Amnesty International accuses Nigerian security forces of widespread abuses

Nigerian troops destroy Boko Haram tactical ground, recover battle tank, others [Photo Credit: Usman SK - Facebook]

In 2017, Nigerian security forces carried out widespread human rights abuses such as extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, mass detention in sub-human facilities, attacks on the media and journalists, violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, and forced evictions, Amnesty International said in its 2017/2018 Human Rights report released on Thursday.

The report condemned the Nigerian military for its “total disregard” for human rights in its execution of the war against violent Islamist group Boko Haram.

According to Amnesty International, in the outgoing year, the Nigerian Army carried out, “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill-treatment, which, in some cases, led to deaths in custody.”

The human right organisation also pointed out that the condition of the military detention facilities in the North-east and other parts of the country was harsh, and children were detained unlawfully alongside their parents in these centres.

“Detainees were denied access to lawyers and family members. The army released 593 detainees in April and 760 in October. By April, the military detention facility at Giwa barracks, Maiduguri, held more than 4,900 people in extremely over-crowded cells.

“Disease, dehydration and starvation were rife and at least 340 detainees died. At least, 200 children, as young as four, were detained in the overcrowded and unhygienic children’s cell. Some children were born in detention,” the report said.

Similarly, the report also alleged that soldiers killed 10 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Umuahia and injured 12 others on September 14, 2017.

“The Military claimed that they were killed when they tried to resist the arrest of leader Nnamdi Kanu at his home. Witnesses say that, in addition to those killed, at least 10 IPOB members were shot and taken away by soldiers,” the report claimed.

The police and the secret police, also known as the State Security Services (SSS), were not spared in the report. The report accused them of torture, ill-treatment and unlawful detention of civilians.

“In February, Nonso Diobu and eight other men were arrested and detained by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers in Awkuzu, Anambra state. Diobu died in custody.

“In May, a high court ordered the SSS to release a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Instead, the SSS included his name in another case. Bright Chimezie had not been brought to court by the end of the year; the SSS had held him in incommunicado detention for more than one year.”

Clampdown on the Media

The report also decried the increasing attack on the press and clampdown on freedom of speech. It stated that journalists are increasingly being harassed, intimidated and arrested.

“On 19 January, police raided the offices of Premium Times and arrested publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi and correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu for several hours, after the Chief of Army Staff accused the newspaper of offensive publications.

”On 19 April, Kaduna state police arrested and detained Midat Joseph, a journalist with Leadership newspaper, for a WhatsApp comment. He was taken to court the next day on charges of criminal conspiracy, inciting disturbance and injurious falsehood. On 31 July, the court dismissed the case on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.”

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Boko Haram and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

In 2017, the report noted that Boko Haram carried out at least 65 attacks causing the death of 411 people.

The extremist group also abducted 73 people including 17 women,10 of which are policewomen abducted in June (the policewomen were released earlier in February alongside some abducted academics from the University of Maiduguri after a negotiation with the government).

Despite the efforts of aid agencies and the government to resettle IDPs in their towns and villages, the report stated that there are still 1.7 million IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. According to the report, 39 per cent of the IDPs live in camps and similar shelters while 61 per cent live in host communities.

“The UN said that 5.2 million people in the North-east remained in urgent need of food assistance; 450,000 children under five were in urgent need of nutrition. In July Doctors without Borders reported that 240 children had died from malnutrition in Borno State.

“On 17 January, the Nigerian Air Force bombed an IDP camp in Rann, headquarters of Kala Balge local government, in Borno state, killing at least 167 civilians, including many children. The military said the bombing was an accident as Rann was not identified as a humanitarian camp.”

Forced Evictions

The governments of Lagos, Imo and Rivers states were singled out for condemnation for ”ordering and supervising forced eviction of thousands of residents without adequate notice, compensation, or the provision of alternative accommodation and resettlement.”

“In Lagos state, at least 5,000 people were forcibly evicted from Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin waterfront communities despite Lagos State High Court orders. The orders restrained state authorities from demolishing the homes of affected communities consisting of at least 300,000 residents and ordered them to consult with residents. In March, the Lagos state government pulled out of the consultations saying the communities’ ”demand for resettlement was unreasonable.”

During the forced eviction of Otodo-Gbame community on April 9, at least two people were shot, one fatally, as the police fired at the unarmed residents. There were no investigations into the shootings. On June 13, Lagos state authorities forcibly evicted hundreds of people from Ijora-Badia community.

The report noted that the Rivers State government forcibly evicted hundreds of people from the Ayagologo waterfront community in Port Harcourt.


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