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Promoting Good Governance.

ICIR premiers documentary on missing persons in Northeast, affected families call for justice

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By Jennifer Ugwa & Nneoma Benson 

THE International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR on Wednesday in Abuja premiered a documentary on missing persons in the Northeastern Nigeria since the beginning of Boko Haram insurgency in the region.

The roundtable discussion tagged “Justice for Missing Persons in the Northeast” which took place at Sheraton Hotel, was sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

The ICIR  said the event was part of its own effort to bring stakeholders together to discuss and proffer solutions to the problem of missing persons in the Northeast.

The International Committees of Red Cross put the number of missing persons in the northeast alone at nearly 20,000.

Ali Ndume,  a senator from Borno State and Chairman, Senate Committee on the Army, said the figure represents only those cases reported to the ICRC.

“Only God knows the number of persons missing since the insecurity problems in Borno State, he said.

According to him, there is no existing database of the number of persons incarcerated in military facilities, especially Giwa military base, that is available to the public.

Although insurgency in the region is a major factor that has led to loss of lives, Comrade Hajja Gana Sulieman, woman leader of the Jire Dole (Trust is a must), a group of women in the north-east fighting the injustice meted out to their men, told The ICIR that soldiers were largely responsible for the anguish suffered by people of Borno.

“My son like numerous others were taken away by the army and till today I have not seen him. I have spent more than two million naira and sold my properties including my daughters’ to secure his release.

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“Initially, I was told that he would be released if I paid the money. They said he would be smuggled out with the dead in the ambulance when they are going to deposit the bodies at the morgue.

“I was to pick my son at Damaturu and told to warn him never to return to Maiduguri,” she said.

Till date, Sulieman told The ICIR  that she never saw her son. Nevertheless, she said she would continue to fight for justice on behalf of her son and children of other women in society.

She said the army killed some children in Maiduguri and forced their parents to sign documents that say they were Boko haram before their bodies could be released

Thomas Ateda, member of the National Technical Committee on the establishment of Database on Missing Persons in Nigeria based told The ICIR  that complaints of Sulieman was just one amongst many others but said the committee was committed  to flushing out the corrupt persons in the Nigerian Army and ensuring they are put on trial and punished when found guilty.

“We have always been open to investigating issues of rights violations especially when it has to do with missing persons. This is the first time I am getting to know about Colonel Ofurumazi obviously known as ‘Yellow’ in Maiduguri that has terrorised families and we are going to look into it,” she said.

At the end of the programme, recommendations were made based on the challenges identified during the panel discussion which include a comprehensive compilation of details of missing persons across communities, drafting a parliamentary motion which is to be introduced at the National Assembly to motivate the government towards getting social justice.

Part of the recommendation includes setting up a Truth and Reconciliation, and Reparation Committee that will facilitate the hearing of grievances, acknowledgment of atrocities, and compensation of victims amongst others.

The event was attended by women group from Borno states, human rights activists,  politicians, members of the Department of State Security, journalists, and participants from both local and international non-governmental organizations.

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