Fresh Perspectives On Amnesty International, Nigerian Military | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Fresh Perspectives On Amnesty International, Nigerian Military

Posted: Jun 27, 2015 at 1:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Temidayo Akinsuyi  /  Lagos


The recent report by Amnesty International (AI) indicting the Nigerian military of extra-judicial killings and war crimes in the battle against terrorists in Nigeria has continued to generate ripples across the country.  In the report released on June 3 and titled “Stars on their shoulders. Blood on the hands – War crimes committed by the Nigerian military”, AI alleged that since March 2011, more than 7,000 young men and boys died in military detention and more than 1,200 people unlawfully killed since February, 2012. According to the body, with years of research and analyses of evidence, including leaked military reports and correspondence, interviews with more than 400 victims, eyewitnesses and senior members of the Nigerian security forces, the authenticity of the report is unassailable.

Badeh and Shetty

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Secretary General of AI, Salil Shetty, in the 133-page report, outlined the roles and possible criminal responsibilities of those along the chain of command – up to the Chief of Defence Staff and the rest of the service chiefs submitting that “this sickening evidence exposes how thousands of young men and boys were arbitrarily arrested and deliberately killed or left to die in detention in the most horrific conditions”.

According to Shetty, the war crimes include alleged mass deaths in custody, starvation, dehydration and disease, overcrowding and suffocation, fumigation, torture and extra-judicial executions. AI alleged that high-level military commanders knew about the crimes but consistently failed to take meaningful action. The report also said many Nigerians had become victims of enforced disappearance and at least 7,000 people died in military detention. It then concluded that those in charge of detention facilities, as well as their commanders at Army and Defence Headquarters must be investigated.


Military Denies Allegations

However, the Nigerian military denied the allegations. In a statement issued by its spokesman, Christopher Olukolade, the claims of military involvement in extra-judicial killings by an international human rights group, Amnesty International, is a continuation of blackmail against the military.

According to the military, the action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose. It also expressed its disappointment on the gruesome allegations made by the Amnesty International against some senior officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces both serving and retired.

“It is unfortunate that all effort made in the allegation was geared towards continuation of blackmail against the military hierarchy in which the organisation had embarked upon as far back as the inception of military’s action against terrorist in the North East. The officers mentioned in the report have no reason, whatsoever, to indulge in the allegation made against them. It is unfortunate that the organisation just went out to gather names of specified senior officers, in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of 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”.

“It is clear that Amnesty International (AI) 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,” the military stated.


Implications Of The Report

According to some analysts, the damning report by AI have far- reaching consequences not only for the Nigerian military but also for the country’s image, especially in the international community.  They argued the report has the capability of one: dampen the morale of the military to launch an all-out offensive against the terrorist sect knowing that they may be falsely accused of extrajudicial killings and crime against humanity, two: deter foreign countries from partnering with the Nigerian military to effectively oust the sect and three: tarnish Nigeria’s image which the new government has been striving hard to launder.

Speaking on the challenge the report posed to the military in carrying out its duties, a source in the military said, “I don’t know whether Nigerians actually know the implications of this report. The accusations and its ramifications go beyond the normal tour of duty. Commanders on the field will now have to worry if they are free to do this job of containing Boko Haram without these unending accusations. We are at a loss as to where this leads us now. Imagine you are on the frontlines of the war against Boko Haram and you get the news of this, how will you feel?

“Let’s keep aside the basics of the accusations. It leaves you wondering if you are still free to do your job without unsubstantiated accusations hanging over our heads. How would the officers mentioned feel now? Do Nigerians really know what we go through in the frontlines? Do Nigerians know the implications of this report vis-à-vis the fight against Boko Haram? How will it affect morale of commanders and troops in the battlefield? Would it not look like tying the hands of military commanders, tying their hands while allowing terrorists free rein in their murderous violence?

“Why is Amnesty not involved in commenting on conduct of military operations in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan the way it has always focused on Nigeria? Why would it not devote just one of these reports on the atrocities and mindless violence of Boko Haram? What is Amnesty’s or Western nations’ interest in Nigerian military? Are these reports a ploy to humiliate or weaken the resolve of military commanders or a concerted script to act out a pre-conceived script? Seriously, it looks like Amnesty has become an extension of the programmes of some Western countries who could not see any achievement by the Nigerian military except as feats possible only through alleged human rights abuses” the source said.


Condemnations Trail Report

Since the report was made public, many concerned Nigerians have expressed their outrage over what the ‘the ploy by the Western world to frustrate and jeorpadise the war against terrorism in Nigeria’.  Given his electoral promises to defeat Boko Haram and the order mandating the military hierarchy to move its operational base to Borno state, which has been the hotbed of Boko Haram attacks in the North- East, many believe the report is an attempt by AI to dampen the frustrate the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to launch an all-out war on the murderous sect whose insatiable appetite for shedding innocent blood in a failed attempt to Islamise the country has left thousands dead and millions displaced.

