By Nkiru Emeka-Nwankpa on March 6, 2018

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Minister of defense

Self-styled global human rights watchdog, the U.S-based Amnesty International, was recently hammered by Nigerians made up of academics, public affairs commentators, civil advocacy groups, culture enthusiasts, traditionalists, students’ organizations and youths for its February 22, 2018 report containing unsubstantiated allegations of human rights abuse against the Nigerian military.

The report alleged that 4,900 Boko Haram detainees were held in Giwa Barracks in an overcrowded facility where 340 detainees died of diseases and dehydration; that 164 civilians were killed by the Nigerian Air Force fighter jets at an IDP camp at Rann; and that 12 IPOB members were killed in Umuahia by the military.

Hints that the report would be hotly contested like others before it for lacking in originality, credibility and integrity emerged while news of the successful federal government-negotiated release by Boko Haram of three University of Maiduguri lecturers and ten women-after ten horrendous months in captivity- was still trending.

Perhaps most laughable, treasonable and even exasperating was the aspect of the report that accused the Nigerian government and its military of infringing on the rights of lesbians, gays, bi-sexual, trans-genders and intersex persons, in flagrant disregard of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. More particularly, this report flies in the face of the proud heritage, cultural values, traditions, customs and practices of the over 300 ethnic nationalities in the country.

The Acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim in a spirited defence of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, AFN, immediately responded to the report accusing AI of firing familiar shots since 2011 with a specific target to undermine Nigeria’s high military command and do ‘’ great disservice’’ to the nation’s image.

‘’The action of AI seems to be geared towards weakening the efforts of the AFN at ensuring peace and security in the country.  It has been observed that AI has made it a routine duty to continue generating tension among the citizens by releasing unconfirmed reports, unsubstantiated claims and figures relating to military counter-insurgency operations and wanton killings by unknown groups or persons’’, he said.

According to him, while AI does not condemn activities and the criminalities by the insurgents, it reveled in deliberate falsehood and accusations against the nation’s security agencies whenever they rose to defend the Nigerian people thereby casting the nation and its security apparatus in bad light.

He noted that the organization had always resorted to whipping up anti-Nigeria sentiments in the international community whenever the armed forces secured reasonable assurances of getting military hardware and expendables to further its operations are recording remarkable successes.

‘’AI has failed to acknowledge the on-going fair trial and conviction of culpable members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and the release of those not found guilty. The number of persons released and re-integrated into the larger community is over 500. Both the convicted and freed suspects arrested across the country were taken to Kainji, relatively safer and enough 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’’, Brig Gen Agim said.

Mr. Emeka Nwanpa, a development activist who is the Chief Media Strategist of a civil advocacy group known as Concerned Professional Congress, CPC, an organization committed to mobilizing public support to the Nigerian military towards promoting peace, good governance and democracy in the country, has also described the report in unpalatable terms.

In a press statement he issued yesterday in Abuja, he described as sad and worrisome the sources and the authenticity of figures being bandied by AI, wondering if the organization ever contacted the nation’s military high command before writing its report especially after the Defence Headquarters claimed it had made unsuccessful efforts to meet with its Country representative in Nigeria.

‘’We have since confirmed the claims by the defence authorities to be true. We wonder why AI has consistently failed to show up. This therefore lends credence to the impression that AI in Nigeria has been acting a sponsored script to frustrate conflict resolution efforts towards peace and positive development in the country when they are supposed to be neutral, impartial and de-escalate crisis in their countries of operation.  Their activities in the country therefore leave much to be desired and this is unacceptable’’, he said.

Corroborating, Dr. Emmanuel Onoja, a scholar in defence studies based in Lokoja, Kogi State observed that the military leadership has displayed immense competence and commitment to degrading Boko Haram in the North East including other non-state actors.

He faulted the objectives of the report saying it might have been conceived to frustrate the new-found collaboration of the US government with Nigeria in counter-terrorism.

‘’Amnesty International has a lot of convincing to do that its aim in Nigeria is not to undermine and cripple our national security architecture through cheap blackmail in order to block such collaboration. It must be emphasized that our military has the fundamental, constitutional and moral responsibility to protect Nigerian Citizens and can therefore never engage in mass murder as portrayed by AI whose report is inconsistent with researchers’ field reports’’, said Dr. Onoja.

He further disclosed that available defence studies revealed that the armed forces had robust and regular collaboration with the International Committee of Red Cross on the training of personnel on laws of armed conflict and International humanitarian law with troops guided by Rules of Engagement and Standing Operational Procedures on conducting operations.

‘’Also note-worthy is that the military high command in 2015 introduced the training of troops in Human Rights and Laws of Armed Conflict as compulsory courses in all military institutions. It is therefore in the interest of the integrity of the Amnesty International to always seek necessary clarifications from relevant authorities on military operational matters before writing reports that only end up as inaccurate and suspicious’’, he added.

Another analyst, Dr. Fynecountry Baribote observed that Nigerians and the global community have applauded the military for the successful battle against terror which has brought about a steady decimation of the Boko Haram terrorists such that they now lack the capacity to directly confront the Nigerian troops or hold territories at will except to do hit-and-run attacks on soft targets such as the recent abduction of 110 school girls at the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State.

According o him, the Nigerian military had never faced such huge internal security challenges and armed conflicts like insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, killer herdsmen menace, farmers-herdsmen clashes, communal clashes, pipeline vandalism, oil theft, illegal bunkering, ritual killing and even electoral violence and cultism.

He noted that the consensus is that the military has done very well in effectively quelling civil disorder and other forms of armed conflicts based on the inter-agency synergy, intelligence and information-sharing being driven by the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin.

‘’We are reaping the gains of President Muhammadu Buhari’s diligent search for competent service chiefs led by the CDS, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin whose emergence literally changed the focus of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) in a manner that turned the tide against terrorism and insurgency in the North East region thereby re-positioning Nigeria’s image in the comity of nations, ‘’he said.

Upon assuming office, Olonisakin set a vision to create well-motivated, professionally-trained and strategically-equipped military anchored on synergy, intelligence and information-sharing that makes is responsive to national security commitments.

Also commenting, Comrade Isaac Abuelimen, a former students union activist described Amnesty International as an imperialist offshoot bent on scuttling Nigeria’s aspiration to full nationhood, urging all patriotic citizens to rise up against the antics of the organization.

‘’What we are saying is that Amnesty International has been too soft in condemning the criminal activities of Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, kidnappers, etc. In a way, Amnesty International emboldens Boko Haram and undermines our national security and stability. This is unacceptable to us. We say enough is enough. We shall continue to mobilize the Nigerian youths as well as encourage public-spirited groups like the Global Amnesty Watch, Africa Arise for Change Network and the Coalition of Civil Society Groups to rise in defence of the Nigerian military in condemning this report.

‘’We believe that the military should rather be commended and not condemned in the way and manner they have halted grave threats to the lives and property of the Nigerian citizens. It should however, be emphasized that the peace, unity, stability and growth of the country remain the overriding goals and objectives of all our citizens in this regard’’, he said.


Posted on March, 30 2018

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