Northern elders have urged President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate reports of the extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses allegedly committed by the soldiers sent to halt the Boko Haram insurgency.
The leaders of the region, who spoke under the auspices of the Northern Elders Forum, said they had been vindicated by the recent report of the Amnesty International, which accused the army of gross human rights violations, adding that they were planning to visit the President again on the issue.
The current spokesman of the forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that even though they reported the matter to the President during their visit to Aso Rock in May, nothing was done about it.
He said, “As an organisation, we don’t condone terrorism in any way. We went round, studied the situation and sought the audience with the President and told him what we had observed. We commended his efforts and that of the security agencies. But we told the president that probably due to overzealousness, the challenges of the job or lack of training for this kind of task, the soldiers have been torturing and killing people without trial. Then the Amnesty International had not spoken. It was only the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, who had expressed worry over the excesses of the soldiers.
“Now we have been vindicated by the report of the AI. Their job is not to kill people but to restore peace and security in the North. We urge the President to investigate the reports and punish the culprits according to the law. We urge him to instruct his soldiers to be professional in their operations. Sometimes, due to their inability to identify the real attackers, the soldiers get annoyed, raid communities, kill people and burn houses. That is not how to restore peace and security.”
Unongo added that the position of the group remained that nobody had the right to take the live of any citizen.
In a reaction to the Amnesty International report, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, said the allegations were biased and ill-conceived with the intention of rubbishing the efforts of the military.
He also faulted the methodology used during information gathering for the report entitled, ‘Nigeria: Trapped in the Circle of Violence,’ saying the military was never contacted or consulted.
When our correspondent contacted the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Bola Koleosho, he said the army had no comment on the plan of the northern elders.
“We have already briefed the press on what we think about the Amnesty International report. As for what they (northern elders) want to do, army’s reaction is ‘no comment’,” Koleosho said.