ABUJA, March 8 — Nigeria’s military today announced it would look into alleged human rights abuses by troops, including in the fight against Boko Haram, despite having previously dismissed such claims.
The chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, said a special board of inquiry would look into allegations such as those made by Amnesty International and pro-Biafra campaigners.
But he said it would not go over cases already looked at by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which rules out another probe of the army’s mass killing of Shiite protesters in December 2015.
The board of inquiry, unveiled at an event in the capital, Abuja, comprises serving and retired officers plus a representative from the NHRC.
Buratai said it would investigate claims of extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture and “enforced disappearance of suspected Boko Haram terrorists”.
“These allegations are not good for civil-military relations and are capable of demoralising Nigerian army personnel in the performance of their constitutional roles,” he added.
“It is therefore expedient to thoroughly and impartially investigate these allegations... to find out the facts of the matter to enable relevant authorities take appropriate actions.”
Those wrongly accused should be exonerated but those found guilty should be “treated in line with the full military justice system”, he added.
Nigeria’s military has long faced claims of human rights violations, particularly in its attempts to put down Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the northeast.
Last month the army dismissed as “spurious” Amnesty International’s claims that hundreds of people, including women and children, had died in military custody.
In November last year, the army said the global rights watchdog’s claim that soldiers had killed at least 150 pro-Biafra protesters since August 2015 was an attack on the military’s reputation.
Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly called for Nigeria to comply with a court ruling to release a pro-Iran Shiite cleric and hundreds of his supporters.
Ibrahim Zakzaky, who leads the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), has been in custody for more than a year after at least 350 of his supporters were killed in clashes with the military.
The violence was allegedly sparked by IMN members’ refusal to allow Buratai’s convoy to pass along a road in the northern city of Zaria.
Separate investigations by the NHRC and Kaduna state government have, however, not led to any action against troops. — AFP