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Amnesty accuses Nigeria’s military of rights abuses, deaths of 10,000 civilians

Nigerian soldiers patrol Madagali in Adamawa State, Nigeria, on March 15, 2015 after retaking the town from Boko Haram. File | AFP

As Nigeria celebrated human rights day yesterday, Amnesty International (AI) released a report indicating that at least 10,000 civilians have died in the country’s military custody since 2011.

The report says the people died after being detained in connection with the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in the northeast region.

According to AI, many of the deaths were recorded at the “infamous Giwa Barracks,” in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the epicentre of terrorist activity.

“In April 2017 alone, 166 corpses were transferred from Giwa to the mortuary,” the report said.

“Severe overcrowding, scarce food and water, extreme heat, infestation by parasites and insects, and lack of access to adequate sanitation and health care are among the litany of violations at Giwa.”

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It estimated that up to 25 per cent of the deaths were of older men.

AI alleged human rights abuses by both the Nigerian military and Boko Haram as well as Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) in the northeast region.

Security forces have been fighting the Boko Haram insurgency since 2009, with over 35,000 deaths recorded, millions of displaced persons and infrastructure destroyed.

Boko Haram and ISWAP have been up in arms in a bid to impose Islamic administration in parts of Nigeria.

The report titled Nigeria: My heart is in pain — Older people’s experience of conflict displacement and detention in Northeast Nigeria is dated December 8, 2020.

This report examines specific violations and abuses that older people have suffered disproportionately, linked also to the intersection of older age, gender, and disability.

It also analyses how the humanitarian response has failed to uphold many older people’s rights, including related to food, health, shelter, and participation.

The violence in northeastern Nigeria is now in its second decade, with both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military responsible for war crimes and likely crimes against humanity.

AI attributed most of the deaths in detention to severe overcrowding, extreme heat, inadequate food and water, lack of access to health services, and appalling sanitation conditions.

“This is how older people formerly detained in Giwa Barracks described military detention…Older people die disproportionately in unlawful military detention in northeast,” it said, while advising that President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure investigations and prosecutions of senior military officials responsible.

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Army responds
The military has described AI’s report as unfortunate, adding that the research purportedly carried out by the rights organisation did not meet the standards of global best practice.

The army responded in a statement released early on December 10, 2020 in Abuja by Maj-Gen John Enenche, the Coordinator of Defence Media Operations in the Defence Headquarters.

Enenche also faulted the report that claimed that old people were being killed by the Armed Forces when they raid Boko Haram-controlled villages.

He said that the research did not have the justifiable percentage of samples in the population claimed to have been investigated.

The army also cited contradictions in the report which tend to criminalise the military.

“The report is a deliberate attempt to discredit the military in the fight against insurgency and terrorism which should be resisted.” – Nation Media Group

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