AI, UNICEF’s Reports On Nigerian Military

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Not too long ago, the Nigerian Army and the Federal Government took on the international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI), over its latest report accusing the Nigerian military of sundry crimes against humanity in the course of prosecuting the war against terror in the North-East.
In that report entitled “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders”, the organisation alleged that the Buhari-led government’s failure to investigate communal clashes and bring perpetrators to justice has fuelled ‘a bloody escalation” in the conflict between farmers and herders, resulting in, at least, 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more, with 57 per cent of the recorded deaths occurring last year.
The AI report claimed that security agencies were often positioned close to where the attacks take place but were slow to act, ignoring prior warnings of imminent raids in some cases. It, therefore, called on the government to ensure thorough, effective and impartial investigation and prosecution of any security agent perpetrating abuses or deliberately ignoring attacks in some states.
The report canvassed that the findings of the investigations be made public, while the government should urgently domesticate the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the national laws.
Needless to say, the military did not take the report kindly. Reacting to the report, the Nigerian Army called for the closure of all AI offices in the country, accusing the organisation of working hard to destabilise the country. According to army spokesman, Brigadier-General Sani Usman, AI was attempting to destabilise the country through fabrication of fictitious allegations of human rights abuses against the security agencies.
He accused the organisation of engaging in clandestine sponsorship of dissident groups to stage protests and make unfounded allegations against the leadership of the Nigerian military. On its part, the Federal Government corroborated the position of the military, noting that the AI report had dampened the morale of the officers and men battling terror in the North-East.
To all intents and purposes, The Tide holds that the reaction to the AI’s report is unsatisfactory in the face of recent developments in the North-East. We believe that there is still sufficient reason for a robust investigation of the central claims of the latest report instead of the rather presumptious, angry retort of the military and the Buhari Presidency.
We agree that such reports could have some negative effects on the morale of the hard-fighting men of the military battling to protect the country’s territorial integrity. Nevertheless, the country can ill afford wanton abuses of the rights of law-abiding individuals under the guise of fighting terror.
We say so because if in conventional wars, errors are committed, there is no reason to suppose that the very unconventional war in which the military is engaged in the North-East could be an exception. This is the more reason the allegations by AI should have been thoroughly investigated not only with a view of punishing offenders, but also ensuring that structures are put in place to prevent reocurrence of the trend.
We equally urge the government to respond to the demand by AI that reports of previous probes should be released. The current approach to reports of human rights abuses by AI and other organisations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will do the country no good.
This is against the backdrop that countless bodies, international and local NGOs, journalists, and even the panel of inquiry instituted by the Kaduna State Government to investigate the Army-Shi’ite clash in Zaria in December, 2015 have all indicted the Nigerian Army for extra-judicial killings. The allegations of soldiers killing pro-Biafra protesters were also backed by countless video evidences.
We firmly believe that human rights should be respected at all times regardless of situations and no life should be taken, or if it should, not without the benefit of open and fair trial. The Nigerian Army will do well to learn to carry out its constitutional responsibilities on the basis of respect for the full rights of every individual in the country.
While we await the report on the findings of government, we charge the AI, UNICEF and other organisations to take a step further to also make public specifically detailed murderous activities of terrorists and the effort to contain them.