The media has been inundated with reports of Amnesty International allegations of gross human rights abuse and extra judicial killing of civilians against the Nigerian military for the past few days. Amnesty International report was released on 3 June 2015. Therefore, the Nigerian Military as a responsible corporate organization is bound to respond to these allegations in order to put the records in proper perspective.
For the avoidance of doubts, the Amnesty International allegations of human rights abuse and extra judicial killing of civilians are a rehash of the same allegations made against the military since 2011. No new facts have been unearthed by Amnesty International to warrant their repeated allegations. However, the figures adduced by Amnesty International as victims of extra judicial killing by the military have kept on increasing from 4,600 to 8,000 and even as high as 13,000 civilians. The military has the constitutional and moral responsibility to protect Nigerian citizens and cannot suddenly engage in mass murder as portrayed by Amnesty International allegations.
It will be recalled that upon the written request from Amnesty International to the military to comment on the allegations, the military promptly commenced investigations into the allegations. Consequently, several investigations on these allegations are ongoing. Some investigations have turned in their preliminary reports, which have been acted upon. Some of the investigations could not be concluded due to the inaccessibility of the terrain due to the activities of Boko Haram terrorists. Similarly the Defence Headquarters set up 2 Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) to investigate, screen and categorize suspected insurgents in detention. Out of the 504 suspects screened prima facie cases was established against 350 suspects and were recommended for trial the Federal High Court, their case files were forwarded to the office of the attorney- general and ministry of justice. Additionally, Code of Conduct for troops in the North East and other Internal Operations and Rules of Engagement clearly spelt out guidelines for troops. Therefore the Nigerian Military does not in any way condone indiscipline or breach of such regulations, let alone wanton killing or destruction.The Nigerian Military collaborate with the International Committeeof the Red Cross on training of personnel on laws of armed conflict and humanitarian law regularly.
The preliminary investigation reports submitted have resulted in the release of some under aged detainees, women and children from some military holding facilities.Sequel to the report of the investigation panel, 42 detainees were handed over to Borno state government on Thursday 6th November 2014 and another set of 124 persons were also handed over to the state Government on 8th November 2014 respectively. You may recall that the released persons were assisted with a token financial assistant of N100,000.00 each by the military. The living condition of the detainees was improved upon with the decongestion of holding facilities.
The Nigerian Senate and the National Human Rights Commission have also conducted independent investigations on allegations of human rights violation against the Nigerian Military. It is worthy to note that Human Rights Watch on some occasions had to recant its allegations of human rights abuses by the Nigerian military after thorough investigations.
The military requested Amnesty International to provide a member for the investigation panel to look into the allegations but the invitation was not honored byAmnesty International. The essence of offering Amnesty International membership of the investigation panel was to guarantee fairness and justice while proving to the world that the military has nothing to hide or cover up. The office of Attorney General of the Federation was also carried along in all the investigations.
The military is still conducting investigations on Amnesty International allegations. In the course of forensic investigations, the withdrawal of troops from the frontline for investigation tends to dampen the morale of soldiers and distract ongoing operations against insurgents. This is one reason why the understanding of Amnesty Internationalwould be worth the while.
Amnesty International wrote a 5 Point questionnaire to the Nigerian Military in November 2014 alleged extra judicial killing of some group of people by the military. The Military responded to the 5 point questionnaire immediately and in December, precisely 23 December 2014. Amnesty International sent another 37 point questionnaire to the Nigerian Military which was answered, e-mail and hard copy was delivered to Amnesty International Headquarters in London on 23 December 2014. If the military had anything to hide it would not have responded to the 37 questions and others especially in the light of the constraints of timing. The Nigerian Military has also allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit the detainees and other location at the shortest notice without hindrance and even talk to the detainees and locals. Certainly if the Nigerian Military has or had any reason to hide anything it could not have allowed International Committee of the Red Cross access to its facilities and operational area.
I appeal to Amnesty International to be patient to see the outcome of the investigation. While it took Amnesty International from 2011 – 2015 to chronicletheir allegations, they want the Nigerian Military to investigate and report immediately. The investigation is on-going, Nigerians and the world at large will certainly be informed of the outcome at the end of the investigation. For the avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian Military has zero tolerance for Human Rights abuses, extra judicial killings and acts perceived to be war crimes.The Nigerian military is a conventional and professional military that is driven by international standards and best practices. Indeed, the Nigerian military is open to genuine criticisms and allegations but it requires time and patience to report back. It is in this spirit that Amnesty Internationaland any other interested party are encouraged to exercise necessary restraint and patience while awaiting the outcome of ongoing investigations.
- Thank you.