Also, given the fact that many military personnel have been cut down in their prime while the senior officers have had to contend with many sleepless nights in the war against the insurgents, the AI report calling for the trial of military officers both serving and retired at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, The Netherlands is a huge disservice to this men who have staked their lives to defend Nigeria’s sovereignty and protect her citizens from internal and external aggression.


Summit Group’s Position

The Nigerian National Summit Group, NNSG, has faulted the report by Amnesty International on the Nigerian Military describing the report as biased and slanted to fulfil a dubious agenda.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos, NNSG’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Tony I. Uranta, accused AI of attempting to deploy cheap and not-so-subtle blackmail to stampede President Muhammadu Buhari into turning against his own military, “to so stir discontent within the ranks of the Nigerian military, and thus fast-track the long-obvious agenda of certain Western powers to jeopardise the war against Boko Haram as prelude to expediting nationwide system collapse”.

The NNSG scribe said “the AI report is mainly a compilation of unsubstantiated allegations, accentuated by dubious visuals of highly-suspect activities by Boko Haram terrorists designed to portray the Nigeria forces in bad light, and strewn with a hodge-podge of putative ‘inside stories’ which are unlikely to stand any standard verification tests”.

Uranta said, “whilst we join the President in saying every allegation of impropriety, made against any agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, must be looked into, we strongly deplore the uncivil language and tone of AI’s Report which is irritatingly devoid of any diplomatese, any civility, or any respect, even as it seeks to dictate conclusions to Mr. President, even before his independent investigations are commenced.”

He added that, “this is utter rubbish that cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation worth its name, and we are sure that President Buhari, who himself is a seasoned military general and politician, will never allow any foreign government, multilateral agency, multinational corporate organisation to command him or Nigeria to do anything just to suit their devious non-altruistic agenda.”

While calling on Nigerians to rally round the nation’s armed forces, he said “our valiant Nigerian troops were our only buffer against Boko Haram’s seemingly-unstoppable surge southwards, even when they lacked the commensurate equipment to holistically do so, because our traditional ‘allies’ (that is, the USA, NATO, etc.) chose not to help Nigeria, in our recent hour of need.”

“Nigerians should be very wary lest these same our fighting Forces must are now, falsely, scandalised as the villains in this ongoing global military-industrial complex’ agenda, merely because some global players feel entitled to control Nigeria, on the debatable claim that they helped change the political status quo through the 2015 elections.”



Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) has taken strong exception to the sweeping indictment of war crimes against the military leaders. Faulting the conclusions drawn by Amnesty International, HURIWA maintained that the position of the London-based body remains nebulous and fundamentally defective, questioning the timing of the release of “this jaundiced report by Amnesty International at this exact period that the new government has vowed to commit more forces to militarily defeat these armed terrorists responsible for the mass killings of over 15,000 innocent Nigerians since three years now.

“Who is Amnesty International working for? Why is Amnesty International just releasing this report exactly at this time that the Federal Government has stated a renewed resolve to crush Boko Haram and why is Amnesty International intervening and interjecting with this one- sided and substantially hearsay-evidence based report just few days after some suspected political sympathisers in the North under some contraption of Northern Elders had called for amnesty to be given to Boko Haram?

“Is it possible that elements within Boko Haram have infiltrated Amnesty International? Why did Amnesty International not exhaust local judicial and internal mechanisms before submitting this one sided report to the International Crime Court when the Rome Statutes clearly recognised the sovereign powers of local jurisdictions of nations to handle matters of alleged violations of rights of citizens during armed conflicts?

“Why is Amnesty International naming top Nigerian military generals for indictment for alleged offences committed by field operatives when there are abundant precedents in USA whereby soldiers who allegedly committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan were individually tried and convicted in the United States even as no American Military Generals were prosecuted for alleged offences of their subordinates? This is rascally and smacks of racism on the part of Amnesty International thereby rendering this report a hogwash and invalid.”

Continuing, HURIWA noted: “We know that judicial experts have clearly enunciated the doctrine of command responsibility. First, it is not a form of objective liability whereby a superior could be held criminally responsible for crimes committed by subordinates of the accused regardless of his conduct and regardless of what his knowledge of these crimes.

However, a human rights group, Access to Justice, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to order independent and impartial inquiry to investigate the alleged allegations  against Nigeria’s Military, stating that internal military investigation will short-change the truth. Executive Director of the group, Mr Joseph Otteh disclosed this in a statement. He said that what is needed is an impartial, independent and competent inquiry as against the internal investigation ordered by the president.

“It is unlikely that a military that has, through its hierarchy, consistently denied it was guilty of wrongdoing would be open to allowing any outcomes that contradict its entrenched positions. It would be recalled that shortly after the publication of Amnesty International’s report, the defence headquarters characterized the allegations as ‘a continuation of blackmail’ and ‘a premeditated indictment’; it also said that the military has “continued to state and restate its commitment to the rights of Nigerians and all its citizens while prosecuting its anti-terrorism campaign and accused Amnesty International of pursuing an agenda against the security agencies,” the group said.