The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has said the belated decision by the Nigerian Army to investigate the Amnesty International’s (AI) report on the killing of over 200 members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and rights abuses in the North East of Nigeria is an afterthought which lacks credibility and it’s outcomes would lack believability.
HURIWA in a media release on Sunday signed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, said the massive condemnation by the Military authority of the 2016/2017 World Human Rights Reports of AI, which contains facts on the mass killing by soldiers of unarmed members of IPOB and human rights abuses during military operations in the North East has grossly undermined the integrity and credibility of the newly established Army’s investigative panel.
HURIWA also maintained that although the Military authority can institute internal investigative mechanisms to verify allegations of widespread human rights abuses and recommend the culprits for appropriate administrative or legal sanctions but this decision to investigate a report that the Military institution has severally debunked amounted to mere academic exercise and would inevitably invent a predetermined conclusion.
The rights group has therefore asked the Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Imo State governments and state governments of North East of Nigeria whereby that bloodshed took place as documented by the United Kingdom group Amnesty International and many other local Non-Governmental organisations to institute separate judicial commissions of inquiries.
HURIWA said such judicial commissions to be set up under the Tribunal of Inquiry Act, CAP447 laws of the federation of Nigeria to be headed by internationally acclaimed independent law scholars and other credible judicial officials should be activated to investigate the killings and make recommendations for appropriate judicial sanctions for the indicted military and police operatives.
HURIWA recalled that the Supreme court of Nigeria had in a profoundly considered judgment in the matter instituted by the former military leader retired General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida against the Nigerian government for setting up the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa-led panel in Abuja based on the Tribunal of Inquiries Act the apex court ruled that under the Tribunal Act States have jurisdictions to set up such investigative tribunals.
The Rights group said the crimes were perpetrated in the South East and North East of Nigeria and therefore the respective states must set up judicial commissions to investigate these crimes against humanity moreso, when the military and the Federal Government have made prejudicial comments against the findings of Amnesty International on the same subject matter.
“The Army has the powers under extant laws to investigate cases of professional misconduct and crimes of human rights breaches against civilians by military operatives during internal military operations but in this case whereby the Military has completely denied those allegations made by Amnesty International so why go back to set up a kangaroo panel to probe same human rights breaches when in actual fact the panel is being inaugurated to invalidate Amnesty International’s report to build justification for the earlier position of the Military?”
HURIWA recalled that the leadership of the Nigerian Army recently inaugurated an eight-man Special Board of Inquiry to investigate allegations of rights abuse levelled against its officers by AI.
This action HURIWA said is coming days after the Defence Headquarters and the federal government had publicly lambasted Amnesty International over the reports and denied those human rights abuses highlighted in the report.
While commissioning the Major General Ahmed Jibrin (rtd)-led panel in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, noted that there had been allegations of misconduct perpetrated by some of them, “especially in the early days of the operations.”
The empanelling was consequent upon the 2016 report of the global rights organisation which indicted the military and security agencies of gross rights violations.
Other members of the investigating panel include Brig.-Gen. A. Dadan Garba (rtd); Brig.-Gen. Abdulquadir Gumi (rtd); Brig.-Gen. O. Olayinka; Col. L. Mohammed and Col. U. Wambai. Lieutenant Colonel C. Akaliro is to serve as Secretary.
HURIWA said whilst the Army can conduct its internal investigative activities the State governments should also come up with much more robust and independent investigative tribunals to forensically investigate the alleged human right infractions by the Military.