On Saturday Nigerian Army soldiers were photographed severely beating civilians suspected to be armed robbers. This Monday, the Daily Trust newspaper published grisly photographs of the abuse.
The news comes on the heels of intense debates between the Nigerian government and military and the United States, which has refused to sell weapons to elements of the Nigerian armed forces. In July, President Buhari criticized the United States for not selling arms and weapon technology to them.
The Law prohibits the United States from granting certain military assistance to countries which have grave human rights abuses.
On June third Amnesty International (AI) sent out a report that held the Nigerian military responsible for the death of 8,000 prisoners during the military's fight against Boko Haram.
Amnesty's report put forward that senior military commanders be prosecuted for their war crimes. Since that time, President Buhari order that the military under for an internal investigation over AI's allegations.
The crimes of those senior officials, as well as the soldier's actions on Saturday, call to question whether the Nigerian armed forces can be trusted to not use US military assistance to abuse the human rights of non-combatants.
In response to the photograph published by the Daily Trust, Colonel Sani Usman the Acting Director of the Army's Public Relations, released a statement that berated the Daily Trust for for its "poor and worrisome editorial judgement."
The fact that the newspaper publicly outed the army's human rights shortcoming by "giving this misdemeanor prominence in their paper" has "done incalculable damage to the image of the service" and placed the military under a cloud of judgment on social media as well as in the international limelight.
Regardless, Usman ask the public not judge the army based on this one incident and he also assured the public that "the Nigerian Army would continue to protect and respect human rights."
Read the full press release below.
PRNigeria News Release
Nigerian Army to Punish Soldiers for Maltreating Suspected Armed Robber
The attention of Nigerian Army has been drawn to a front page photograph of some soldiers maltreating a suspected robber at Mararraba, Nasarawa State, on the front page of today’s edition of Daily Trust newspaper.
Sadly, it is also trending on the Social Media.
There is no doubt the photograph has done incalculable damage to the image of the service. The act was unfortunate and at variance with military ethics and professionalism. The Nigerian Army wishes to inform the public that the perpetrators of the offence have been identified, summoned and would face disciplinary action.
The Army has also reached out to the management of the newspaper over this poor and worrisome editorial judgement by giving this misdemeanour prominence in their paper. Alerting appropriate Nigerian Army authorities would have been a better option that will be met with prompt response.
We wish to assure the public that the Nigerian Army would continue to protect and respect human rights and that this regrettable incidence should not be used as a yardstick to judge the entire Army.
Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman
Acting Director Army Public Relations