The Nigerian Armed Forces has described the recent report by Amnesty International (AI) alleging human rights violations in the course of prosecution of the war against Boko Haram insurgent group as “a gross disservice to the nation’s high security command.”
The military therefore advised Nigerians to ignore the report while keeping faith and confidence in the Armed Forces of Nigeria, AFN.
“The action of AI seems to be geared towards weakening the efforts of the AFN at ensuring peace and security in the country,” John Agim a Brigadier General and Acting Director Defense Information, said in reaction to the report in which AI detailed widespread abuses, including illegal detention, torture, keeping suspects in overcrowded cells, and extra judicial killings against the Nigerian military.
“The deliberate falsehood peddled by AI could cast the nation and its security apparatus in bad light. Meanwhile, AI does not seem to see anything wrong about the insurgents’ activities and known criminals until security agencies rise to the occasion of effectively containing their actions,” the military said even as it noted that current report of the rights group “could have been ill-conceived to frustrate the on-going US-Nigerian anti-terrorism cooperation. It could then be posited that the aim of AI in Nigeria is to cripple the country’s security apparatus through cheap blackmail in order to hold back necessary collaboration.”
The international rights group had in its 2007 country report on Nigeria indicated that at least, 340 detainees arrested over suspicions of being members of Boko Haram group died in the notorious detention center of the military in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, Northeast Nigeria.
But the Nigerian military authorities said the AI report was a mere repetition of the penchant of the rights group to make unsubstantiated claims and figures relating to the ongoing war against Boko Haram and killings by the group.
“The figures released by the organization showed that 4,900 Boko Haram detainees were held in Giwa Barracks in an overcrowded facility where 340 detainees had already died of diseases and dehydration. They further stated that 164 civilians were killed by the Nigerian Air Force when an IDP camp was hit at Rann by a Nigerian Air Force Fighter Jet and also that 12 IPOB members were kill in Umuahia by the AFN,” the military noted of the accusation against it in the AI report.
But while not disputing the claims, it accused the AI of failure to acknowledge that the Federal Government has since last years embarked on wide scale prosecution of Boko Haram suspects in detention, an action which it said has led to the conviction and release of some of those in custody.
“The number of persons released and re-integrated with the larger community is over 500. Both the convicted and freed suspects were earlier arrested from different locations across the country and taken to Kainji, a place that is relatively safer with enough space to accommodate them while providing the detainees with 3 square meals daily.
“The suspects were also given proper medical attention by military medical team attached to the detention facility. It is notable that the arrested Boko Haram members from the ongoing OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE were being tried by the Federal High Court at Wawa Cantonment Kainji since Friday 16, February 2018 convicting 205 detainees to various jail terms while 526 suspects have been freed for want of evidence,” the military said.
The military also lamented that AI never contacted it for clarification or guidance before releasing the number of deaths in its detention facility. It also noted that concerted efforts to meet with the country management of AI to discuss issues of the alleged rights violations have not been successful. The military said in the stament that AI officials had consistently failed to show up to show up for arranged meetings.
“This reaction of AI connotes that the body in Nigeria could had been sponsored to frustrate conflict resolution efforts towards peace and positive development of the nation.
The military added that it has both constitutional and moral responsibility to protect Nigerians and cannot suddenly engage in mass murder as portrayed by AI.
It added that it regularly collaborates with the International Committee of Red Cross on training of personnel on laws of armed conflict and International humanitarian law while its troops are guided by Rules of engagement and Standing Operational Procedures which are explicit on how to conduct operations.