•Said six shiites killed, seven wounded
•Six soldiers injured
•45 Killed, 122 Injured in Abuja- AI
The Defence Headquarters dismissed Amnesty International (AI) reports alleging that the Nigerian military and the police engaged in horrific use of excessive force that led to the killing of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), popularly known as Shi’ites during ‘peaceful’ protests.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim, in statement on Thursday, described as worrisome, the narrative of the AI in matters of national security and cohesion of Nigeria has continued unabated in spite of verifiable evidences to the contrary.
Agim said that Al’s hate and disdain for peaceful co-existence of Nigerians is manifested in the ways it consistently fabricates lies and gives negative narrative of issues related to Nigeria’s national security and its military.
According to him, AI report is not a true reflection of what transpired in the last few days.
The DDI said that for the sake of the good people of Nigeria and the international community who quest for the truth, what the AI “cooked up” in that report is a figment of its own imagination to further paint Nigeria black among the comity of nations.
He stated: “The military has never been sent to stop the protesting Shi’ites group at any given time. On the events referred to by the AI, the soldiers were not after the protesting Shi’ites, neither was there such number of casualties.Instead, a convoy from the Army Headquarters Garrison Abuja was conducting a routine shipment of ammunition and missiles to a military formation in Kaduna escorted by troops when they ran into the protesters at Zuba in FCT. The protesting Shi’ites prevented the convoy from proceeding on its mission but rather attempted to overrun the escorts to cart away the shipment. Hence, the troops had to protect the goods and extricate themselves from the imminent mob action by applying minimum force.
“The following day, the IMN also had another confrontation with the military at a popular checkpoint along Nyanya – Mararaba road leading into the FCT. Everyone living in or transiting the FCT knows that the military checkpoint had been established since 2014 after the Boko Haram Terrorist attack on Nyanya Motor Park. Unfortunately, the group tried to overrun the checkpoint in which the military resisted. In all these attacks, the IMN was the aggressor while the military only acted in self defence. The Shi’ites actions were planned and premeditated as the group were aware of the existence of the military checkpoint and were prepared to confront the soldiers.”
Agim gave a contrary casualty of IMN members, which according to him, “stands at four wounded and three dead at Zuba while at the Nyanya – Mararaba road checkpoint, three died with three wounded. The military also had six of its personnel seriously wounded and currently at intensive care”.
He stressed that “the narratives of the AI are outright falsehoods and calculated attempts at whipping up sentiments and misleading unsuspecting Nigerians as well as demoralizing friendly nations. The organization has continued to churn out reports that are outside the confines of the principles of objectivity, truth and balance reportage which provides all sides to the story the way it happened. Sadly, AI’s past activities in Nigeria and its negative reportorial of the Nigerian Armed Forces is capable of emboldening the IMN in its unwholesome activities. Also, what AI is doing could stop friendly nations from collaborating with Nigeria in its war against insurgency. The intentions of AI in Nigeria have remained suspect as the organization is always silent on the other side of issues.
“Nigerians who witnessed how military troops on legitimate duty came under unprovoked attacks from IMN members both in Zuba area of the FCT on Sunday, 28 October 2018 and at a security checkpoint in Mararaba, Nasarawa State on Monday, 29 October 2018 have videos and images of wounded soldiers and damaged military vehicles with audio commentaries. These are available in the public domain.”
“Unfortunately, Amnesty International did not see anything wrong with these unprovoked subversive attacks on Nigerian military and other innocent passersby but was quick to refer to the activitiesof IMN from whom dangerous weapons and ammunition including Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), guns, knives and cutlasses were recovered as a peaceful protest. This goes further to prove the point that Amnesty International does not mean well for Nigeria. This is also in tandem with their previous reputation of denigrating the security forces anytime they make gains against the forces of evil to incite the Nigerian public and international community against the Military.”
Agim appealed to the public and the international community not to be carried away with what he described as the “AI’s usual falsehood and blackmail which is calculated towards promoting the forces of darkness to destabilize Nigeria”.
