U.S. Report Confirms Abuse By Nigerian Security Forces

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry

 

By Samuel Malik

The recently released Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2014 by the United States Department of State, which discusses human rights issues in different countries of the world, shows that Nigerian security agents committed human rights abuses, further lending credence to an earlier report by Amnesty International, AI.

According to the report handed over to the U.S. Congress by Secretary of State, John Kerry, the Nigerian military committed serious abuses in prosecuting the war against terror, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and extrajudicial killings.

However, while AI focused on Boko Haram-related cases, the U.S. report is broader, covering such issues as corruption, press freedom, prison condition, religion, child labour, sexual exploitation, etc.

Inhuman treatment by Boko Haram, security forces and Civilian-JTF  

The report noted that Boko Haram carried out some of its most violent attacks in 2014, with several raids, bombings and shootings, kidnappings, and other attacks on villages and military facilities.

“The terrorist group continued almost daily attacks on villages and cities in the three state-of-emergency states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. It also carried out attacks resulting in mass casualties among civilians in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, and Plateau states. Between April and June, Boko Haram carried out three separate bombings in the FCT.

It observed further: “On April 14, it detonated a car bomb at the Nyanya Motor Park, a bus station located approximately seven miles from central Abuja, killing at least 70 persons; on May 2, it detonated another car bomb in Nyanya, killing at least 19 persons; and on June 25, it bombed the popular shopping center Banex Plaza in the Wuse district of Abuja, killing at least 21 persons.”

The report also observed that the terrorists carried out several abductions, with the Chibok Girls case the highlight. Before the Chibok incident, on February 17, between 30 and 40 girls were abducted from a school in Konduga, Borno State. On August 11, 97 men and boys were taken from Doron Baga, also in Borno State.

The report contends that the military and its local vigilante partner, popularly called Civilian-JTF, responded to Boko Haram’s reign of terror with highhandedness, resulting in several cases of atrocities.

“The government and its agents committed numerous arbitrary or unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters,” it said.

It added that “authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody.”

Of particular note, it stated, was the event of July 25, 2014, when soldiers opened fire on a procession of followers of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, reportedly killing 35 people, including three of El-Zakzaky’s sons. There has been no conviction.

In September 2013, operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS, and some soldiers killed eight squatters in Apo district in the nation’s capital, claiming they were Boko Haram members who had shot at them. Even though the National Human Rights Commission’s investigation found that the victims were not members of the sect and ordered that compensation be paid to family members, the government did not take action against the agents that carried out the attack and elected instead to appeal the ruling.

The report also referred to cases of torture and operation of such facilities by security forces. Amnesty International had in September 2014 released a report accusing the military and police of operating “torture chambers” and using methods like “beatings, shootings, nail and teeth extractions, and rape and other sexual violence.”

Relying on press and NGO testimonies, the report alleged that the army’s 7th Division illegally detained and killed suspected members of Boko Haram in the Giwa Barracks military facility in Maiduguri, Borno State, and Sector Alpha and the Presidential Lodge facilities in Damaturu, Yobe.”

“Former detainees alleged that torture, starvation, and other forms of mistreatment by security services led to the death of detainees in some cases. Authorities publicly denied the claims, describing them as inaccurate or unbalanced,” it stated further.

Corruption and government’s lack of transparency

The issue of corruption has over the years earned Nigeria an ignominious reputation, especially abroad and according to the U.S. report, “massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security services.”

It noted that the ICPC has only secured 76 convictions since its establishment in 2000, with eight of those convictions secured between January and October 2014.

The EFCC on the other hand has fared better, the report concluded as the commission was only able to get “convictions in 117 cases that involved more than 150 individuals” in 2013 alone.

However, cases such as the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose’s N400 million suit, former aviation minister, Stella Odua’s N255 million bullet-proof scandal, former lawmaker, Farouk Lawan’s bribery case, former police boss, Sunday Ehindero’s fraud, etc. all suffered setback under the previous administration, the report noted.

While Fayose is now governor, having been supported by former president Goodluck Jonathan, who campaigned for him, Stella Odua is now a Senator.

Press Freedom

While the press in Nigeria is seen as free in the report, it said that government nevertheless arbitrarily censors it under the guise of intelligence, adding that 2014 was a particularly bad year for the Nigeria media.

“Security services detained and harassed journalists, sometimes for reporting on sensitive problems, such as political corruption and security. Security services and police occasionally arrested and detained journalists who criticized the government. Reporting on matters such as political corruption and security problems proved to be particularly sensitive,” the report stated.

National newspaper like The PunchThe NationDaily TrustLeadership, and Vanguard, all suffered from the military’s excessive control, with several of their copies confiscated and their employees detained between June 6 and 9. Defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, said the military action was based on intelligence report.






     

     

    “On August 21, soldiers detained two managers of the Daily Trust newspaper’s Maiduguri office and detained them for an hour at army headquarters for publishing a story on August 20 alleging soldiers refused to fight Boko Haram until they were provided with adequate equipment. The military issued a statement ordering the Daily Trust to retract its story and to consult with military personnel before publishing any story related to the army or national security. The newspaper refused to retract its story. On August 27, the Defence Ministry spokesperson stated the Daily Trust would not be sanctioned for publishing the story,” the report said.

    It also recalled that on May 28, unidentified men attacked members of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign at the Unity Forum during their sit out. The men broke equipment belonging to journalists while the policemen nearby watched.

    The U.S. report, the 39th, is released annually and is mandated by Congress. This document helps the U.S. in dealing with countries, particularly with regards to rendering assistance, and John Kerry said, while delivering the document, that the U.S. will continue to demand from governments that human rights and freedom are upheld.

    “We remain committed to advocating on behalf of civil society and speaking out for the protection of human rights for all individuals,” Kerry said.

     

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