A spokesman for Nigeria’s military says accusations by Amnesty International of human rights violations are an unfortunate effort aimed at undermining the army’s resolve to defeat terrorist acts carried out by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty said that since March 2011, Nigerian soldiers and militiamen have murdered, tortured and abused thousands of detainees. The report says an estimated 1,200 people were extrajudicially killed, and about 7,000 young men and boys died while in military custody.
Amnesty also says military commanders either sanctioned the abuses or ignored the fact they were taking place. The rights group says it based its report on years of research and analysis that included leaked internal military documents and interviews with hundreds of people.
Army spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade dismissed the accusations leveled against the military. He says Nigerians should be assured that the military will not be deterred in the fight to rid the country of Boko Haram militants, despite the allegations.
Olukolade says the rights group appears to have an agenda to undermine the army’s resolve to combat terrorism in the country. He says the military is considering additional actions to respond to Amnesty International’s accusations.
“Indeed, it is an unfortunate accusation considering all the efforts that are being made here to make sure that human rights are strictly observed in all our operations. And also the desperation with which that report appeared to have been targeted at blackmailing the Nigerian military and specific officers. The officers mentioned in that report have no reason whatsoever to indulge in allegations that have been made against them,” he said.
“It is unfortunate the organization just went out and gathered names of specific officers in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of the Nigerian military. The action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose which we don’t know at this moment,” he added.
Olukolade says previous allegations against the military by Amnesty International have not turned out to be correct, following what he says was a thorough investigation by officials in the army. He says the rights group's report is prejudiced.
“We find it very curious that a body that [has] never been able to seriously condemn terror in Nigeria now claims to have done extensive research with the aim of discrediting the nation’s effort at defeating terror,” said Olukolade.
“Amnesty International has become more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle in Nigeria. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has again used that method again, in this report, to further confirm the fact that they have been playing questionable roles in our counterterrorism efforts in Nigeria.”
Olukolade says the military has often opened its detention centers for inspection, in a bid to ensure transparency. He says the army has a policy which makes human rights abuses unacceptable.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria do not tolerate or encourage the abuse of human rights. It will not condone it on the part of any of its personnel. If any is well proven, definitely, we will take action against it,” said Olukolade.