Nigerian soldiers have blocked roads out of Borno State to deprive Boko Haram fighters of supplies in remote towns they control, the army has said.
The military said yesterday that its offensive against the group, which followed a declaration of a state of emergency in three Borno, Yobe, Adamawa states, was aimed at re-establishing Nigeria’s “territorial integrity”.
The assault on Boko Haram, which has said it wants to create an Islamic state, included air strikes on strongholds in remote parts of northeastern Borno State, and has spread to the state capital Maiduguri, the fighters’ traditional home base.
Residents said yesterday the base had been blockaded.
“There is a huge build-up of trucks loaded with essential commodities… along the Baga road on the way out of Maiduguri to the northern part of the state,” said Ibrahim Yahaya.
“The drivers said they have been prevented by the military from going northward,” he told a news agency by email.
The phone network in Borno has all but collapsed since President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday declared a state of emergency there and in two neighbouring states, Adamawa and Yobe.
Chris Olukolade, a defence spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday that fighters on the run were scrambling for key supplies like fuel. He urged residents to report anyone trying to buy large quantities of fuel.
The supply shortage has begun to bite in the town of Gomboru Ngala, on the border with Cameroon, where some Borno residents have fled to escape the air raids.
“Trucks bringing in goods from Maiduguri have ceased since last week,” said resident Grema Babagoni. He said the supply shortage has pushed prices up by as much as 25 per cent.
“If the blockade continues for some time, we may completely run out of supplies,” he said.
On Saturday, the army declared a 24-hour curfew in a dozen neighbourhoods of Maiduguri, Boko Haram’s stronghold.
The curfew in the main city in Borno State came as soldiers continued the government’s emergency campaign against fighters in the region.
A defence spokesman also said the military had seized stockpiles of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades, guns and ammunition from areas around Maiduguri.
Boko Haram has carried out scores of attacks in recent years, and has become emboldened and better armed in recent months.
Meanwhile, following the declaration of a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states, some members of the fundamentalist Boko Haram sect have started fleeing to neighbouring Gombe, Bauchi and Jigawa states, our correspondent reports.
President Goodluck Jonathan placed the three states under emergency rule following unabated bloodbath and bomb attacks which have left hundreds of people and security officials dead.
Security sources confided in our correspondents on Friday that following the increased pressure by the military, some of the insurgents have started sneaking out of the states.
A top military official who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter said, “All the states are under intense military surveillance and we are ensuring that no one sneaks out but the insurgents have some secret routes which we are going to block. They will use these secret routes to sneak out because of the heat on them. Ordinarily, they will want to protect their wives, children and the weak among them.”
One of the soldiers deployed in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, also told one of our correspondents that some of the insurgents are fleeing the state to neighbouring ones.
The solider who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said, “We have reports that they are running away to neigbouring states and even neighbouring countries. We are doing our best to ensure that all escape routes are blocked.”
According to the soldier, several residents of Gamboru, Ngala, and Marte, where the sect hoisted its flags are fleeing the area because of heavy military operation.
“The military should use a lot of tactics to freeze the bad guys (Boko Haram). The essence of conducting the military operation in the North-East is to flush out or capture the Boko Haram elements. If they get away, then the purpose of the exercise is defeated.”
He added that members of the sect might wear military uniforms to disguise as they were becoming more adaptive. According to him, it would become difficult to differentiate between a genuine military officer and a Boko Haram member in military uniform.
In a related development, members of Boko Haram and other extremist groups in Nigeria, could face war crimes charges for deliberate acts leading to ethnic and religious cleansing, the UN has said.
Rupert Colvile, the spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said this in a statement made available at the UN Head quarters in New York on Friday.
He reiterated calls on Boko Haram and other extremist groups in Nigeria to cease their “cowardly attacks” against civilians, members of government institutions, security forces and foreign nationals.
“The High Commissioner noted that members of Boko Haram, if judged to have committed systematic attacks against a civilian population on grounds such as religion or ethnicity could be found guilty of crimes against humanity.
“Deliberate acts leading to population ‘cleansing’ on grounds of religion or ethnicity could also amount to a crime against humanity,” Colville stressed.
In recent weeks, more than 220 people have been killed in violent clashes between military forces and the Islamist group, Boko Haram.
OHCHR has urged the Nigerian government to abide by human rights principles during security patrols.
The rights body also said it was concerned about the large number of casualties, reportedly including many civilians, and massive destruction of houses and property.
Colville urged the government to ensure that international human rights law was respected during its emergency operations.
Similarly the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon had said he remained very concerned about the ongoing instability in the country.
He underscored the need for all concerned to fully respect human rights and to safeguard the lives of all
“Part of the measures to succeed in the task had led us to getting into partnership with the American government to procure advanced surveillance equipment for better border security. The illegal immigrants were sent out of the country by the appropriate authorities under the ministry.”
In a related development, Amnesty International has called on security forces to adhere to international human rights standards and the rule of law.
It said it would continue to document human rights abuses by the security forces and Boko Haram, and the dire situation of the people trapped in the middle.
“Unfortunately, at the moment in Nigeria we have a situation where the military are behaving like they are above the law – like they don’t have to respect the rule of law. So, in some respects, the issue is not so much which law the military are operating under, although it is vitally important that the law complies with international human rights law and standards.”
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Three Out Of 10 Nigerians Are Mentally Sick -Reps
The House of Representatives has said that three out of every 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or another.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the House added that over 20,000,000 Nigerians were currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
To this end, the House mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue.
It also asked the Committee on Health Institution to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health.
The resolution, however, followed a motion titled “Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria” presented by Hon. Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State and considered by the House at yesterday’s plenary.
Presenting his motion, Nnam-Obi noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mental health as a state of well-being in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.
According to him, mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.
He said: “According to the World Health Organisation statistics, over twenty million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
“Three out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatisation against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalised standards for Psychiatric practice.
“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.
“Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20million citizens suffering from mental disorders.
“With the few functional Mental Health Facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.
“The statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate”
Adopting the motion, the House gave six weeks to the committees within which to carry out the assignment and report back to it for further legislative action.
Wike, PDP Govs Commiserate With Tambuwal Over Brother’s Death
Representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, yesterday, paid a condolence visit to the Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal over the death of his elder brother, Alhaji Muhammed Bello.
Bello, who is also the Waziri of Tambuwal, passed on in Sokoto, last Tuesday night at the age 87.
He was the head of the Tambuwal family.
On the PDP governors’ delegation were, Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Oluseyi Makinde (Oyo); and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
The Vice Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who led the delegation, said they were in Sokoto to commiserate with Tambuwal and his entire family over the sudden death of his elder brother.
“We feel your pain, and we understand that a great vacuum has been created, not only within the caliphate, but across Nigeria and other places where Daddy had sphere of influence. We believe that God Almighty will grant you the fortitude to bear this great loss.
“We are, however, consoled by the fact that Daddy left legacies that will remain indelible; one of them is your very good self and your impact and contributions to our dear country.”
The governors urged the Tambuwal family, particularly the Sokoto State governor, to remain strong, steadfast and uphold those virtues which the late Waziri of Tambuwal, cherished so much.
In his response, Sokoto StateGovernor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who is the PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, said the entire Tambuwal family was gladdened by the condolence visit.
According to him, his late elder brother, who lived his life in the service of community, held the family title, Waziri of Tambuwal for 37 years after the demise of their father.
“We are, indeed, very highly consoled not only by your presence, but your words of consolation. For you to have left behind whatever you are doing in your respective states to come all the way to Sokoto this afternoon, shows clearly how you sympathise with us and how close you are to us. I assure you that we appreciate this.”
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