Nigeria: Tension in Borno Over Al-Jazeera Boko Haram Video

Regulation & Policy

Borno is tension-soaked after Al-Jazeera released a video showing persons in police uniforms ordering the killings of unarmed civilians in the Boko Haram sectarian crisis. Over 1,000 people were believed to have died and properties destroyed.

The footage obtained by Al-Jazeera shows that many of the deaths occurred once the fighting was over in Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi states in July and August 2009.

Al-Jazeera, a renowned international cable network based in Qatar, released the video about the August 2009 mayhem early last week. The video clippings also revealed how persons suspected to be policemen were discussing how not to shoot one of the victims in the head so they could take away his hat.

Claims by Al-Jazeera that elements of the police and army staged a follow-up operation in which house-to-house searches were conducted and individuals were apparently selected at random and taken to a police station have caused stir in Borno, forcing security agencies to beef up security across the state and warning people against violence.

Borno government and the state police command declined comment, but many have accused the Al-Jazeera of deliberately spreading mischief and wanting to incite violence in the country.

While the video clips of the shooting of arrested persons by the police rented the Al-Jazeera airwaves during the week, many in Borno state continued to react in mixed feelings as memories of the ill-fated Boko Haram massacre in opposition to westernisation flooded back to torment victims and their relatives.

Though the situation in Maiduguri, the state capital, has remained calm as the police have since been on security surveillance, many residents fear the video could stir the hornet's nest. The fear is worsened by the January ethno-religious crisis in Jos, the Plateau State capital, where hundreds were killed.

Most people contacted from within the government circle declined comments on the Al-Jazeera video clips, but hinted at the possibility of Borno Government investigating the cable network "to ascertain why they chose to broadcast the video clips of crisis eight months after the people of the state have gotten over their traumas. This is a mischief that is unbecoming of a reputable media outfit like Al-Jazeera."

Daily Independent 13 February 2010