Amnesty International’s 2016/2017 report accused Nigerian military authorities of being responsible for the death of many Boko Haram victims in North-Eastern Nigeria and of pro-Biafran agitators in the country’s South-East. Amnesty alleged that 240 people including infants died in a military detention centre in Borno in 2016 while 177 pro-Biafran agitators were extra-judicially killed same year.
The report said, “At the military detention facility at Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, cells were overcrowded. Disease, dehydration and starvation were rife. At least 240 detainees died during the year.” The group also accused officials Borno State government officials saying, “Bodies were secretly buried in Maiduguri’s cemetery by Borno State Environmental Protection Agency staff. Among the dead were at least 29 children and babies, aged between newborn and five years.”
As for happenings in the East, Amnesty said, “Since January, in response to continued agitation by pro-Biafra campaigners, security forces arbitrarily arrested and killed at least 100 members and supporters of the group Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB. Some of those arrested were subjected to enforced disappearance.”
The report threatened to throw a spanner in the works just when Nigeria is winning the protracted war. Nigerian military authorities vehemently denied Amnesty’s charges, describing them as fabrication. Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar described the report as a continuation of Amnesty’s “series of spurious fabrications aimed at tarnishing the good image of the Nigerian military.”
According to the military, “The title down to the body of the allegation smacks of the extreme bias, which is disturbing coming from an otherwise reputable organisation that is expected to be just and fair to all. Unfortunately in this case, has taken a premeditated position which is far from noble.
It is curious that a body that has never been able to seriously condemn terror in Nigeria now claims to have done an extensive research with the aim of discrediting the nation’s effort at curtailing terror.”
DHQ also said, “It is clear that Amnesty International becomes more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has used this report to further confirm its questionable interest in the counter-terrorism effort in Nigeria.”
Altercation between Nigerian security forces and the Amnesty International is not new. Since the time the Boko Haram took up arms against the Nigerian state in 2009, the group had at various times accused the army, police and the security service of alleged excesses. While Amnesty had a good reputation of factual checking in other lands, we fear that
The “witnesses account” it relied on in coming up with its Nigeria report is questionable. People who escape from traumatic situations often exaggerate matters, as Nigerian journalists have learnt over the years. It is true that at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, the military had difficulty in differentiating between terrorists and civilians, which led to the loss of innocent lives. Since 2013 however, co-option of the civilian JTF has helped to greatly reduce this problem.
No wonder that many groups rose in defence of the Nigerian military after the recent report. One of them, Global Amnesty Watch (GAW) said the report was part of a global conspiracy to undermine the Nigerian state.
President of GAW Philip Agbese, a Human Rights Law researcher at Middlesex University, London, said the Nigerian military should be commended for doing their best to halt threats to citizens. Africa Arise for Change Network also passed a vote of confidence on the professional manner in which the military handled the war against terrorism in the nation and accused Amnesty International of attempting to cause confusion and distrust in Nigeria.
We therefore urge Amnesty International, while doing its very important work around the world, to be circumspect in issuing reports that could rather than help the fight against terrorism.
Thousands of lives have been lost and millions have been displaced. All Nigerians’ desire now is for a quick end to the crisis.