Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Abuja has described as blackmail of the Nigerian military by the Amnesty International, AI, for calling for the probe of both past and serving service chiefs on the role they played in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East zone.
In a statement it issued in Abuja, yesterday, AI had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to cause a “prompt, independent and effective investigation” of former and serving service chiefs for their roles in the fight against Boko Haram in the country.
The global human rights watch specifically accused former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd); former Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim (rtd); and the serving Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh and the current Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah of being responsible for the killing of 8,000 persons, who were “murdered, starved, suffocated and tortured to death” during the fight against insurgents.
But DHQ, in a swift reaction, said the call for probe of the military was blackmail.
The statement issued by the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, reads: “The Defence Headquarters has noted with dismay the gruesome allegations made by the Amnesty International against some senior military officers serving and retired of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is unfortunate that all efforts made in the allegation was geared towards continuation of blackmail against the military hierarchy in which the organisation had embarked upon as far back as the inception of military’s action against terrorists in the North-East.
“The officers mentioned in the report have no reason, whatsoever, to indulge in the allegation made against them. It is unfortunate that the organisation just went out to gather names of specified senior officers, in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of the military. The action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose.
“Each of the previous allegations had been thoroughly responded to and cleared in the public and officially. The title down to the body of the allegation smacks of the extreme bias, which is disturbing coming from an otherwise reputable organisation that is expected to be just and fair to all. Unfortunately, in this case, has taken a premeditated position, which is far from noble.
“It is curious that a body that has never been able to seriously condemn terror in Nigeria now claims to have done an extensive research with the aim of discrediting the nation’s effort at curtailing terror.
“It is clear that Amnesty International, AI, becomes more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has used this report to further confirm its questionable interest in the counter-terrorism effort in Nigeria.
“It will be recalled that the Joint Investigation Team was set up by the Defence Headquarters as part and parcel of efforts to ensure that no detainee suffer unjustly. The detention facilities were thrown open for visits and inspections by independent bodies such as International Committee of the Red Cross and other reputable international organisations and personalities.
“Amnesty International is advised to stop playing the role of an irritant coming up loudly only when the terrorists are losing out and remaining silent or complacent whenever the terrorist heightens its atrocities. It is unfair to persist in effort to discredit Nigerian military by seeking all avenues to stigmatise individual officers of the nation’s military purely to satisfy an agenda against the security agencies and image of Nigeria before the international community.
“The Nigerian Armed Forces is quite conscious of the fact that the operation has prompted the need to save citizens from abuse of their rights by mindless terrorists. Accordingly, the forces have continued to state and restate their commitment to the rights of Nigerians and all its citizens while prosecuting the anti-terrorism campaign. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has chosen to ignore all the responses and clarifications provided to its enquiries by the authorities.
“It is unfair to rely on records or reports provided by certain disgruntled elements or faceless collaborators who have axe to grind with the system as evidence against officers who have been conscientiously doing their duty to defend the nation and her citizens.
“For avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian military does not encourage or condone abuse of human rights neither will any proven case be left unpunished. The kind of impunity being alleged by Amnesty International has no place in the Nigerian military. Every officer in the field is responsible for his action and is duly held accountable. So far, no allegation has been sufficiently proved against those whom Amnesty International is so desperate to convict.
“The statistics are largely spurious or manipulated to satisfy a clandestine motive. Indeed, the loud publicity given to these damning allegations suggests an intention to blackmail the military and particular senior officers rather than a sincere piece of advice to the government. This cruel tendency is not new, despite the timing.
“The Nigerian military therefore rejects the biased and concocted report provided by Amnesty International. Additional definite response will be provided subsequently as deemed necessary.”