Group salutes Nigerian Army’s professionalism

Rafat Salami, Abuja

The Coalition of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Good Governance in Nigeria, (COCMEGG) has thrown its weight behind the Nigerian Army commending its professionalism as it beats back the boko haram terrorists.

The president of the coalition Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele gave the commendation in response to the recent report by Amnesty International in which it rated Nigerian Army negatively in its global perception index.

Mr Aigbegbele described the report as smacking of bias and capable of undermining the hard fought war by the army against the insurgents and demoralizing the Nigeria Army personnel in the performance of their constitutional assigned roles including the various casualties in human capital, resources and loss of lives of the soldiers in the discharge of their national duty to defend the territorial integrity of the nation.”

He charged the Nigerian Army to spare no effort to stop the terrorist activities of the boko haram sect.

He also said the Nigerian soldiers have been transformed, repositioned and very professional in their conduct and then appealed to amnesty international to support the Nigerian army to achieve its objectives.

“The Amnesty International should join hands with the Nigerian military to assist in the regaining of freedom of the kidnapped girls, provide logistics for the IDP’s camps including the socio-economic development of the northeast region so as to foster peace and tranquillity’, he said.

The AI report

In February, Amnesty International, AI, in its annual State of the World’s Human Rights report, which analyses the states of human rights in 159 countries, had blamed the death of thousands of people to the Boko Haram.

In that report it said the six-year-old Boko Haram insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and directly affected 14.8 million others.

“Boko Haram continued to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in the northeast, affecting 14.8 million people. The group continued to carry out attacks and small-scale raids throughout the year,” the report stated.

It however frowned at the brutal response of the government to security breaches like the Boko Haram insurgency. AI said the military carried out mass arrest of men, women and children, detained and tortured them in a dehumanising detention centre inside Giwa Barracks in Borno, where many died of diseases and starvation.

The military arbitrarily arrested thousands of young men, women and children who fled to the safety of recaptured towns, including Banki and Bama, Borno state. These arrests were largely based on random profiling of men, especially young men, rather than on reasonable suspicion of having committed a recognizably criminal offence.”

“In most cases, the arrests were made without adequate investigation. Other people were arbitrarily arrested as they attempted to flee from Boko Haram. Those detained by the military had no access to their families or lawyers and were not brought before a court. More than 1,500 detainees were released throughout the year.”

The report also frowned at the deployment of soldiers in situations that require the presence of the police. For instance, it berated the military and the State Security Service, SSS (also called DSS), for their treatment of pro-Biafran agitators, which reportedly left 117 people dead.

“The military deployment to police public gatherings contributed to the number of extrajudicial executions and unlawful killings. Since January, in response to the continued agitation by pro-Biafra campaigners, security forces arbitrarily arrested and killed at least 100 members and supporters of the group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Some of those arrested were subjected to enforced disappearance.

The report also berated the government over the killings of hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the continued detention of several others members and the leader of the Shi’ite sect, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

“Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), remained in incommunicado detention without trial since his arrest in December 2015. Between 12 and 14 December 2015, soldiers killed more than 350 protesters and supporters of IMN at two sites in Zaria, Kaduna state.

“Hundreds of IMN members were arrested and continued to be held in detention facilities in Kaduna, Bauchi, Plateau and Kano states.

Government’s response

The Nigerian military in response to report, accused the Amnesty International (AI), of fabricating its report about extrajudicial killings and torture of 240 people in the country’s north-east and 177 pro-Biafran agitators.

In a statement signed by acting director defence information, Rabe Abubakar, a brigadier general, the military described the report as a continuation of AI’s series of spurious fabrications aimed at tarnishing the good image of the Nigerian military.”

Mr. Abubakar said AI was in the habit of encouraging “activities of non-state actors who take up arms against the state, killing, maiming and destroying public property.”

“In as much as the Nigerian military acknowledges and respects the views and constructive criticism of individuals, groups or even international organisations including Amnesty International, it will not fall for nor accept the deliberate falsehood that have no bearing with the fact or reality on ground.

He said the “Nigerian military has always been open in its operations and do not hide its activities from the probing eye of the public,adding that  “Amnesty International chose to bandy fabricated reports and concocted stories instead of seeking clarifications from the relevant authorities.”

He said  “the Nigerian military rejects this AI reports in its entirety and appeals to all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard the report and discountenance its contents as they were meant to paint Nigeria in bad light. ..we reassure our citizens of our commitment to terminate these myriads of security challenges facing our country, mindless of unfounded reports and cheap blackmail by AI.”