Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, has assured the international community that the country’s armed forces is taking measures to improve its human rights records, the minister’s spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Dan-Ali, according to his spokesperson, Tukur Gusau, gave the assurance in New York on Friday during a high level meeting with a team from US Department of Defence led by Amanda Doyle, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Africa.
It was part of activities of the Nigerian delegation to the just concluded United Nations General Assembly.
The Minister was said to have told the American team that “the Nigerian Armed Forces is partnering with Human Rights Commission to address the allegations of human right violations against its troops.”
In its Northeast operations against Boko Haram terrorists, and the massacre of hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in Zaria last December, Nigeria’s military has been locally and internationally criticized for having poor regard for human rights.
On June 3, 2015, Amnesty International released its report titled: ‘Stars on their shoulder. Blood on their hands’, accusing the Nigerian military of committing war crimes in the course of its counter-terrorism operations against Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria.
The report alleged that the Nigerian military committed countless acts of torture, extra-judicially executed more than 1,200 people, and arbitrarily arrested at least 20,000 people, which included mostly young men and boys.
The report also said many Nigerians had become victims of enforced disappearance and at least 7,000 people died in military detention.
The Nigerian Defence Headquarters, however, dismissed the report as “concocted” and “biased”.
“It is clear that Amnesty International becomes more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle,” said Chris Olukolade, former Director of Defence Information.
But Mr. Dan-Ali assured the International community that Nigeria “is taking proactive measures to address any possible human rights violations by its personnel.”
Some of the measures, according to the minister, include establishment of human rights desk in all the formations of the Armed Forces and close collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission.
The minister’s spokesperson said Ms. Doyle expressed satisfaction with the success acheived in the fight against terrorism and the way human rights issues were being addressed.
He said the American Deputy Assistant Secretary also advised on the need for Nigeria to publicise more on the efforts of the Nigerian Armed forces towards improving its human rights records.
She also assured the minister of the continuous support of the U.S. to the Nigerian military especially in its fight against terrorism.