have been looking for him. I went to Giwa Barracks and saw him a week after his arrest. I filed a case in court, but nothing ever happened, I have never seen him again.”

Hajja Gana said Mustapha was 25 when he was arrested by the Nigerian military and detained at Giwa Barracks, adding that he was the breadwinner of the family and supported his sisters.

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“Prior to his arrest, he was a businessman. He was happily married; his wife was six months pregnant with their first child. Soldiers arrested him on October 10, 2011 at his local mosque in Maiduguri, just after morning prayers, along with some 35 young men. No one knows if Mustapha is still alive. No former detainees have confirmed if he is dead either,” Hajja Gana said, even as she expressed hope that he will be released one day.

Another mother Fatima Hassan said she last saw her sons Ibrahim and Musa in September 2013, when soldiers arrested them in her house, following a bomb attack in her neighbourhood in Maiduguri.

“During a house to house search, some 16 young men were arrested. Ibrahim, at that time a 30-year old banker, and Musa, a 26-year-old student, were taken to Giwa Barracks. Soldiers promised to release them, but it never happened,” Fatima said, adding that she went to Giwa Barracks several times but never saw them again.

She said the only sign of life with regards to her sons came after the 2014 Giwa Barracks attack, when a fellow detainee said the two boys were alive and did not flee the detention centre.

Many other women spoke. One said her son was six when he was taken from Tashar Baga where he had gone to buy thread for sewing. Another said “We are looking for justice. What Nigerian government has done to us, what the Nigerian military has done to us, it is enough!”

The mothers said the government must release the list of detainees with all their names so that they will know what happened to their children.

They said they believed President Muhammadu Buhari can do the right thing and give them justice. “That is why we are today asking him to assist us,” Hajja Gana said as she wept uncontrollably.

Defense spokesman, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, and 7 Div Spokesman, Col. Ado Isa, did not pick calls from Daily Trust reporter with respect to the arrests.

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However, sources said most of the detained suspects were interrogated by a combined team of security agencies including DSS, Police, Civil Defence and military between April and October at the Wawa Military cantonment in New Bussa, Niger State.

“Many have been tried and sentenced to various prison terms from 5-60yrs while others are awaiting trial. Some of them have been exonerated and referred to a deradicalization centre while many have died in detention,” one of the military sources said.

When contacted, spokesman of the Borno State governor, Isa Gusau, confirmed to Daily Trust on phone that he was aware that the military made several arrests in Maiduguri in their search for insurgents hiding among the civilian population in 2011.

“At that time, insurgents would hide among the civilian population, shoot soldiers and then hide.

“In swift response, the military would pounce on the population and arrest large populations of young men indiscriminately; this trend angered the population and, consequently between the military and the civilian population who became aggrieved that their young men were being arrested innocently by the military.

“This situation led young men to start arresting one or two insurgents and handing then over to the military; this led to the subsequent formation of the Civilian JTF in 2013.

“Most importantly, however, the bad blood between the civilian population and the military led to the creation of a public rights department under the state ministry if justice; this department became instrumental to the subsequent release of many young men earlier arrested by the military.

“This is the much I know; I cannot claim to know that there is another population of young men still in custody of the military, or even executed,” Gusau said.

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