The global ombudsman, Amnesty International, has come down hard on the nation's security agencies, saying that their actions have escalated the violence in the north-east region of the country. The body also accused the Nigerian Army of carrying out torture and illegal execution of suspects.
Amnesty International, yesterday presented a report on the Boko Haram insurgence entitled "Nigeria in the Circle of Violence" in which it noted that the security agencies' response to Boko Haram's campaign of terror is worsening the situation.
The body called on the Boko Haram sect to immediately cease all abuses of human rights including attacks targeting civilians and civilian objects including schools. It urged the sect to give respect to the lives and safety of civilians and stop indiscriminate attacks.
The body said that the federal government has failed to adequately prevent or investigate the attacks or bring the perpetrators to justice while victims have not received prompt and adequate remedy.
The group disclosed that during its investigation, its request to gain access to prisons, police stations, military and State Security Service (SSS) detention facilities was denied by the authorities. This, it averred, prevented direct encounter with the inmates and an overview of the state of the country's detention centres.
"The brutal action of Nigeria's security forces in response to Boko Haram's campaign of terror is making an already desperate situation even worse.
"The cycle of attack and counter-attack has been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle.
"People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them.
"The security operations targeting Boko Haram have been conducted with little regard for the rule of law or human rights.
Hundreds of people accused of having link with Boko Haram have been arbitrarily detained by a combination of the Joint Task Force - a combined force group commissioned by the president to restore law and order in areas affected by Boko Haram - the State Security Service, SSS, and the police," the Amnesty International secretary-general, Mr. Salil Shetty, and the body's deputy programme director for Africa, Lucy Freeman, said.
Amnesty International recommended to the government to, among others, publicly condemn all human rights violations by security forces including extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, house burning and arbitrary detention; make public the findings of previous committees set up to investigate the security situation in the northern and central Nigeria including allegations of human rights violation by security forces.
It called on the Ministry of Defence to review its rules of engagement of the JTF and other agencies carrying out law enforcement functions and bring them into line with the Nigerian constitution and the country's obligations under international human rights law and standards.
As to the army, police and SSS, Amnesty International called on them to ensure that all persons currently in their custody who have been detained longer than 48 hours were immediately charged with recognizable criminal offence, brought before a court or released.
The body said the agencies should ensure that no form of collective punishment is imposed, including through unlawful destruction of homes or other retaliatory use of force such as detaining or punishing individuals based on the acts of their family members.
The group called on the international community to condemn practices in Nigeria that violate human rights and cooperate with the country to end such violations.
While fielding questions from journalists, the group, which reiterated its position on abolition of death penalty, called on the federal government to take effective action to protect the population against the Boko Haram campaign of terror in the northern and central Nigeria. "Every injustice carried out in the name of security only fuels more terrorism, creating a vicious circle of murder and destruction," the group said.
Reacting to the allegation, spokesman for the army Col. S. K Usman said the allegations were unfounded. He told an international medium that there was no Nigerian soldier who killed innocent citizens "There is no Nigerian soldier that goes out on the streets to just kill innocent Nigerians. So whatever we do, we always make sure it is done within the ambit of the law."
The police high command also reacted to the Amnesty international report which indicted the country's security agencies, saying that no organisation, including the Amnesty International, was perfect.
Spokesman of the police Mr. Frank Mba, who made this position in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP, also picked holes in the methodology adopted by the body to arrive at its finding.
According to Mba, most of the sources quoted in the report were not named.
"The Force is deeply concerned over a key research methodology adopted by Amnesty International in compiling its report. The fact that most of the sources of the content of the report are 'not named', (and thus not open to confirmation or reconciliation) puts the authenticity, credibility and legitimacy of the report in question.
"In this regard, the Force will at all times, reward excellent deeds by its men, while at the same time holding accountable those found wanting in the discharge of their statutory duties, bearing in mind that no organization - including Amnesty International - is perfect," Mba said.
Mba, who pointed out the challenges faced by security agencies in the discharge of their duties, said the Force would not hesitate to accept honest and factual recommendations (if any) contained in the report and initiate appropriate reforms where necessary.