…Buhari, UN, NGOs condemn killings
It was a bleak day for relatives and friends of five aid workers in Maiduguri, who were kidnapped and murdered by the dreaded Boko Haram sect. However, the worst seems not to be over yet as the insurgents issued a chilling reminder of its potency and threats to aid workers in the Northeast region.
It was a pathetic scene when Daily Trust Saturday reporter visited the family of the late Abdulrahman Bulama, one of the aid workers recently murdered by insurgents in Maiduguri.
Women and children were seen in the house, not too distant from the popular Fuzan overtank area of Maiduguri wailing uncontrollably, while the men sat on local mats looking forlorn, while waiting to observe the funeral prayer for the departed ones.
The late Abdulraham Bulama, who was preparing to marry a second wife, three days before his abduction, was in his late 30s and a desk officer at the State Emergency Management Agency in Monguno. He was one of the five humanitarian workers forcefully taken away along Maiduguri/Monguno highway by armed men believed to be insurgents.
The slain aid workers, though abducted separately, are Ishaku Yakubu of Action Against Hunger; Abdulrahman Dungus of Rich International; Luka Filibus, a child protection officer with the Aid Group International Rescue Committee (IRC); Joseph Prince, a security worker; and Abdulrahman Bulama, a SEMA camp coordinator.
They were said to have spent 52 days in the hands of their captors before they were finally executed on Wednesday.
Their deaths were publicized via a viral video released on Wednesday after purportedly failed negotiations between the parties involved, Daily Trust Saturday gathered.
In the viral video, one of the unidentified armed men speaking in Hausa said: “This is a message to the infidels who are using you to cheat and turn our people into unbelievers. You should know that your employers are just using you to achieve their aims, but they don’t care about you. That’s why whenever we abduct you, they don’t care about you.
“Our advice for you is that you should repent and turn to God, or else we shall continue to ambush and abduct you all in all the routes that you traverse. And if you don’t heed to our warning, what is about to happen to these five aid workers would also be the fate that will befall you too,” he concluded.
However, when Daily Trust Saturday approached the mother of late Abdulrahman, Hajja Umma Bulama, she looked very weak from continuous weeping and was surrounded by dozens of women who kept consoling her in Kanuri language, saying, “Please take heart Mama! Sorry.”
Hajja said: “May Allah grant him Jannah Firdausi, May Allah grant mercy on his grace. May he be forgiven the way he has always been comforting with a heart of God. May Allah have mercy on him.
“What happened to him is the will of Allah. And I thank the Almighty, I have no grudges against anyone. May Allah grant him paradise,” she added.
However, Zara Tijjani, wife of the late Abdulrahman, who held her son in an embrace amidst family members, kept asking them the whereabouts of her husband.
“This is his son, where is my husband? Where is he?” Zara wept profusely.
Also speaking, Aji Jidda Bulama, younger brother of the late Abdulrahman, said the family tried its best to secure the release of his late elder brother but he was utterly shocked when the news of his death broke.
“He is very popular and has been accepted by many people; his death came to us as a very rude surprise, I could not believe it,” he said.
“As a family, we are devastated, especially our mother. I felt bad when I heard the news. She was terribly touched by the story of his execution.
Also, when Daily Trust Saturday visited the home of another victim, 28-year-old Abdulrahman Dungus, who worked with Rich International before his death, his father Alhaji Dungus Ibrahim said the whole incident looked like a dream to him and he was yet to believe it.”
Alhaji Ibrahim said he was a farmer before they were chased away from their ancestral home – Monguno in 2014, to Bakassi IDPs camp where they are currently living.
He revealed that he spent more than 5 years in a displaced person’s camp with his family where they depended on nongovernmental organizations’ aid to survive.
He revealed that his son Abdulrahman Dungus had been the strength of the family since he got the job with the NGO. “He had promised to be my sunshine, which he actually was, until his untimely death in the hands of his kidnapper.
“For two years now, Dungus had supported me and the family with the little he earned, he also took care of his siblings. I don’t know why this is happening to me. The last time I saw him was 42 days ago, when he left for Monguno and promised to come back a few weeks later. That was the last time I saw or heard from him,” he said.
