• AI’s annual report condemns crackdown on journalists, activists
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has decried a report released by Amnesty International (AI) alleging that over 240 people including babies in Borno State and 177 pro-Biafran protesters were killed. It described the report as a “lie.”
Amnesty International had suggested in one of their recent reports that near inhuman conditions in the Northeast necessitated by the activities of Boko Haram insurgents had resulted in the death of 240 people in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. The report also said the Nigerian military and other law enforcement agents had killed no fewer than 177 Biafra agitators.
A statement issued by the Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, said the military cannot mince words that the accusations leveled against it was intended to tarnish the image of the Nigerian military and should be discountenanced.
The statement noted that AI’s report was “yet another in its series of spurious fabrications aimed at tarnishing the good image of the Nigerian military”.
Abubakar said the international human rights body had always pursued a malicious agenda against the Nigeria military without verifying their facts. To this end, the allegations in the report are not only inconceivable but have no place in the Nigerian military.
“The report is rather contrived lies orchestrated to blackmail and ridicule the Nigerian Armed Forces which they have unsuccessfully tried to do in the past.”
He said the allegations against the security agencies in Nigeria date back to the time counter insurgency operations commenced in the Northeast. He alleged that the body only encourages activities of non-state actors who take up arms against the state, killing, maiming and destroying public property but would always accuse security forces who are sacrificing everything to restore peace and normalcy.
The statement said the military appreciates and respects productive and constructive criticisms that are intended to reshape its operations towards improving its relationship with civilians, groups and international organizations, but would not accept erroneous facts of the reality on ground.
Abubakar maintained that the military has been open in its operations and any organization (including AI) seeking clarification has the platforms to do so, instead of banding fabricated reports and concocted stories.
He said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had on several occasions sent a delegation to seek clarification on some of its operations and they were obliged every request. But AI would rather contrive their report to suit their intention, which is to cast a slur on the image and integrity of the Nigerian military.
“It smacks of mischief for the AI to insist on publishing unverified and unsubstantiated report as it is only them that know why they embark on such dishonourable venture over a period of time,” the statement added.
Abubakar then said the military rejects the report in its entirety and restated that the military was committed to tackling the myriad of security challenges facing the country regardless of AI’s “unfounded reports and cheap blackmail.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International on Wednesday said the continuing spate of arrests and detentions of journalists and bloggers underscores how the Nigerian government appears determined to suffocate freedom of expression.
This was contained in the Amnesty International’s annual report which was launched yesterday in Abuja. While presenting the report to members of the public, Chairman, Board of Amnesty International (Nigeria), Auwal Rafsanjani, disclosed that government arrested and detained 10 journalists and bloggers in 2016 without trial.
According to the report, “The past year has seen a disturbing rise in arrests and intimidation of media professionals and activists in Nigeria. At least 10 journalists and bloggers were arrested in 2016, some for alleged connections to Book Haram, in a crackdown that appears to have been orchestrated to suffocate freedom of expression.
In August, Abubakar Usman, a blogger, was arrested in Abuja, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and accused him of contravening the Cyber Crimes Act. The commission did not point out the specific provisions the blogger had contravened.
“In January, members of the Nigerian Army raided the editorial offices of Premium Times and arrested journalists- Dapo Olunrunyomi and Evelyn Okaku. They were subsequently released but the move sent a clear message to Nigerians that the government was out to intimidate journalists and the media.
The report also revealed that since January, in response to the continued agitation by pro-Biafran campaigners, security forces arbitrary arrested and killed at least 100 members and supporters of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
“Some of those arrested were subjected to enforced disappearance. The military deployment to public gatherings contributed to the number of extra-judicial executions and unlawful killings.
Rafsanjani also explained that the conflict between the military and Book Haram insurgents has created a humanitarian crisis that is affecting 14.8 million people.
“It is in response to Book Haram attacks that the military continued to carry out arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and extra-judicial executions of people suspected of being Boko Haram fighters-acts which amounted to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
In the new AI report, “There was continued lack of accountability for serious human rights violations committed by security officers. No independent and impartial investigations into crimes committed by the military had taken place despite President Mohammadu Buhari’s promise in May.
“Moreover, senior military officials alleged to have committed crimes under international laws remained uninvestigated; Major Ahmadu Muhammed was reinstated into the army in January. He was in command of operations when military executed more than 640 detainees following Boko Haram’s attack at the detention centre in Giwa Barracks on March 14, 2014.
He said the report also shows that government continued to fail to hold oil companies in the Niger Delta region to account, adding that there were hundreds of spills during the year.
“The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) remained ineffective and certified areas as clean that remained contaminated. Oil companies continued to blame their failures to prevent spills, or restore contaminated areas, on sabotage and theft,” it further stated.
In a related development, a recent report by BudgIT Nigeria claimed that over 7,136 civilian deaths were recorded while 3,384 persons suffered various degrees of injuries between 2009 and 2016.
BudgIT, in an analysis conducted through a frontline media organization in the country and presented yesterday to journalists in Abuja, also revealed that 336 soldiers lost their lives in the battle against insurgency in the country within the period under review.
No fewer than 5,929 members of the Boko Haram sect have also died as a result of insurgency while 181 members of the sect died in suicide bombing.
The analysis, code named BH tracker, said the attacks by the sect peaked in 2014 where 2,585 civilian deaths were recorded, 114 soldiers died, about 24 suicide bombers also died, while 1,679 Boko Haram members died and over 1, 010 persons were injured.
Providing the casualties breakdown during the period, BudgIT stated the highest number of soldiers’ deaths was recorded in 2014, as about 114 soldiers died that year. This was followed by the 76 deaths recorded in the preceding year.
It, however, stated that the least number of soldiers’ deaths was recorded in 2009, as only one soldier died in that year.
On the number of Boko Haram members that died during the seven-year period, the report stated that the highest casualty figure of 1,471 deaths was recorded in 2015, while the lowest figure of three deaths was recorded in 2010.
BudgIT stated that the highest civilian casualty was seen in 2015, as 2,585 persons lost their lives to insurgency in the North-East. Also 1,975 others died in 2014, while the lowest casualty figure of 86 deaths was recorded in 2010.
It stated that the highest rate of suicide bombing also in occurred 2015 as 91 suicide bombers lost their lives that year.
The Operation Lead, BudgIT Nigeria, Stanley Achonu while explaining how they arrived at the figure, said the organization’s team that compiled the figures worked on it for about a year. He added that the aim was to make Nigerians not to only appreciate the work being done by the military in the fight against insurgency, but to also try and reveal the extent of damage done in the affected region.
“Boko Haram overtook ISIL as the most deadly terrorist group in the world in 2015. Nigeria, with the largest increase in death from terrorism, recorded 7,512 fatalities in 2014. This alone shows how deadly the sect was and this report tries to bring to fore some of the findings recorded during the review period,” Achonu said.