The Nigerian Army says there is a “heinous attempt” by human rights group, Amnesty International to tarnish its image once again with the planned release of a report on an “unfounded storyline” of mass killings of MASSOB/IPOB protesters between August 2015 and August 2016. It accused the group of dabbling into Nigeria’s national security matters without “objectivity, fairness and simple logic.”
“We wish to debunk the insinuation that our troops perpetrated the killing of defenceless agitators. This is an outright attempt to tarnish the reputation of the security forces in general and the Nigerian Army in particular, for whatever inexplicable parochial reasons,” the statement by army spokesperson, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, said.
According to the statement, MASSOB/IPOB are violent in their methods and have committed atrocities to unhinge the reign of peace, security and stability in several parts of the South East Nigeria. The army accused MASSOB/IPOB of targeting persons from the settler communities that hailed from other parts of the country for attacks.
“Such reign of hate, terror and ethno-religious controversies that portend grave consequences for national security have been averted severally through the responsiveness of the Nigerian Army and members of the security agencies. These security agencies are always targeted for attack by the MASSOB/IPOB instruments of barbarism and cruelty,” the statement said.
The Army said “in the protests of 30 – 31 May 2016, more than 5 personnel of the Nigeria Police were killed, while several soldiers were wounded, Nigeria police vehicles were burnt down same as several others of the Nigerian Army that were vandalized. The strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha came under threat thus leading to disruption of socio-economic activities. In the aftermath of the encounter that ensued between security agencies and MASSOB/IPOB militants many of own troops sustained varying degrees of injury.”
It said under its constitutional mandates for Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACA) and Military Aid to Civil Powers (MACP), it has continued to act responsively in synergy with other security agencies to de-escalate the series of MASSOB/IPOB violent protests.
In fact, according to the statement, the military exercised maximum restraints and adhered to rules of engagement despite the flurry of provocative and unjustifiable violence which MASSOB/IPOB perpetrated.
“Therefore, it is rather unfortunate for the Amnesty International to allow itself to be lured into this cheap and unpopular venture that aims to discredit the undeniable professionalism as well as responsiveness of the Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles,” the statement said.
Most human rights groups within and outside the country disagree with the army’s claims however. The media and these human rights groups have documented several instances of the military’s highhandedness and excessive use of force, often without provocation.
Human Rights organisations like the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), the Intersociety for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Amnesty International, Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), and Forum for Justice have documented several cases of extra-judicial killings in the South East by security forces.
In February this year, 22 IPOB members were killed during a prayer session at a school in Aba, Abia state. Human rights group also say four people were killed in Awka and Onitsha on August 30, 2015; 13 killed in Onitsha on December 2, 2015; 12 killed in Onitsha on 17th December 17, 2015; eight killed in Aba on January 18, 2016; six killed in Aba on January 29, 2016 and 22 killed in Aba on February 9, 2016, among others.