- (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
The rising violence in Nigeria has reached a critical point as the main Boko Haram suspect in the Christmas day bombings has escaped custody and officials are struggling to protect their citizens from the violent militant group.
The main suspect of the Christmas Day church bombings in Nigeria escaped after spending less than 24 hours in custody, according to Reuters. Now, police officers involved in the case have been detained and will be investigated.
The suspect, Kabiru Sokoto, was arrested on Tuesday by Nigerian policeman. During a trip to his home in Abaji to conduct a search, their vehicle came under fire.
Sokoto was freed.
"In the course of undertaking this important procedure, the policemen on escort with the suspect were attacked by the suspected sect gang members and in the process the suspect [was] freed," Olusola Amora, police spokesman, said in a statement.
As a result, the Commissioner of Police was suspended from duty for negligence. The inspector general of police, Hafiz Ringim, has also been called in to explain the events that led to Sokoto's escape.
Minister of police Capt. Caleb Olubolade has told journalists that the commissioner will have to account for his mistakes if he is found guilty.
"I have also directed that the officers involved and the personnel involved should be detained immediately," he added.
There is valid reason to suspect the police in aiding the suspects escape. In recent weeks, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said that he suspected there may be Boko Haram sympathizers in his government.
Furthermore, Nigeria has been notorious for corruption in the government and their security forces. According to Eric Guttschuss, Nigerian Researcher for Human Rights Watch, police efforts in Nigeria have long been undermined by corruption.
"Nigeria faces security challenges because police forces have failed conduct thorough investigations and follow through on prosecution of suspects due to corruption," Guttschuss said.
Guttschuss cited that if you're a victim of a crime in Nigeria, you have to pay police for justice and if you're a criminal with money, you can pay off police. He also says that there is a deep degree of skepticism when it comes to police forces and citizens will have a lack of confidence in them after the bombing suspect escaped.
While he says that the attacks on Christians are indefensible and inexcusable, he indicates that police must adopt a culture of professionalism and do more to protect Nigeria's vulnerable communities.
"The Nigerian government must ensure that vulnerable communities are protected, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation," Guttschuss told The Christian Post. "This includes Christians in the North and Muslims who are minorities in Christian communities."
Boko Haram uses attacks on Mosques and injustices against Muslims to recruit new members and further instigate sectarian warfare. These issues must be addressed, according to Guttschuss, in order to improve the situation in Nigeria.
He added that Boko Haram also uses corruption of government to push their agenda for applying Sharia Law across Nigeria.
"They see that Nigerian officials have been corrupted by Western influences and feel that implementation of Sharia Law is the best way to confront the issue," Guttschuss said.
Jonothan Racho, regional manager for Africa at International Christian Concerns, agrees that the Nigerian government must do more to protect its citizens.
"People in the government are helping Boko Haram," Racho said. "The situation is out of control."
Racho says that both the Nigerian government and Boko Haram are to blame for the current state of violence in the oil-rich country. He worries that this can be viewed as ethnic cleansing and Christians around the globe could feel that they can come under attack from radical Muslim groups.
"Boko Haram is determined to get their agenda across and people could view them as a group willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal," Racho said.
The United Nations also plays a part in this, according to Racho. He says that the U.N. has a responsibility to fight ethnic cleansing and have failed to put pressure on officials.
"The UN has been ineffective in applying pressure on officials who have failed to protect citizens and carry out their duties," Racho explained.
Nigeria's senate has met to discuss the insecurity in the country and lack of government response to Boko Haram. Besides an ineffective state of emergency proclamtion, little has been done by Nigeria's government in response to the attacks.
The Senate has ordered security chiefs to appear before them to explain what was being done to stop the violent group and lawmakers called for an overhaul on security agencies, according to the Nigerian publication Leadership.
Senate President David Mark insists that Boko Haram is being sponsored by someone and wants the government to go after whoever it is, regardless of their prominence.
"Those who are doing it are just miscreants, misguided Nigerians who are being sponsored," Mark said. "I know that when it comes to the issue of Boko Haram, people have been very scared of sticking out their necks in making comments, but today we have broken that jinx."
He hopes that other well-meaning and high placed Nigerians will condemn the existence and the operations of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
He added that local and federal governments must do everything humanly possible to address Boko Haram before the violence escalates into a civil war.
Igbo senator Uche Chukwemerjie (Abia North, PDP) agrees that the rise of Boko Haram threatens Nigeria's unity.
"A union has no basis for existence if it cannot protect its citizens. The Igbo race is very prepared to work with anyone to protect the cause of Nigeria," Chukwemerjie said. "Please let us agree here that enough is enough."
He said that if Nigeria cannot protect them, they will reach out to the United Nations to beg for protection.
Senators Awaisu Kuta (Niger East, PDP); Victor Lar (Plateau central, PDP); Heineken Lokpobri (Bayelsa West PDP); and Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East, PDP) have all supported President Jonothan's declaration of a state of emergency.
Sen. george Akume (Benue Northwest, ACN) challenged the other senators, claiming the state of emergency didn't do anything. He said the action was not a new tool and did little to tackle insecurity in the nation.
Sen. Abdul Ningi (Bauchi central, PDP) agreed, calling for thorough investigations into Boko Haram activities.
"In times like these, what we need to dig out is not the effect but the cause of the crisis, which are actually human in nature," Ningi said. "We must find the culprits. This is the moment of truth."
Other senators called for the arrest of the masterminds of the attacks to discourage other potential bombers as well as calling for more intelligence work on Boko Haram and serious punishment for patrons of the group.
Jonothan Racho has called for Christians in America to pray for those who are being persecuted in Nigeria and to contact representatives in Congress to ask for their support.