International Criminal Court has not investigated the abuse of human rights of over 200 million Nigerians committed by bandits and terrorists. Many states and cities in Nigeria are under attack from bandits and terrorists. ICC has failed to investigate the rights of thousands of Nigerian school children that have been kidnapped, killed by bandits and terrorists. ICC has not investigated the closure of more than 12,000 schools by bandits and terrorists. Education is a right under United Nations charter and there are more than 18 million out of school children due to bandits and terrorists attacks. International Criminal Court has failed Nigeria. Where is the justice for over 200 million Nigerians?

ICC has been silent on the human rights of millions of Nigerians that have been raped and kidnapped by terrorists in Nigeria. ICC has been silent on the human rights of thousands of Nigerians killed by bandits and terrorists. ICC has been silent on the human rights of communities that their over 12,000 schools have been destroyed by bandits and terrorists in Nigeria. Why is ICC not talking about the human rights of thousands of Nigerians killed by Boko Haram and bandits? Why is ICC silent on the rights of Nigerian school children that have been kidnapped by Boko Haram and bandits?

Despite the wide acceptance and ratification of the United Nations Conventions of the Rights of the Child- a human rights treaty which outlines the civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights of children—by 196 countries in 1989, children all over the world continue to be abused, neglected, and exploited. In most Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) like Nigeria, the rights of children are violated daily and almost with impunity. Children are raped, maimed, starved, deprived of education, neglected, and engaged in child labor with inadequate judicial systems or institutions to seek redress.

In Nigeria, 18.5 million children are currently out of school. This figure constitutes half of the population of out-of-school-children (OOSC) in the world, which was pegged at 20.5 million in 2017. 50 percent of the 18.5 million OOSC in Nigeria are girls and 50 percent of these populations are in Northern Nigeria- a region which has been plagued by the Boko Haram Insurgency since 2009. In addition to the huge number of OOSC, Nigeria’s educational system is deficient in more ways than one. Indeed, the poor educational system in Nigeria has been a literary staple. In 2017, Nigeria’s quality of education ranked 125th out of 137 countries on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Competitiveness Index. Nigerian public schools are characterized by dilapidated structures, inadequate educational materials, overcrowding, poor funding, and poorly trained teachers.

Then, there is the issue of insurgency. It is hardly novel that children are targets in the Boko Haram insurgency. Children are increasingly being kidnapped and used as child soldiers, suicide bombers, and sex slaves by the insurgents. The insurgents have kidnapped hundreds of girls from their school dormitories, as well as communities. Sadly, girls abducted by the insurgents are subject to systemic rape, which results in childhood pregnancies. Many of the young girls who get pregnant by their abductors are ostracized by community members on their release for carrying “children of Boko Haram.” The plight of children in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps are equally deplorable. With little or no government-led interventions, children (especially those who are orphaned by the insurgency) are vulnerable to sexual harassment and child labor in order to make ends meet.

Nigerian authorities have been battling the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, for a decade in a conflict that has cost the lives of an estimated more than 40,000 people. International Criminal Court has not investigated the killing of more than 40,000 civilians and troops but ICC is investigating the death of less than 800 people in Nigeria. As the military continues to battle Boko Haram, millions affected by the fight who are living in camps are hoping to return home. International Criminal Court is investigating the death of about 800 people when families of thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in the fight against Boko Haram and bandits insurgents in the Nigerian north are still waiting for the gratuities of the fallen heroes.

ICC has not consider the level of destruction of public infrastructure and the incessant attacks on critical public facilities in Nigeria which could be considered as war crimes, such as police stations and INEC offices, was not just vandalism but a form of terrorism. ’When public infrastructure is being targeted for destruction by some unpatriotic Nigerians, it calls for great concern and immediate action. Nigeria has long suffered massive infrastructure deficit due to decades of neglect, population explosion and the absence of maintenance culture. But since coming into office in 2015, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has embarked on a rapid economic growth with equity, i.e. people-centered economic management as well as prioritizing human capital development through enhanced social services and infrastructure development.

Though Nigeria has invested hugely in human and material resources in the fight against terrorism, the battle is far from being over. The collaborative efforts of ISWAP and Boko Haram have seen deadly attacks across the North-East, North-West and the North Central. Conversely, the counterterrorism strategies of the military are faltering. Ironically, it is the insurgents deploying technology while the state has been tardy in this regard. While the terrorists obviously rely on accurate intelligence, Nigerian forces suffer from poor intelligence and keep falling into ambushes and endure attacks on their outposts.

Violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and ISWA against civilian and military targets has also resulted in mass atrocities in northern Nigeria. During February 2022 ISWA perpetrated a series of attacks in Borno State, killing at least 25 civilians. More than 35,000 people have been killed in northern Nigeria since 2009 when Boko Haram launched its insurgency aimed at overthrowing Nigeria’s secular government and establishing an Islamic state. There are at least 2.2 million internally displaced persons in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states while health services and education have been severely disrupted. These groups have also perpetrated attacks in neighboring countries, killing and displacing civilians in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker, notes that more than 35,000 people have died from the ongoing crisis. Over 2.5 million people are displaced within the region and in the Lake Chad Basin. These Data from Nextier Violent Conflict Database show that between January and March 2022, the region recorded 23 violent conflict incidents resulting in 172 deaths and 23 kidnap victims.

Islamic terrorism was birthed in the country by the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram. Since then, it has sprouted several offshoots, welcomed into its ranks different global terrorist franchises – ISIS and al-Qaeda – and become magnets for jihadists from across the world.

Moreover, other terrorists with other goals have emerged. One group of vicious Fulani marauders is spreading its rapine all over the country. Others are the blood-thirsty bandits/kidnappers ravaging the northern states. These have forged an unholy alliance with the Salafist Boko Haram, Ansaru and ISWAP, the local ISIS affiliate. In the South-East, a shadowy group the media labels “unknown gunmen” for want of a specific name is also waging a campaign of terror, riding on the back of a separatist agitation in the region.

The country is now gripped by violent conflicts on several fronts. Estimates of the number of persons killed in terrorism since 2009 vary from the 35,000 cited by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, to 100,000 as of 2019 given by Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. In a June 2021 report, the UN Development Programme said insurgency-related conflicts had claimed the lives of 350,000 persons in the North-East by 2020. It said while 35,000 were killed directly, 314,000 died from “indirect causes.” Over 2.5 million persons have been displaced with about 200,000 taking refuge in neighbouring countries. Children and women contribute a large chunk of the indirect casualties.

The Global Terrorism Index 2022 identified sub-Saharan Africa as an emerging epicentre of terrorism, accounting for 48 per cent of global terrorism deaths. Depressingly, GTI noted in 2020 that Nigeria retained odious title of the third most terrorism-impacted country in the world.

In the past 18 months, terrorists have attacked 16 military bases and killed about 750 security personnel. In 2017, the GTI disclosed that nearly three-quarters of deaths caused by terrorism were in only five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria.

Bandits are the newest addition to Nigeria’s growing list of violent non-state actors and have become a convenient trope for framing the ongoing devastation in Nigeria’s North West and Middle Belt regions. Largely unconnected to the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, the origin of banditry in Nigeria can be traced to the farmer-herder conflict that accelerated around 2011. Since 2011, the farmer-herder conflict has metastasized to include cattle rustling, arms smuggling, protection rackets, kidnapping for ransom, gender-based violence, among others. In the North West alone, the activities of bandits directly affect roughly 21 million people living in Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina.

Inwalomhe Donald writes via [email protected]