13 dead as boat capsizes off Indonesia’s Sulawesi


….Foreign assistance to end killings***

At least 13 people died when a passenger boat overloaded with holidaymakers celebrating Eid capsized off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Wednesday, officials said.

Twenty-four surviving passengers were admitted to hospital but dozens are believed still missing, said local disaster agency head Amiruddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

The packed traditional wooden boat — known locally as a jolloro — left Makassar, provincial capital of South Sulawesi, in the afternoon for a short journey to the tiny resort island of Barrang Lompo, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the city’s coast.

“The boat reportedly hit a large wave amid bad weather and capsized,” Amiruddin said.

The passengers were thought to be Barrang Lompo natives who work in Makassar and were heading home to spend the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr with their families.

Makassar police chief Aris Bachtiar said the boat was overloaded. “We are still investigating,” he said, adding that the captain had been detained.

Almost 32 million Indonesians are on the move this week in the annual Eid exodus, official figures showed Wednesday.

It was the latest deadly maritime accident in the vast Indonesian archipelago, which relies heavily on boats to ferry people around its 17,000 islands but has a patchy safety record.

On New Year’s Day, nine people died after a passenger boat capsized when travelling from the city of Tarakan to Tanjung Selor on Borneo island.

In the meantime, obviously frustrated by the Federal Government’s failure or lack of will to end the spate of killings by herdsmen across the country, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to seek international assistance. He made this call while visiting hard-pressed Benue State which seems to have suffered the most of brutal attacks in the killing field which the Middle Belt has become. The Nobel Laureate also said that ‘what currently happens in the Middle Belt region, especially Benue State, was nothing but ethnic cleansing.’ Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom was also quoted as describing ‘the pogrom as ethnic cleansing and Jihad.’ Whatever these men have said reflect the thinking of the average Nigerian: government must put an end to the killings in the country. If it requires seeking foreign help to achieve this, the government should not wait a minute more.

No doubt, the government appears to be helpless, incapable or incompetent in firmly dealing with the crisis. Indeed, either by commission or omission, the government can be said to be complicit in the acts of brigandage across the Middle Belt. Hundreds of lives have been lost to the herdsmen’s violent and savage attacks. Apart from these attacks, Boko Haram seems to have regained its fighting spirit and capabilities by striking at the most unexpected places. Suicide bombings have gone unchecked. Some of the Chibok girls are still missing. Kidnappers have also been on the loose, brazenly abducting persons from the comfort of their homes and demanding ransom. Between January this year and now, over 200 lives have been lost to the herdsmen in the Middle Belt alone. In spite of the heavy presence of some security officials in those areas, the killers have carried out their acts with impunity. Indeed, security men have been accused of colluding with the hoodlums. No less a person than a former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Y. Danjuma (retired) has lamented the failure of the military to flush out the scoundrels, blaming it on collusion. President Buhari himself had added the international dimension of the killings when he alleged that the hoodlums were remnants of men trained by erstwhile Libyan strongman, Muammar Gadhafi in his days in power.

If it is true that there is a cross-border dimension to the killings, then it would not be out of place to seek international assistance. The challenge appears overwhelming to the capacities of the Federal Government. Security forces in the modern world thrive on information sharing. Also, nations which share boundaries, political or economic affiliations often benefit from one another in combating crime. This is achieved through intelligence gathering and sharing, providing weaponry and direct military assistance. It is against this background that the call by Professor Soyinka on the Federal Government to call for help should be understood.

Cross-border crimes require international cooperation. Obviously, the Nigerian government cannot tackle Boko Haram without the help of neighbouring countries. Early in the tenure of President Buhari’s administration, he paid a visit to neighbouring nations. What exactly came out of that effort is not clear. The vicious sect has continued to unleash terror on the people in the North East. This is the time to seek help from countries with superior intelligence services. It is time too to consult countries which are experienced and skilled in handling insurgents or guerilla fighters.

The President must remember that his first line of duty is to protect life and property. No one can say that this government has succeeded in this even though its efforts are appreciated. The security forces should also put their acts together. Inter-agency rivalry which has fostered for so long should stop immediately. As Commander-in-Chief we expect the President to call his men to order. When Generals are in conflict with one another they can never win a battle. The loser in this macabre dance is the Nigerian State. It is for this reason that the point must be reiterated that the government should do all within its powers to end the bloodletting currently ravaging the nation.

AFP with additional report from Guardian NG