“The whole thing still seems like a dream because he promised to wipe away my tears and take care of the family. We are confused but Allah knows the best,” Alhaji Dungus said.
Meanwhile, the execution of the aid workers has been widely condemned, both nationally and internationally, as top government officials and international organizations pay visits and send condolence messages to the families of the deceased.
Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State, who is deeply pained by the insurgents’ execution of aid workers, has described them as heroes that were gruesomely killed in the course of serving humanity.
Zulum, in a statement on Thursday signed by the spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau, mourned the heroes and shared in the grief of their families and employers.
Governor Zulum who wants strongly desires an end to the senseless killings, said, “We cannot continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.”
“The governor believes in a combination of kinetic and non-kinetic approaches and he is of the position that the Nigerian military has, through its ‘Operation Safe Corridor’, demonstrated its willingness to rehabilitate and reintegrate insurgents willing to stop the killings of fellow humans,” the statement said.
Zulum, who was not in the state when the incident occurred, had directed a government delegation to visit families of the aid workers to participate in funeral activities and to pay condolence visits to affected humanitarian partners through UNOCHA.
The deputy governor, Hon. Usman Khadafu, who led the Borno State government delegation, expressed dismay over what he described as s barbaric act and great loss to the humanitarian sector as well as the state governments, while sympathizing with the family of late Abdulrahman.
“We are worried with the latest development; it is bad and evil. However, the government and good people of Borno State express their heartfelt sympathy.
“I want to call upon all our humanitarian aid workers to be vigilant when it comes to embarking on any journey, even if it is personal, especially if you are in the north eastern part of the country.”
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the murder of five staff of humanitarian agencies in Borno State.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said: “President Buhari sympathises with the families of the five aid workers, while praying that God will comfort them for their irreplaceable loss.
“He assures them that his government will continue to do all it can to ensure that every remaining vestige of Boko Haram is wiped out completely from northeastern Nigeria and that the perpetrators of this atrocity face the law,” the statement said.
President Buhari while condoling with the State Emergency Management Agency, Action Against Hunger, Rich International, and International Rescue Committee, assured them that security agencies in the state will work closely with their organisations to implement measures to ensure that such kidnapping of their staff does not occur again.
United Nations Residents Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edwin Kallon, strongly condemned all violence targeting aid workers who devote their time to assist vulnerable people and communities affected by conflicts.
“My most heartfelt condolences go to their loved ones, families, friends and co-workers. Their safety and securing their safe release had been our highest priority since they were captured last month,” he said.
“This is tragically not the first killing of kidnapped aid workers. We have repeatedly called for such devastating fate and blatant violation of international humanitarian law to never happen again. And yet, it does. I implore all armed parties to step up to their responsibilities and stop targeting,” Kallon stressed.
Also, International NGO community in Nigeria condemns the execution, saying since the beginning of 2019, eight aid workers have been executed following their abduction, while the whereabouts of two remain unknown.
“This is unacceptable: aid workers are not a target. Attacks on aid workers result in the loss of life of those who dedicated their lives to support others, and deprive people of desperately needed assistance and access to basic services.
“We demand that the remains of the aid workers are immediately returned to their families. We also call for the unconditional and immediate release of the two aid workers whose whereabouts remain unknown,” INGOs forum warned.
Meanwhile, the IRC also grieves the execution of their colleague, Luka Filibus, and his fellow captives.
“We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by this news. Luka and his family were forced to flee their home, and he was still compelled to alleviate the suffering of children. He dedicated his life to protecting children and to help lessen their trauma in the face of crisis.
“His colleagues in Nigeria remember him always with a smile on his face. We grieve with Luka’s family and will do everything we can to support them through this challenging time,” IRC mourned.
Action Against Hunger said: “The capture of humanitarian workers violates International Humanitarian Law, and all the rules for the protection of workers, humanitarian organizations and partners.
“This unjustifiable assassination reflects the immense difficulty faced by independent and impartial humanitarian actors, and the violence we are exposed to every day to fulfill our mission, as well as to promote the values of humanity and solidarity that are more than ever necessary.”