By Samuel Malik
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to take a look at the report by Amnesty International, AI, which detailed cases of human rights abuses by Nigeria military in the northeast.
But the Nigerian military has condemned the same report, saying that it is a deliberate attempt to black mail the institution.
The human rights campaigner on Wednesday released a report, Stars on their Shoulders. Blood on their Hands: War Crimes Committed by the Nigerian Military, a damning account of grave abuses by the military in the North east, including extrajudicial killings, torture and starvation.
The report also calls for the investigation of Alex Badeh, chief of defence staff; Kenneth Minimah, chief of army staff; Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, former chief of defence staff; and Azubuike Ihejirika, former chief of army staff, and other senior officers
The president, who is on a tour of neighbouring countries of Niger and Chad, spoke in Niamey through his senior special assistant, media and publicity, Garba Shehu, acknowledged receipt of the report and said his government will not condone human rights violations.
“I assure you that your report will be looked into,” President Buhari said.
The president said respect for human rights and the rule of law are essential components of democracy and reiterated his inauguration promise that security agents found wanting in this regard would be held accountable.
“This administration will leave no stone unturned to promote the rule of law, and deal with all cases of human rights abuses.
“Respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law are the life and soul of the democratic system. We will not tolerate or condone impunity and reckless disregard for human rights,” he said.
However, in its reaction, the Nigeria military moved to quick distance itself from the report and issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the allegations “cruel” and “spurious”.
According to the statement issued by Chris Olukolade, a major general and defence spokesman, Amnesty International has constantly sought to tarnish the image of the military since the war against the insurgency started.
“The defence headquarters has noted with dismay the gruesome allegations made by the Amnesty International against some senior military officers, serving and retired, of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“It is unfortunate that all efforts 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 terrorists in the north-east,” the statement read.
Olukolade exonerated those mentioned in the report, saying they “have no reason, whatsoever, to indulge in the allegation made against them” and that the report was a “premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country”.
Olukolade said the military does not tolerate human rights abuses, especially with the kind of impunity reported by AI. It therefore rejected the allegations contained in the report.
“So far, no allegation has been sufficiently proved against those whom Amnesty International is so desperate to convict. The statistics are largely spurious or manipulated to satisfy a clandestine motive. Indeed, the loud publicity given to these damning allegations suggests an intention to blackmail the military and particular senior officers rather than a sincere advice to the government, the military’s spokesman said.
He went further: “This cruel tendency is not new, despite the timing. The Nigerian military therefore rejects the biased and concocted report provided by Amnesty International. Additional definite response will be provided subsequently as deemed necessary.”