6 August 2014

Nigeria: War Crimes Allegation Against Military Not Verified, Says FG

Abuja — The Federal Government, yesterday, said it did not believe that details of the accusations of extra-judicial killings leveled against Nigerian military by Amnesty International had been properly verified.

The report released, Monday, by Amnesty International, accused Nigerian troops of extra-judicial killings of over 600 persons in the North-eastern part of the country.

Coordinator of National Information Centre, NIC, Mike Omeri, who stated this during the routine security briefing in Abuja, said Nigerian armed forces have never been accused of perpetrating such acts in the past.

"Although, we have great respect for Amnesty International, if such allegations are to be deemed credible, the sources of the claims and their possible political motivations should and ought to be examined and carefully considered.

"We want to assure that justice will be done once we have all facts. In the meantime, every soldier fighting this battle deserves our support and gratitude and not unverified accusations.

"While we appreciate the contribution of persons and groups towards ending insurgency in the country, including those of recognised human rights organisations, we wish to state in unmistaken terms that the Federal Government of Nigeria maintains strict zero tolerance policy for violations of the rules of engagements," he said.

The Defence Headquarters on its part reiterated that the allegation by Amnesty International were unfounded as the video footage pointed at as evidence, was alien to Nigeria's military operations.

Addressing a press conference on the allegation, in Abuja, Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade said the military treats issues of human rights with all seriousness and will not condone any proven case of abuse by its personnel.

Olukolade disclosed that investigations are on to unravel veracity of the video, insisting that the footage was alien to operations and doctrines of the military.

According to him: Military authorities are deeply concerned about the set of video footage being circulated and which unfortunately has become reference data for Amnesty International in its report.

"Much as the scenes depicted in these videos are alien to our operations and doctrines, it has to be investigated to ensure that such practices have not crept surreptitiously into the system."

He maintained that the allegations were too grievous to be associated with Nigerian troops, considering the doctrinal and operational contents of the training imparted to personnel on continuous basis, adding that it could be a case of impersonation.

His words: "Notwithstanding, the cases of impersonations that have pervaded counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria, and many other related issues which cast doubts on the claims made in the video, the Defence Headquarters views those grave allegations very seriously, more so as they border on the integrity of the ongoing counter-terrorism operation, which must be sustained in the interest of our national survival.

"Consequently, the Defence Headquarters in addition to the already existing Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has constituted a team of senior officers and legal cum forensic experts to study the video footage and the resultant allegations in order to ascertain the veracity of the claims with a view to identifying those behind such acts."

"This will further determine and stimulate necessary legal action against any personnel or anyone found culpable in accordance with the provisions of the law."

On suspects in military detention facilities, Olukolade explained that based on the earlier allegation by amnesty body, the authorities had released some suspects and forwarded names of those to face prosecution to the Ministry of Justice in line with the recommendation of JIT.

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