The Amnesty International report
Security forces must be held accountable for killing of at least 45 peaceful Shi’a protesters. Strong evidence that soldiers used automatic firearms on Shi’a Muslims holding religious procession and protest.
At least 39 protesters killed, and 122 injured, in a single day. Victims include men, women and children. An investigation by Amnesty International shows that the horrific use of excessive force by soldiers and police led to the killing of at least 45 supporters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) over two days, as the Shi’a Muslim group held a peaceful religious procession around Abuja. Amnesty researchers visited five different locations in Abuja and Nasarawa state where wounded IMN supporters were receiving treatment, including two locations where bodies were deposited.
Researchers spoke with victims, eyewitnesses and medical practitioners, and analyzed videos and photographs of those injured and killed during the protests, which took place on Saturday and Monday.
“We have seen a shocking and unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police against IMN members. Video footage and eyewitness testimonies consistently show that the Nigerian military dispersed peaceful gatherings by firing live ammunition without warning, in clear violation of Nigerian and international law,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“Those injured were shot in different parts of the body – head, neck, back, chest, shoulder, legs, arms – and some of them had multiple gunshot wounds. This pattern clearly shows soldiers and police approached IMN processions not to restore public order, but to kill.”
Amnesty International has evidence that the military used automatic firearms during Monday’s protest, in which at least 122 protesters sustained gunshot wounds and at least 39 were killed. At least six people were killed in protests on Saturday. The organization’s research team counted 24 bodies (23 male and one female) and trusted sources provided details of 21 others. Two of the bodies seen had their legs severed, which Amnesty International’s military and weapons expert analyzed as consistent with injuries caused by a heavy fully-automatic machine gun such as a PKM or DShK.
“It seems the Nigerian military are deliberately using tactics designed to kill when dealing with IMN gatherings. Many of these shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions,” said Osai Ojigho.
“This violent crackdown on IMN protesters is unjustified and unacceptable. They were perfectly within their rights to hold a religious procession and protest and there was no evidence they posed an imminent threat to life.”
Many injured IMN supporters have sought medical treatment in unofficial buildings due to fear of arrest if they go to hospital.
One medical worker near Abuja told Amnesty International: “From yesterday (Monday) I attended to 57 people with gunshot wounds, most of them still having the bullets lodged in their bodies. We are only trying to stabilize them by arresting the flow of blood before sending them to hospital. It is not an ideal situation because this is an uncompleted building, not a hospital. I am hoping that they get to hospital today.”
Since a massacre of over 350 IMN supporters which took place in Zaria in 2015, the Nigerian authorities have consistently sent in the military to respond to IMN protests or marches. This strategy appears to be at least partly to blame for the bloodshed witnessed on Saturday and Monday. There are reports that stones were thrown by protesters as a response to the use of lethal force, to which security forces responded with tear gas and more gunfire.
“We are once again calling on the Nigerian authorities to impartially investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the extrajudicial execution killing of IMN supporters, including the commanders who gave the orders for live bullets to be used,” said Osai Ojigho.
“The continuous failure to investigate these gross human rights violations is fueling a dangerous disdain for the sanctity of human life in Nigeria.”
International law is clear that security forces policing demonstrations must not use firearms against protesters unless they pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only if there is no lesser way to avert such threat. They must never use firearms to disperse a demonstration, even if it turns violent. Firearms must never be used as a tactical tool for the management of demonstrations: they may only be used for the purpose of saving another life.
The Nigerian authorities have an obligation under international law to ensure there is a full and independent investigation of deaths at the hands of security forces and that those responsible, including in the command structure of the security forces, are held accountable under criminal law.
The IMN is a Shi’a religious and political organization whose leader, Ibraheem Yaqub El-Zakzaky, has been a proponent of Shi’a Islam in Nigeria since the 1980s.
During protests on Saturday and Monday IMN members demanded the release of Sheik Ibrahim El Zakzaky, whose detention was described by a federal court in December 2016 as unlawful and unconstitutional. Between 12 and 14 December 2015, according to Amnesty International’s research, more than 350 IMN members were killed by security forces in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Isa Sanusi Media Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria