The Federal Government of Nigeria is disappointed with the United Nation (UN) Special Rapporteur’s report of “violence in Nigeria”, a statement from the presidency said.
According to the statement that was issued by the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, the preliminary report on violence in Nigeria as released by UN Rapporteur, Agness Callarmad, did not reflect the general state of security in all its ramifications.
Therefore, Mr Shehu said, the presidency “is disappointed.”
The presidency’s reaction to the UN Rapporteur’s report came nearly three weeks after Ms Callamard made public her report of violence in Nigeria.
In her report, which partly acknowledged efforts being made to douse the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, the UN envoy said: “Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflict.”
And that “the absence of accountability is on such a scale that pretending this is not a crisis will be a major mistake.”
Ms Callarmad mentioned lack of accountability, poverty, climate change, the proliferation of arms, government repression on groups like Shia Muslims, Indigenous People of Biafra and the Ogonis as factors fueling localised system of violence.
In its reaction, the presidency said while it agrees with the UN Rapporteur on the rippling effects of violence, it is totally disappointing that the report ignored some other aspects of violence which the Nigerian government is battling to tackle.
“We have read press reports of the UN rapporteur on violence in Nigeria,” Mr Shehu said.
“While we agree that the violence in Nigeria, or in any country, is a major concern and that there is a rippling effect, we are disappointed that the rapporteur was silent on intra-group violence.
The presidency pointed out that “In Benue, Taraba, the Cross River States and many parts of the country, most of the casualties result from intra-group, inter-group and community violence. Many of the displaced persons across the nation are also victims of these conflicts.”
Mr Shehu said the UN Rapporteur Report did not appreciate the efforts and positive inroads that the Federal Government of Nigeria has made in managing conflicts like the farmers/ herder clash, which he said has now abated.
“There is absolutely no doubt that violence between farmers and herders, which has a long history in our country spiked in recent years but the effectiveness with which the federal and state authorities responded made a big difference,” Mr Shehu noted.
“Calm has virtually returned to all parts affected by the peculiar violence.
“Therefore, we are saddened that the rapporteur did not address intra-ethnic conflicts and cattle rustling as key elements in herder/farmer conflicts.
“In Benue State, for instance, the Tiv/Jukun conflict and kidnapping is a major problem. We are glad that local communities have fully realized this, and scholars with a strong motivation for peace and stability in their communities and the nation are trying to address the problem.”
The presidential spokesman said the UN Rapporteur’s report ignored salient local efforts being deployed by top scholars working with the federal government to address local issues that lead to conflict in parts of the country.
“Ignoring the salient issues will not help to solve the problem,” said Mr Shehu.
“If you are going to address violence and the general insecurity in Nigeria, incidents everywhere should be part of the narrative. Not addressing this might make it easier to blame the federal government, but national peace and security is a community-based and collective responsibility.
“Arrests, prosecution and locking people up are only small parts of National Security and Safety strategy.
“In Benue State, as cited earlier, the work of a US scholar of Tiv extraction, Professor Dick Adzenge, deserves special mention for attempting to get aspects of violence addressed. The expectation that arresting and putting people in prison is the only credible response to violence is a mistake.
“Professor Adzenge and a few others like him are working with young people, traditional rulers and communities to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts and encourage peaceful co-existence.
“The sort of effort we are talking about here has so far revealed interesting facts about the problem in Benue State that cannot be ignored.
“And it is the sort of support we seek from the UN rapporteur in reporting, not the report that scratches the surface of the subject then ends up blaming the government under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. The UN representative needs to be truthful and even-handed in her assignment.
The UN Rapporteur’s Report
On September 3, UN Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, who had been in Nigeria since mid-August gave her report on what she observed about the dicey security situation in the country at the end of her 12 days mission.
Part of her ” preliminary report” was published on the UN website.
“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern with issues like poverty and climate change adding to the crisis,” Ms Callamard was quoted to have said after presenting a preliminary statement at the end of her 12-day mission.
She pointed out that if such challenges are ignored, “the ripple effects of unaccountability on such a large scale, had the potential to destabilize the sub-region if not the whole continent.”
“Nigeria is confronting nationwide, regional and global pressures, such as population explosion, an increased number of people living in absolute poverty, climate change and desertification, and increasing proliferation of weapons”, she elaborated.
“These are re-enforcing localized systems and country-wide patterns of violence, many of which are seemingly spinning out of control.”
Ms Callamard brought out many areas of “concern”, including “armed conflict against the Boko Haram terrorist group in the northeast; insecurity and violence in the northwest; the conflict in the central area known as the Middle Belt and parts of the northwest and south, between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities.”
According to the UN, Ms Callamard who is a Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, “also noted the prevalence of organized gangs or cults in Nigeria’s south; general repression of minority and indigenous groups; killings during evictions in slum areas; and widespread police brutality.”
Some signs of improvement
Despite the disappointment of the Federal Government of Nigeria about the report , the Rapporteur had mentioned in her preliminary report that “there were some positive signs, including progress against the extremist Boko Haram group and affiliates, as well as a decline in allegations of arbitrary killings and deaths in custody at the hands of the military over the last two years.”
She, however, noted the limited progress in terms of accountability and reparations for grave human rights violations in the past.
“I particularly urge the Nigerian government, and the international community, to prioritize as a matter of urgency, accountability, and access to justice for all victims and addressing the conflicts between nomadic cattle breeding and farming communities, fueled by toxic narratives and the large availability of weapons”, she said.
“While some high-profile cases of killings by police have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the officers responsible and others involving clashes between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities have been investigated in Benue State, she flagged that “such examples of accountability remain the exception.”
“In almost all of the cases that were brought to my attention during the visit, none of the perpetrators had been brought to justice”, lamented the Special Rapporteur.
“The loss of trust and confidence in public institutions prompts Nigerians to take matters of protection into their own hands, which is leading to a proliferation of self-protecting armed militia and cases of ‘jungle justice’.”
Ms Callamard called on the Nigerian authorities “to look carefully into my findings,” saying that she remains “available for further cooperation.”
During her 12 days mission, the UN envoy said she “met government officials, local authorities and civil society as well as family members whose relatives had been brutally killed and people forced from their homes.”
Ms Callarmad said while in Nigeria, she visited Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Jos, Port Harcourt, and Lagos.
According to UN officials, Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on crisis situations in countries. And the positions are usually honorary and such envoys receive no pay for their work.
Ms Callamard is expected to report back to the UN by submitting her full report in June 2020.