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Human Rights Watch Calls on Buhari to Act Boldly

Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari rides on the motorcade while inspecting the guard of honor at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria, May 29, 2015.

The international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch is calling on Nigeria’s newly sworn-in president, Muhammadu Buhari, to immediately keep his promises of addressing the corruption, human rights abuses and large-scale violence that continues to plague the country.

Human Rights Watch says more than 20-thousand civilians have been killed in violence and 1.5 million people displaced since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999. Few of those responsible for the acts of violence and abuse have been held accountable.

“The problems are huge for Nigeria, starting with the security problem in the northeast.” said Mausi Segun, a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch in Abuja. “They have problems of corruption that have largely affected basic rights to health, to education, all of the economic and social rights of Nigerian.”

Segun said these problems are acute and have led to severe fuel shortages and workers not being paid their salaries.

Tackling major issues quickly

“It’s a daunting task, but the President will have to move and move very quickly to begin to tackle these issues.”

The new president has been meeting with his cabinet over the last few weeks to decide how to tackle these problems, but Segun argued that human rights issues should be the top priority.

“I think almost all of the problems can be narrowed down to two big issues as we have all mentioned, that’s insecurity and corruption. I think that for Nigerians, what would be important is to set out very clear strategies for tackling insecurity.” Security issues include putting a halt to the violence of Boko Haram and “ensuring accountability for the abuses that have taken place not just by Boko Haram fighters, but also by security forces.” She said the Nigerian military must be reformed.

Endemic corruption has led to instability in the country. “One of the failings of the previous administration has been the inability to move against and transparently investigate allegations of corruption against public officials and political office holders,” said Segun.

Residents victimized by Boko Haram and Nigeria’s own security forces

The militant group Boko Haram continues to target civilians. Human Rights Watch reports that more than 7,000 civilians are believed to have been killed in Boko Haram attacks on towns, villages and schools since 2010.

“The abduction of women, children, boys and girls is a security problem and it has to be tackled in that regard,” Segun said. “And I believe that one of the most important things that we have documented from our research has been the inability of Nigerian security forces to prevent these atrocities from happening in the first place.

She called for immediate deployment of government defense forces to secure vulnerable communities in the northeast that have been occupied until recently by Boko Haram.

She said journalists are reporting the Boko Haram has returned to a city in Borno State they once occupied. Residents returned to their homes “in the belief that security forces have taken control, but that has not been the case.”